Magna Grecia demonstrated a determined attitude as he gave Aidan O’Brien a ninth win in the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster.
Narrowly defeated in the Autumn Stakes by Andre Fabre’s Persian King last time out, he stayed on best of all to narrowly deny Charlie Hills’ Phoenix Of Spain.
Stablemates Western Australia and Circus Maximus ensured the race was run at a solid gallop, but it was Donnacha O’Brien’s mount who just prevailed by a head as the 2-1 favourite.
O’Brien said: “I’m delighted with him, he’s still a bit babyish but he’s coming forward lovely.
“We think a mile will be his thing next year.”
The result provided his young rider with yet another Group One in what has been a stellar season.
Set to be crowned Irish champion jockey, he has also won the Oaks, 2000 Guineas and Irish Derby among a host of big-race successes this term.
A stewards’ inquiry was called as there appeared to be contact between the first two, initially when Magna Grecia moved out from behind his stable companions to make his challenge and then just before the line, but there was no change to the result.
Paddy Power offer 16-1 about Magna Grecia for next year’s Derby, but O’Brien snr is far from certain about the limitations of his stamina.
He added: “He would have learned a lot today. He had to knuckle down which he did the last day too.
“We thought he might be a miler, but he’s out of Galileo mare which gives him a chance.
“I always thought if he got a mile we’d be delighted. Maybe he will stay further.
“He showed plenty of pace in the spring. He kept going and he’s a big, strong horse, so maybe he will get a mile and a half.”
He went on: “Donnacha thinks there’s a chance he’ll get a mile and a quarter. He was happy with him and said he put his head down and battled for him.
“The lads usually look at the Guineas and we train them for that and see after that.
“Western Australia has run a good race too.”
Hills was thrilled with his colt’s performance and is looking forward to next year.
He said: “He had the form and he’s a seriously good horse. He’s had a great season and has got the mile well.
“He’s a nice horse to look forward to next year obviously.
“They went a good gallop there and he got it pretty well. If he gets a mile and a quarter, all the better. If he gets a mile and a half, even better.”
Jamie Spencer, rider of Phoenix Of Spain, was referred to British Horseracing Authority Headquarters having been found guilty of using his whip above the permitted level but it was his fifth offence in six months which warranted between two and six days.