Three bets for Newcastle and Newmarket on Saturday for our man Chris Day including a strong 12/1 fancy for the Northumberland Plate.
1pt win Louganini in 2.40 Newmarket at 10/1 (William Hill)
2pts Kinross in 3.15 Newmarket at 3/1 (William Hill)
1pt e.w. Opera Gift in 3.30 Newcastle at 12/1 (bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4)
The William Hill Northumberland Plate is probably the highest quality handicap not run on grass and has attracted a top-class field of progressive stayers with a massive first prize of over £80,000 on offer.
Heading the market is Andrew Balding’s four-year-old OPERA GIFT, who looked like there was plenty to come after winning at Salisbury in early May. His form has shown steady progression since making his debut at Goodwood last September and his stable are flying high after a superb Royal Ascot where Alcohol Free carried these colours to victory in the Coronation Stakes.
There’s really nothing not to like about him and he’s highly likely to give backers a run for their money.
Balding also has the King Power-owned Cleo entered, a horse at the opposite end of his career having won the Queen Alexandra in 2019. It’s true he’s dropped a long way in the weights since then but he’s given little indication of returning to the level of form required to win a race as competitive as this.
Charlie Fellowes has proven himself a fine trainer of stayers in his relatively short career and Dubious Affair almost pulled off a major shock at Ascot last week when just failing to overhaul Amtiyaz in the Copper House. That was her first run in 241 days and there have to be doubts about her backing up just 11 days later.
One of the most intriguing entries here is Longside, who was having just the third run of his life when scoring over 12 furlongs at Lingfield on his first run for Sir Mark Prescott. His trainer would know a thing or two about winning big handicaps but he’s been allotted a mark of 92 for his first go and that looks steep enough on what we’ve seen so far.
Last year’s Vase runner-up Australis also ran well here in December off a mark of 94 so ticks the box in terms of course and distance form but he couldn’t win off 10lbs lower last year and the trainer’s Zeeband could be the yard's pick as he has more improvement to come.
He looked ready for a step up in trip last time when third to Global Storm at Newmarket, the winner going on to run a stormer at Ascot last week off a 4lb higher mark, and he looks likely to have come on significantly for that outing.
His form is also littered with good horses and, on just his seventh racecourse reappearance, you’d have to think there’s more to come.
Mark Johnston is a name to note in any handicap and has a very good record at Newcastle. Hochfeld, Dancing King and Mildenberger all have form entitling them to be competitive although they’re all passed over for different reasons.
Any Irish-trained runner crossing to these shores needs to be looked at closely and there is a feeling that Shoshone Warrior has never quite shown on the track what is expected of him, but I’d be guessing if I said I though he was well handicapped.
Another Sea The Stars colt, A Star Above, steps up in trip after failing to land the odds over half a mile shorter at Pontefract last time. He looks a stayer and has been improving for a while but this is a step into the unknown and he’s not high on my list.
One who I’d be very interested in if he gets in is East Asia who has won his three starts in England for Ian Williams from Saudi Arabia. The Goodwood Stakes would appear a likely target if he doesn't make the cut as he’s twice handled the tricky gradients there and looks to have a very workable mark of 86. It's attractive but I'm not sure he's high enough to get into this.
Top weight is Alan King’s Trueshan, who won the two-mile race on Champions Day and looked the right type for the Ascot Gold Cup but was taken out due to the going last week. He is entered here off a mark of 118.
Winning a handicap like this off that rating would be a monumental effort although there are grounds for saying he’s not badly in on beating a dual Irish Leger winner by seven lengths in Berkshire, and he’s got loads of improvement to come as that was his first run over two miles.
The problem is he’s entered over 12 furlongs at Newmarket on the same day and that might be viewed as more suitable if the rain hits Cambridgeshire before the weekend. He showed he’s not short of pace when just failing to concede 5lb to Japan in the Ormonde Stakes, too.
I find this contest intriguing due to Trueshan’s presence and may well find myself backing him if he’s declared but didn’t expect 12/1 to be available about OPERA GIFT and he looks cast iron each way value.
Down at Newmarket there are a couple of Pattern races for older horses and former Leger winner Logician heads the market in the Close Brothers Fred Archer Stakes over a mile-and-a-half.
The horse I really like though is Roger Charlton’s LOUGANINI, who I expected to take in a Royal Ascot handicap after winning there off 94 on his seasonal reappearance. He readily pulled clear of a prominently-ridden King Power horse in Group One Power that day and looked to have bags of improvement in him so the hint needs to be taken and there’s 10/1 available for Saturday’s contest.
In the Close Brothers Criterion Stakes, Ralph Beckett’s KINROSS, a one-time Guineas fancy, looks a worthy favourite to back up a visually stunning run at Haydock and, despite his penalty, I think he’s value here even at 3/1. The race has been won by penalised runners before and he’s highly rated to be running in a Group Three. I make him the weekend’s best bet.
Published at 1700 BST on 21/06/21
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