Lucky Bridle set to be crowned Pride of the North.
The “Pitmen’s Derby” as the Northumberland Plate has long been known, is something of an anachronism, with the days when the week was a holiday for local miners, and the race run midweek now a distant memory. Its reputation as a handicap of note remains, however, and Saturday’s renewal is a typically competitive one.
Ask anyone with a reputation as a judge of such events how to narrow such a big field down, you’re liable to get a knowing nod and a lecture about how most people don’t think the draw can be important over such a trip, but that it is, and furthermore, the lower your draw the better your chances. We’re here to inform you that such wisdom is bunkum!
Last year’s race saw the first 3 home drawn in single-figure stalls, and that’s enough to keep this old myth rolling along for another decade, but closer inspection of the stats shows that there really isn’t any hard and fast rule about where you ought to be drawn, with wide draws a potential disadvantage in the run to the opening turn, but not an insurmountable one, as Overturn showed when making every yard from the widest stall of all in 2010.
Similarly, it’s deemed advantageous to be drawn on the inner rail, but given the scrimmaging which goes on among riders seeking to gain a good pitch, that can quickly turn into a coffin box, and if there is one stat you should bear in mind, it’s the one which states that in the last twenty runnings of the race, only three of the eighty placed horses came from the innermost stall, and two of those three sneaked into the frame only via a photograph.
That figure includes a plethora of fancied runners in recent times, including the joint favourite Handsome Man last year (had stall 2 with nothing on his inside) and second favourite Motivado in 2012. We wouldn’t fancy backing ante-post jolly Angel Gabrial to buck the trend at odds as short as 5/1, would you?
With Suegioo hit by the handicapper for his Chester Cup win, and bidding to become only the second horse to complete the double in forty years (the other, Ile de Re benefited from a farcical flag start when winning his Chester Cup, incidentally), there must be value elsewhere, and the most interesting of the others by some way is Lucky Bridle, who was a smart sort in France for Christophe Ferland before joining Willie Mullins.
The Bagenalstown trainer has developed a taste for British staying events, winning the Queen Alexandra again this year with Pique Sous, having landed the stayers’ double there with Simenon a couple of years ago.
It’s telling that he’s leaving last week’s hero at home and instead relies on Lucky Bridle, whose Newcastle-based owner Graham Wylie has long held an ambition to win the historic contest, and the signs are that the unexposed 5-y-o has been aimed at this race for some time. A close second over an inadequate trip at Cork last month, he promises to be suited by such a stamina test, and looks to have got in on the handicapper’s blind side.
At bigger odds, it may pay to forgive Glenard a poor run at Haydock, which is easy enough to explain by the fact he lost a shoe before the start, and he was allowed to come home in his own time after a change of tactics.
His previous fifth in the Chester Cup was a creditable performance, and the longer trip on testing ground there seemed to stretch him. Back at 2m and with the prevailing fast ground looking in his favour, he isn’t devoid of appeal by any means.
The BetBright Verdict
Win: Lucky Bridle @ 9/1
Each-way alternative: Glenard @ 18/1
The Northumberland Plate gets underway at 15.50 at Newcastle Racecourse tomorrow afternoon, let’s hope the weather stays fine and it’s another fabulous weekend of racing for all in attendance!