Hanson: Saturday Spot Plays for Newmarket Future Champions Festival

October 13th, 2023

Day 2 of the Future Champions Festival at Newmarket on Saturday will again offer four Group stakes (three restricted to juveniles) as well as the famed Cesarewitch H. over 2 1/4 miles, which 34 horses have entered.

With soft conditions likely to come into play, I'll again concentrate on the two-year-old action and take stands against several short-priced favorites.

Race 1: Autumn (G3), 8:25 a.m. ET

Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby have won the last three renewals of this one-mile test and have in Ancient Wisdom the early favorite here. But #6 Per Contra (8-1) might be worth a look for Ollie Sangster.

Although he wasn't beating much in either of his first two starts at the lower-level Chepstow and Ffos Las, Per Contra turned in a strong turn of foot when called upon each time and won both convincingly. The greenness he displayed on debut was notably absent second out, albeit against three overmatched rivals.

Although this is a severe step up in class for Per Contra, he figures to relish the tiring ground and remains with upside.

Race 2: Dewhurst (G1), 9 a.m. ET

The big one of the day clearly goes through City of Troy, who has been the ante-post favorite for the 2000 Guineas (G1) since an electric win in the Superlative (G2) in July. Perhaps, though, I can catch him if he's at all short following a three-month break.

I'll take him on with second choice #7 Iberian (4-1), who posted a mild upset over odds-on favorite Rosallion in the Champagne (G2) at Doncaster over slow ground last month. Rosallion rebounded over faster ground to take the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) on the Arc undercard earlier this month.

Race 4: Zetland (G3), 10:15 a.m. ET

This is the longest Group event for juveniles in England, contested over 1 1/4 miles. This is another race Godolphin and Appleby have recently dominated, but I'll fade their favored Arabian Crown and instead go with #4 Gasper De Lemos (5-1) for Coolmore.

Tactics perhaps will come into play in this test of stamina, and Gasper De Lemos was prominent throughout when breaking his maiden by three lengths over yielding ground at The Curragh last time. If allowed to dictate the pace under Ryan Moore, Gasper De Lemos might prove tough to catch in testing conditions.

Gasper De Lemos is sure to appreciate this distance, hopefully Saturday but surely at some point in his career. By Justify, he's out of a Group 3-placed full sister to the top filly miler Alice Springs.