We’re taking in some of Friday’s live action here as well as Saturday as terrestrial TV covers only its second ever live evening racing programme at Newcastle Racecourse in the middle of what is the Northumberland Plate festival.
The quality is high, as is the quantity this weekend, as the Irish Derby takes centre stage at the Curragh while numerous pattern races are run in England.
We have five good value punts for you to get stuck into this time, starting at High Gosforth Park with the feature handicap on Friday’s card:Embed from Getty Images
Friday 29th June 2018
7.30 Newcastle (Gosforth Park Cup Handicap) – HOLMESWOOD
This is a typically competitive sprint handicap featuring a number who could potentially be ahead of the assessor when taking everything into account, such as Dakota Gold, Orvar and Atletico. Then of course there is the spectre of Goldream who would have run rings around these a few years back and could come back to somewhere closer to his best form all we know.
The most interesting one for me though is Mick Dods’ runner Holmeswood. Only a four-year-old and with 14 runs under his belt, we have not seen the best of him yet and a close look at his profile suggests we might be about to see his best run to date.
Not usually at his best when the ground is too fast, he should like this tapeta surface now he’s maturing and in fact he scored well at Newcastle over six furlongs in November 2016. His very best performances though have come over the minimum trip and as a son of Mayson out of an Acclamation mare he also rates as one of the better bred types in this field.
8.05 Newcastle (Hoppings Stakes – Group 3) – MAGNOLIA SPRINGS
In many ways this race revolves around the Sir Michael Stoute runner Smart Call who was a Group 1 winner over in South Africa and was sent here by the owners to achieve similar things. Unlike in the southern hemisphere however, the older horses don’t tend to keep improving and after eight attempts this mare has not looked like reaching her previous heights.
Her top yard are in good form though and so a decent run should be expected, however given the weight for age this race has fallen to improving three-year-old fillies plenty of times and I would not be surprised should Magnolia Springs and Four White Socks fight out the finish.
Luca Cumani’s Four White Socks was behind Agrotera on debut and her connections were correct in thinking that the race was underestimated by the handicapper, her conqueror scoring easily at Royal Ascot. Having weight in hand in a handicap and winning a Group 3 are quite different things however and so her form for me doesn’t quite live up to what Eve Johnson Houghton’s horse has achieved.
One of the best 2yo debut performances of last season marked this horse out as special and the way she won the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes last time would appear to confirm it. She is taken to score at a nice price.
Saturday 30th June 2018
12.20 Newcastle (6f Handicap) – EKHTIYAAR
This is usually a tremendously competitive handicap and one which looks up to its usual standard according to the betting, though in truth there are many contenders in this who look like not appreciating this track and so things could be left wide open for the improver in the pack, Ekhtiyaar.
Roger Varian’s colt hasn’t run for two months but had been gradually getting back to his 3yo level of form and is very much expected to put his best foot forward from this point of the season.
A couple of good wins at Newmarket last year marked him out as an improving handicapper and one who could eventually move up to pattern company and its easy to see this test playing to his strengths. Raucous and Summerghand are feared most.
12.55 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – NEVER BACK DOWN
A fascinating race if not the strongest Group 3 you’ll ever see, with formers winners and improving types competing over what is a tough six furlongs to get.
In-form Sir Michael Stoute sends Dream Of Dreams north for the challenge and the four-year-old former Kevin Ryan inmate would certainly seem to have some improvement in him. Although beaten in the this grade on his seasonal debut at Newmarket, the son of Dream Ahead seemed to relish the softer conditions last backend and it’s perhaps thought he will dig in and enjoy this surface.
For me though the three-year-old Never Back Down is perhaps a deal better than his published rating and given his age and experience, he’s bound to come on again. A win at Wolverhampton in December (same surface) was a big step forward but was proven to be no fluke when he dominated last time out to score in Listed company at Newbury.
That comfortable front-running performance will lead many to say he had the “run of the race”, on the contrary however these sort of wins show that a horse has been able to dictate terms to his opposition and dominate proceedings, something often only done by a pretty useful type.
3.30 Newmarket (Fillies’ Handicap) – MORNING BEAUTY
There aren’t too many in this field who are either bred for the mile-and-a-half trip, or who look up to it based on past performances and so those who can stay on best as well as those who may be ahead of the handicapper will hold sway.
That makes this a very short list and although I like the chances of Ed Dunlop’s Fabulous Red, the one to be on could be handicap debutant Morning Beauty of Hugo Palmer’s yard.
This three-year-old daughter of Dawn Approach may not have appeared a stayer on paper, however she dominated her novice race at Haydock last time over almost this trip and has plenty more to give.