It’s a packed day of flat action either side of the Irish Sea on Saturday as Newcastle host their biggest annual meeting, the Northumberland Plate Festival, while over at the Curragh it’s also Irish Derby day.
Competitive handicaps and pattern races are also being held at Newmarket, Windsor, Chester, York, Lingfield and Doncaster and frankly there is a plethora of proper summer racing producing between it some fine betting opportunities up and down the country.
We’re going for a mixture of great betting value and what we hope are as close to racing certainties as you can get on a Saturday, beginning with the Group 3 at Gosforth Park which features one of the sprinting stars of the season so far:
2.25 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – LAUGH A MINUTE
With Glorious Journey now out of the way (see below), this six furlong sprint on paper is dominated by Curragh Group 2 scorer Mr Lupton of Richard Fahey’s yard and previous Diamond Jubilee favourite Invincible Army of James Tate’s.
In terms of being turned out quickly, running on what will be standard-to-slow Tapeta because of the heat, racing under a penalty and the very stiff six furlongs to be encountered there are enough doubts about the top two in the market and it could be the progressive Roger Varian horse that scores here instead at a nice price.
The form of Laugh A Minute’s win at Doncaster last summer along with his second at Deauville reads very well, and while he hasn’t quite hit those heights yet this season he has been running OK and is sure to peak in this race given the stable’s form. He gets the vote at around 9/2 under the excellent Andrea Atzeni.
3.10 Chester (Class 2 Handicap) – MAWAKIB
Roger Varian’s improving colt seems to go on any surface and he is well drawn in this race to continue his progression over his favourite intermediate trip of seven furlongs.
He skipped Royal Ascot to come here but still has some fancy handicap entries for later in the summer, though it may not be too long before connections are forced to think about going for some black type with him if he continues winning, something I see as a major probability on Saturday.
3.15 Newmarket (Criterion Stakes – Group 3) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY
After he was sandwiched between The Tin Man and Dream Of Dreams at Windsor on his last outing, yours truly was desperate to back Glorious Journey at Newcastle in the Chipchase Stakes but instead Charlie Appleby has sent him to this seven furlong race on the turf.
I’ve no reason to doubt Appleby’s expertise and so the money will still go down, despite the fact that on paper this looks more competitive. There are doubts about many rivals though including Limato, so given that this horse is on the upgrade he really should be good enough under James Doyle to register another Group 3 success.
3.30 Curragh (International Stakes – Group 3) – ADDEYBB
The hero of the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot is turned out quickly to avoid what looks to be a prolonged spell of very dry ground in England, and while it is not as soft as ideal at the Curragh and we perhaps can’t expect him to peak once again, the fact is he may not need to.
A run to within 4 or 5 pounds of his best should suffice here and clearly connections think he can deliver that, with the improving three-year-old Buckhurst of Joseph O’Brien’s fancied to give him most to do ahead of his father’s entrant Blenheim Palace.
Addeybb is in the form of his life and the plan would seem to be to get one more pattern win into him before putting him away for an autumn campaign during which he may yet grab his maiden Group 1.
5.20 Curragh (Irish Derby – Group 1) – MADHMOON
Aidan O’Brien said publicly that he was a little easier than normal on his Derby hopefuls during the trials in May, so there may be more to come from them which was evident in the performances of Circus Maximus and Japan last week at the Royal meeting.
In performing the way they did though both in prep runs and in the Derby itself, Broome and Anthony Van Dyck look as though they are open now to slightly less improvement so while the Ballydoyle master once again dominates this field, he may not win it in the end.
Preference is for 87-year-old Kevin Prendergast’s Madhmoon. Having beaten Broom comfortably last season and again when running second at Epsom, a track he appeared not to handle like so many, it seems on form he only has the favourite to beat and that is more than possible now.
His run in the 2000 Guineas when racing on completely the wrong part of the track reads well and over this more conventional layout he looks good value to turn the tables on Anthony Van Dyck and provide his trainer with a long overdue Irish Derby success.
5.50 Newcastle (Class 4 Handicap) – HOWMAN
With any luck the combination of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni will already be on the board on this card but they may also end their day in good style in the closing handicap over a mile-and-a-quarter.
Howman hasn’t been seen since finishing seventh at the glorious meeting at Goodwood last summer but before his problem he’d been a most progressive type, winning at Lingfield and Yarmouth in the style of a horse really going places.s
There is little doubt his trainer will have him spot-on for his belated return to the track and also that, given time at least, he will prove to be capable of far more than his current handicap mark of 81 meaning he looks potentially very well-in against a field of similarly aged but more exposed handicappers.
Windsor Cross and Rose Tinted Spirit are among those who could chase him home for minor prize money.