2.00 Newcastle – Betfred Chipchase Stakes (Group 3)
Twelve months ago this race went the way Of Mick Appleby’s DANZENO and a year on he once again looks the one they all have to beat. He is by no means the easiest to ride but he showed up well on his return to action in the Temple Stakes at Haydock when dropped back in trip last time. The form has been boosted with Pearl Secret finishing a narrowly beaten fourth in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot last week. Appleby’s gelding is entitled to come on for his reappearance in terms of fitness and a return to six furlongs on fast ground should be right up his street. He was well backed last time so I would suggest that you take an early price about him and I would not be surprised to see him making his presence felt in the top Group races before the end of the season.
The main danger looks likely to be Tim Easterby’s Mattmu who was denied a Group 2 success by a head at York back in May. He failed to repeat that performance next time at Haydock although that run probably came quick enough for him after such a big run on his seasonal reappearance. He has had a short break and should now be able to return to the form which saw him win a Group 2 as a juvenile last term. He probably prefers a bit of cut in the ground but showed he went on faster ground at York and looks the one most likely to benefit should the favourite fluff his lines.
At a bigger price, it could be worth keeping an eye on Karl Burke’s Glenalmond who had some good form as juvenile, including when finishing a length behind Muhaarar in the Gimcrack Stakes. The ground was on the slow side at Haydock last time when he dropped back to six furlongs and there could be more to come on quicker ground.
2.15 Newmarket – Marshall Maserati Supporting The AHT Fred Archer Stakes (Listed Race)
Jassim Al Ghazali’s Dubday is a multiple winner in Qatar but took a big step forward last time when chasing home Telescope at Newbury. This Listed contest does not look as strong as the race at Newbury and there is plenty of reason to think that he can go well here. He does have to concede 3lb to all of his rivals following his recent exploits but he nevertheless looks likely to be in the shake-up.
However, despite not having been seen in public for over a year it may be better to side with Sir Michael Stoute’s GOSPEL CHOIR who won the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes on the Rowley Mile last season. He also followed up in the Yorkshire Cup next time beating Tac De Boistron so his form in the book looks very solid. This looks a nice starting point for him and as long as he is ready to go on his return to action, I fancy he will prove a good deal better than his rivals here.
2.35 Newcastle – Betfred “Six Best Odds Races Daily” Handicap
Ed Walker’s Bushcraft was mightily progressive in the second half of last season winning twice and continued that fine form into this term winning on his first two starts. Those were only narrow victories but his trainer mentioned that a race like the Stewards Cup was likely to be on the agenda by the end of the season so there should be more to come from him. He is heading the right way and with further improvement to come, he deserves a place on the shortlist.
Charlie Hills saddles an interesting runner in the shape of Tanzeel who was last seen winning impressively at Yarmouth last July. He won impressively by three and a quarter lengths that day and with the second and third both having won since, the form is clearly smart. He was raised 9lb on the back of that effort which he should be able to defy but the length of time he has been off the track is clearly a concern.
It therefore might be best to side with David Nicholls’ BARNET FAIR who has been knocking on the door in big-field handicaps of late. He had no luck in running when tenth in the Dash at Epsom but showed up well when fourth at Musselburgh next time. The return to six furlongs should be in his favour having stayed on over five last time and with trouble less likely in this smaller field, he can get his head in front under Paul Mulrennan.
2.50 Newmarket – Betfair Supporting The Animal Health Trust Empress Stakes (Listed Race) (Fillies)
Next up is a tricky little race for two-year-old fillies and there is no doubt that one man who has his juveniles in fine form this year is Mark Johnston who saddles Lido Lady here. She knew her job on debut a couple of weeks ago when winning readily at Goodwood. She made all that night and ran on strongly in the closing stages to win by one and three-quarter lengths. There was plenty to like about her debut and looks to have earned the step up to Listed class so should go well.
Richard Hannon’s juveniles have tended to come on for their first run this season and the same can be said for Bournemouth Belle who got off the mark at the second attempt when also winning at Goodwood in May. Prior to that she finished just one and a half lengths behind Ralph Beckett’s Miss Moneypenny and was definitely suited by the extra furlong last time. The yard’s two-year-olds always need to be respected and having won this race in two of the last three years, she could well go close again for the Hannon team.
However, I was impressed with the way that WHITE BULLET ran in Listed company on her debut at York despite running there on her first start. She was slowly away but made good headway once the penny dropped and was finishing as strongly as anything in the closing stages. The extra furlong should be no problem for her and if he can find normal improvement from first to second start she won’t be too far away and could represent a bit of value in the race.
3.10 Newcastle – Betfred Membership “Play Your Way” Handicap
Having twice won over seven furlongs last term, it is no surprise to see Brian Ellison drop BARAWEEZ back in trip following his below par effort in the Royal Hunt Cup last time. He comes in here racing off just 2lb higher than when winning at Leopardstown last September. The yard have won this race twice in the last five years and I expect we will see another bold showing from their representative this time around. He is fitted with cheekpieces which should sharpen him up a little and although he sits towards the head of the weights, he looks to have strong claims.
In terms of his rivals, Richard Fahey looks to have a strong hand particularly with Mehdi who continued his fine run of form when second at York a couple of weeks ago. He is effectively 5lb higher here with Tony Hamilton replacing 3lb Jack Garritty in the saddle but he has been running well of late and should be able to run well again here.
However, the yard’s best chance might be the three-year-old Bond’s Girl who would be carrying 7lb more were she a year older but she races here off just 8st 11lb. She ran well to finish fourth in the Nell Gwyn earlier in the season behind Osaila and didn’t run too badly in a hot race at York last time. The return to seven furlongs should be in her favour and under a feather weight she can give the main selection plenty to think about.
