Race History 2: The Racing Post Trophy

Reference Point: first Racing Post Trophy winner to take the Derby

On Saturday Doncaster hosts the last Group 1 race of the season, the Racing Post Trophy, which this year celebrates its 50th birthday.

When the one-mile race for two-year-olds was established in 1961 it was known as the Timeform Gold Cup, having been set up by Timeform's founder Phil Bull. Never one to be shy giving an opinion, Bull was forthright in his view of the purpose of the race. "The race is to be valued, like all other races, as a race, not something to provide resourceless and thought lazy journalists with guidance as to what might win next year's Classic races. Time enough to decide what the best three year olds are when they are three-year-olds."

Timeform's sponsorship lasted just four years, and in 1965 The Observer newspaper took the race over. It was during their 11-year tenure that the current system of race grading was introduced, and in 1971 the Observer Gold Cup was awarded group 1 status.

A change of sponsor in 1976 also led to a change of name, as the William Hill Futurity Stakes appeared on the Doncaster race card. Sponsorship came free to the organisation that year, as the winner, Sporting Yankee, ran in the colours of William Hill Racing. His winning time of 1 min 48.56 is the slowest in the history of the race by some 2.5 seconds.

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On two occasions Doncaster was unable to stage the race. In 1989, the year in which the Racing Post took over sponsorship, it was run at Newcastle after mining subsidence had closed Doncaster. Then in 1996, whilst Doncaster was under redevelopment, the race was held at Newbury. That running gave Frankie Dettori his first win in the race, on board Authorised, 31 years after his father had piloted a horse called Take Your Place to victory.

As we have seen, the founder of the race did not see it as a Classic trial, and although four winners have gone on to success in the following year’s Derby, it was 25 years after the race was introduced before the first of them did so. That was Reference Point in 1986. Sir Henry Cecil had two runners in the race that season, and at the time it was Suhallie, an unbeaten colt, who was thought to be the better of the two. Steve Cauthen quickly changed his mind before the start of the next year and went on to ride Reference Point in the Derby.

Since then three more horses have followed up victory in the Racing Post Trophy in the following season's Derby: High Chaparral in 2001, Motivator in 2004 and Authorised in 2006. There is a field of just six runners this year, half the average number of runners over the years, and Camelot is a short priced favourite at 6/4 as well as being current favourite for the Derby at prices ranging from 8/1 to 12/1. We will see on Saturday whether or not a further double is a realistic possibility.

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