Future Champions Festival: Five horses to watch at Newmarket

Which two-year-old will reign in the 2020 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket?
Which two-year-old will reign in the 2020 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket?

The two-day Future Champions Festival takes place at Newmarket on Friday and Saturday, and Steve Chambers has picked out five two-year-old horses to watch at Flat HQ...

An abundance of youthful talent will be on show at Newmarket later in the week, and while the Cesarewitch Handicap may be the punting attraction for many, there is a plethora of exciting two-year-old contests to accompany the staying handicap, and we select five juveniles that could light up the two-day Flat extravaganza, with some horses potentially enhancing their classic claims for next season.

Method - Cornwallis Stakes (13:50 Friday)

Martyn Meade's Method produced one of the most impressive debut performances of 2020 as the Mehmas colt blitzed his rivals at Doncaster in June to launch himself into the limelight. Racing keenly, the exciting youngster pulled over four lengths clear of subsequent Group 2 winner Fev Rover to kick off his career on a winning note. Handed a tougher assignment on his second start, Method made it two wins from two as he breezed to a listed win at Doncaster, but his progression halted on his third start. Sent off second favourite for the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes, Method failed to land any sort of blow and finished last of eight, so will be looking to bounce back to form on his return to Newmarket on Friday.

He will line up in the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes on Friday and has already been installed as the ante-post favourite, but will face some notable opposition in the shape of Bahrain Pride and Acklam Express, who have both shown significant promise this season. Currently a 33/1 chance for the 2000 Guineas, Method could prove to be more of a sprinter, but the Meade team will just be hoping he can return to winning ways in the Cornwallis.

Lucid Dreamer - Oh So Sharp Stakes (14:25 Friday)

Another sparkling two-year-old contest on Friday is the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes, which will potentially serve up some vital 1000 Guineas clues. Andre Fabre's Miss France was the last filly to be victorious in the Oh So Sharp Stakes (2013) and then went on to win the 1000 Guineas (2014), and the 2020 renewal will see a host of exciting youngsters bidding to emulate the former French winner. One that significantly catches the eye is the Roger Charlton-trained Lucid Dreamer, who will head to Newmarket on Friday with an unbeaten record and looks to be a really smart prospect.

Available at 25/1 with some firms for the 1000 Guineas, Lucid Dreamer kicked off her campaign with a comfortable success at Kempton Park in August, while she kicked on from that all-weather success by landing a three-runner conditions stakes in impressive style. Now handed another hike in grade, Lucid Dreamer will tackle Group company for the first time, and the likes of Thinking Of You and Nazuna could prove to be notable adversaries, but it's Charlton's raider that is the most eye-catching contender.

Shale - Fillies' Mile (15:35 Friday)

Friday's showpiece contest is the Group 1 Fillies' Mile, which is all set to be an enthralling renewal at 15:35 with a multitude of exciting youngsters taking their chance. One of the most coveted juvenile contests on the Flat calendar, the Fillies' Mile is often a stepping stone for potential 1000 Guineas contenders and the three currently sitting at the head of the Guineas betting are all entered to run.

Current ante-post favourite Shale is set to lock horns with Pretty Gorgeous and Indigo Girl in a real hum-dinger, but it's the former that is the most exciting contender among that star triumvirate. The Donnacha O'Brien-trained daughter of Galileo has impressed with every run this season, and was last seen winning the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in September. She beat Pretty Gorgeous by three quarters of a length that day and Shale will be looking to frank that form once again, as she looks to cement her place at the head of the Guineas betting.

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Van Gogh - Autumn Stakes (14:20 Saturday)

Aidan O'Brien is yet to taste victory in the Autumn Stakes during his illustrious career, but the master of Ballydoyle will look to break his duck in the Group 3 at Newmarket on Saturday as he saddles Van Gogh in the 14:20 contest. The son of American Pharaoh has very much been a slow burner this season, as he failed to taste victory in his first four starts. Second in the Group 3 Tyros Stakes on his second start and second in a Leopardstown Group 2 later on in this season, Van Gogh painted a picture like he could be a promising performer and he finally broke his duck at the fifth time of asking when he won a maiden event at the Curragh in late September.

Now looking to make it back-to-back wins, Van Gogh is a well-fancied contender for the Autumn Stakes as he looks to showcase his 2000 Guineas credentials. Currently a 33/1 chance for the Classic next year, Van Gogh will have to win this impressively if he is to propel towards the top of the tree of O'Brien's juveniles and he is certainly the one to watch on Saturday.

Battleground - Dewhurst Stakes (14:55 Saturday)

With six wins in the Dewhurst Stakes, Aidan O'Brien has a sensational record in the two-year-old Group One, and he will look to make it a magnificent seven on Saturday afternoon at Newmarket. His premier contender is likely to be Battleground, who was one of the star youngsters in the early part of the season, and is looking to return to winning ways in the Dewhurst.

Beaten at Naas on debut, Battleground broke his maiden tag with an impressive two and a half length victory in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, and he was quickly earmarked as a potential 2000 Guineas horse. The War Front colt is currently sitting as a second favourite for the Guineas, and he showed when winning the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in July that he is a really smart juvenile that is destined for the top. He may not be favourite for Saturday's race with fancied Guineas pair Chindit and Thunder Moon heading the betting, but if Battleground can continue on an upward curve and show his best then he has to be a major player.

2020 Dewhurst Stakes Odds
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