3.25 Newmarket – John Sunley Memorial Criterion Stakes (Group 3)
James Fanshawe’s Hors De Combat is likely to be popular having run consistently well last season and he was a little unlucky not to finish a little nearer than tenth in the Lockinge at the beginning of this season. The drop back to seven furlongs shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience for him and he still doesn’t have too many miles on the clock. He looks likely to run well here but he could be vulnerable to a younger rival.
That rival could come in the shape of William Muir’s CODE RED who appreciated the drop to Listed company as well as seven furlongs last time when winning at Epsom. Prior to that he was well beaten in both the Greenham and the 2000 Guineas and whilst he isn’t up to that sort of level, he is nevertheless a smart performer. He receives a hefty weight allowance from his older rivals here and given how well he ran last time, I think he has an excellent chance of following up here.
At a bigger price, Mick Channon’s Lincoln shouldn’t be discounted having finished second in the Victoria Cup two starts back at Ascot. I don’t think he stays a mile and the Royal Hunt Cup confirmed as much as he weakened late on but Richard Hughes has been booked to ride here and he could be worth a second look at around the 10/1 mark.
3.45 Newcastle – John Smith’s Northumberland Plate (HANDICAP)
Tominator and Il De Re remain the only winners in the last ten years to have carried more than 9st to victory. In fact, based on that evidence, I would have to give a negative to each of the runners from Clever Cookie down to, potentially, Nearly Caught. However, that is quite a sweeping move to make so whilst I shall definitely be keeping this in mind, I will see how the top-weighted animals perform against the other trends before putting them on the scrapheap.
Following on nicely from the issue of weight, it is interesting to note that 7 of the last 10 renewals were won by horses officially rated between 85 & 94. The only exceptions to that rule were the last three winners who won off marks of 101, 102 and 96 respectively. This trend confirms that we should be opposing everything down to Buthelezi in favour on those from Oasis Fantasy down to Rite To Reign.
The natural instinct is to assume that the draw in a 2m race won’t make any difference to the outcome, but you would be wrong. Historically, six of the last ten winners have come from single figure draws, so it is not a race which a high draw is preferred.
Moving on to more recent form, in the last 10 years only 2 winners had been successful last time out, confirming that attentions should be focused on those runners that haven’t shown their full hand to the handicapper. However, the majority of winners had been coming into the race with a decent effort last time behind them so I wouldn’t be too keen on anything that has been struggling coming into the race.
When it comes to stamina, it goes without saying that you need to select a horse that is guaranteed to get the 2m19y trip, especially as the ground for this race tends to be on the soft side although this may not be the case this year. It is very easy to look at a 1m4f horse and convince yourself that he will improve for the step up in trip, but in the Plate you must stick to the proven stayers as 9 of the last 10 winners had already won over a minimum of 1m6f The only recent winner who stamina was in question going into the race was Tominator who had largely been campaigned over distances between 10f and 12f.
With recent winners being aged from 4 to 8, there isn’t a lot to be learned although horses aged from 4 to 6 have won 9 of the last 10 renewals implying that the younger horses should be our first port of call.
The final trend to consider is the one regarding the betting and it is interesting to note that favourites have a pretty poor record, having only landed three of the last ten renewals. At the time of writing, the market leader is Quest For More so it might be best to look elsewhere for a selection.
GABRIAL’S KING – 7/7
Rite to Reign – 7/7
Gabrial’s Star – 6/7
Richard Fahey won this race twelve months ago with Angel Gabrial and he looks to have a strong hand once again with two of his runners making the shortlist. The six-year-old GABRIAL’S KING tops the shortlist having matched all seven of our trends. Last time at Haydock he probably got a little further back than ideal but his form earlier in the season behind Trip To Paris suggests that he is well worth a second look. The forecast quick ground should be in his favour and with a perfect profile in terms of trends he looks the one to beat.
The only other member of the field to come out on top in all seven of the trends is Philip McBride’s Rite To Reign who sneaks in here at the bottom of the weights on 8st 4lb. The trip should be no problem for this four-year-old having won over two miles at Newmarket in October and he finished ahead of Gabrial’s King on his latest start. There isn’t much between the pair but Richard Fahey’s gelding gets a pull in the weights and marginally gets the vote.
The final member of the shortlist is Gabrial’s Star who was last seen finishing fifth to Trip To Paris in the Chester Cup in May. The only concern with him is the draw in 13 but if he can overcome that, he looks likely to be thereabouts on his best form. He had trouble in running at Chester and may have finished closer to the winner with a clear run. He looks to have plenty going in his favour and shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.
6.30 Curragh – 150th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group 1)
John Gosden’s Jack Hobbs is well-fancied to go one better at the Curragh than he managed at Epsom and given his profile he looks hard to oppose. A wide margin winner in handicap company at Sandown at the beginning of the season he would have won both the Dante and the Derby had it not been for his stablemate Golden Horn. He does not have to worry about that rival this time so looks the one to beat. It is worth mentioning that there hasn’t been a British-trained winner of the Irish Derby since Balanchine in 1995 which is a concern and in truth I don’t see much appeal in taking a very short price here.
It may be better to side with HIGHLAND REEL who was a high-class two-year-old but has taken a while to come to hand this year. He ran much better stepped up to ten furlongs in the French Derby last time and the extra two furlongs should also be in his favour here. His trainer has dominated this race in the last decade winning eight of the last nine renewals and I think he can cause a small upset here with Ryan Moore in the saddle.