Balding bidding for Trophy treble

Andrew Balding is following a tried and tested path in his quest to lift the Vertem Futurity Trophy for a third time on Saturday with King Vega. Interview: Graham Dench.

  • Tuesday 20 October
  • Blog
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By Graham Dench

Racehorse trainers are creatures of habit, so it’s obviously eye-catching that Andrew Balding has campaigned his Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes hope KING VEGA on almost identical lines to Kameko, who won last year’s Vertem in great style and was the race’s third successive winner to follow up in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas.

Kameko began his racecourse career by winning a seven-furlong maiden at Sandown at the end of July and followed up with second places in both the Group 3 Solario Stakes over the same course and distance and the Group 2 Royal Lodge at Newmarket.

Watch the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 28th October.

King Vega began by finishing second in a Sandown maiden at the same time of the year and then followed in Kameko’s footsteps again with second place in the Solario. He was due to run in the Royal Lodge when Balding had to scratch him with a slight niggle.

So far then, so similar, and if that’s not enough, Elm Park, the stable’s 2014 winner of what was then the Racing Post Trophy also made his debut in a seven-furlong Sandown maiden before being a late non-runner in  the Solario and winning the Royal Lodge.

Balding says: “King Vega is a fantastic physical specimen and a horse we think a lot of. He’s got a lot of class, and although I didn’t consciously start him in the same race as Kameko and Elm Park he’d been showing plenty at home and I always like to start my nicer two-year-olds at tracks like Sandown or Salisbury.”

He adds: “I think he was better than the bare result of the Solario, as he slightly missed the break and got held up on heels a little bit, allowing Etonian to get first run on him to an extent.

“He’s a big, long-striding horse and I think the straight course at Doncaster will suit him. We were closing at the end of the Solario, and the step up to a mile is going to suit too.”

King Vega has been second twice at Sandown.

King Vega races for Apollo Racing and Dta Racing, and as a 350,000gns Lope de Vega yearling he represented a significant investment for them.

Balding says: “It’s all been quite low key, but it’s a group of guys who include the former footballer Glen Johnson. They’ve gone in at a decent level and have bought more this year, so they deserve a bit of luck.”

King Vega inevitably faces strong opposition from some of the most powerful outfits in the business, and Dewhurst and National Stakes runner-up Wembley heads a team of seven possibles for Aidan O’Brien as he chases a record-equalling tenth winner of the race.

Charlie Appleby can choose between Newmarket Group-race winners La Barrosa and One Ruler, John Gosden has Megallan, and Roger Varian has supplemented Baradar, but Balding is optimistic.

He says: “It would have been nice to have had a run in the Royal Lodge, but I’ve been very pleased with him in the last fortnight and I don’t think slow ground will be any problem, so I’m looking forward to it. It’s a Group 1 and he’s still a maiden, but he’s a very good horse and he’s a player for sure.”

Jockey Oisin Murphy agrees, describing King Vega as “a gorgeous horse with a great mind” and adding that he is “a huge fan”.

Balding started the week in third place behind Gosden and O’Brien in the trainers’ table, which is determined by prize money, with just short of £2m in the bank from his 98 winners.
He says: “It’s been a strange year, but any season in which you have a Classic winner is a good season. I’d dearly love to get to £2m and 100 winners though.”

There’s time still of course, and it’s worth bearing in mind that if prize money had been at the same level as last year, he would probably be somewhere close to last season’s record £3.6m haul.

Kameko collected last season's Vertem Futurity Trophy before following up in the 2000 Guineas.

He would be delighted if King Vega were to bring up the ‘ton’ and take him past £2m, but win or lose he can reflect on a more than satisfactory season and he still has Kameko’s Breeders’ Cup bid to look forward to.

He says: “Kameko is going to America of course, and then he’ll be at Tweenhills Stud next year. He’ll have a spin at Kempton before he travels, just to have a leg stretch in a different environment more than anything. It’s something we’ve done successfully before and it will do him good.”

He adds: “He’ll leave a hole when he’s gone. He’s been a class horse and a pleasure to train, but every trainer who is lucky enough to have a horse as good as him has to face the fact that they aren’t there forever, and we are very fortunate in having others coming through, including the Cheveley Park winner Alcohol Free.”

And King Vega of course.

Watch the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 28th October.

Balding bidding for Trophy treble

Doncaster 14:55, 24 October 2020

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