The Northumberland Plate is creeping back up in value now with a few race goers allowed at the track, so at £150,000 we expected this year’s event to be as competitive as always.
It certainly is that, and there’s some real class on show too. Group 2 winner and Gold Cup hope Trueshan heads the weights, while Royal Ascot winner Reshoun is turned out quickly. Here are the best six as we see it:
Keith Dalgleish’s charge has run well in bumpers, over hurdles and on the turf but has only appeared once on the all-weather so far.
That was over this course and distance in last year’s Sagaro Stakes when he ran well in fifth place. He seems to be very consistent on any surface and we know the trip is fine, so off a mark of 99 he remains pretty competitive having won last time out at Hamilton.
Roger Varian’s Australis knows his way around Newcastle and as a five-year-old stayer, is arguably ready to peak round about now.
He was second in last year’s Northumberland Plate before improving to fill the same spot behind Island Brave in a good quality conditions race over the course and distance in December.
He hasn’t been at his very best of late, but it would be a fair bet that he’ll be reinvigorated in these racing conditions and a proper return to form is expected.
Although well beaten on Champions Day over two miles, Dubious Affair’s breeding leads us to think he’ll stay very well.
He’s by Frankel, whose progeny do see it out, and out of a Sea The Stars mare. The ground was very heavy at Ascot last autumn, so we can ignore that one, while either side of that he’s run very well on good ground over 1m6f including when runner-up to Amtiyaz at Royal Ascot last week.
The combination of top National Hunt trainer Dr Richard Newland and hard-working, expert all-weather rider Luke Morris is an eye-catching one. This is not all about such trivial matters however.
Galata Bridge’s form and profile look perfect for this race. As a gelding being put through his paces at a jumps yard, he’s no doubt tough and experienced enough. He is only four however, and having had just eight career runs he has plenty more to offer yet.
His three wins for Sir Michael Stoute all came on this Tapeta surface; once at Newcastle and twice at Wolverhampton, while his first two outings for Dr Newland have yielded a second to Valyrian Steel and a sixth at Royal Ascot behind Amtiyaz when taking a keen hold, being bumped and losing his position – strong form.
He was still only beaten 3¼ lengths there and can produce plenty more yet. Big chance.
Joseph O’Brien brings this Australia gelding over from Ireland and he has a fairly solid chance on form.
Eleven of his 21 runs have come on the all-weather, mostly at Dundalk, and while this surface will be a different challenge for him it may very well suit.
His profile away from turf is one of a progressive horse, albeit steadily progressing, with the only doubt being his ability to stay two miles in such a hot race.
Trueshan adds some real quality to this event. When landing the British Champions Long Distance Cup last October, he put up a genuine Group 1 performance. First time out this season he chased home Japan at Chester, needing the race and finding the trip a little on the short side.
He had a real chance in the Gold Cup last week, another Group 1 affair, but was pulled out because the ground was too quick and now, he finds himself here.
The Tapeta surface may be just about deep enough for him and the strong pace over two miles should help him run to near his best. He is not hugely well handicapped in the conditions however, carries 10-4 (claimer on board) and will not have things his own way.
It’s fascinating to see how Trueshan gets on but he has a lot of work to do. For us, the three to concentrate on are Australis, Alright Sunshine and GALATA BRIDGE.
All could go well, but Dr Richard Newland’s runner really does catch the eye in terms of trip, race conditions, recent form, handicap mark and racing surface. He should even be a nice price on the day.