Twenty-two horses will do battle for the £86,226 first prize on Saturday in the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate.
Given the good money on offer it’s no surprise to see Newcastle racecourse draw such a competitive field, in what may be the last ever Northumberland Plate run on the ‘old’ Newcastle turf course before work on an all-weather track begins.
The bookmakers go 10/1 the field meaning should we find the winner a decent payday may be on the cards. The problem is up to 14 horses in the market are separated by no less than five betting points. We’ll hopefully narrow down the field better than that, however.
John Smith’s Northumberland Plate Preview
Born and bred in Newcastle, the Plate is certainly one major northern handicap that Brian Ellison would like to win. Ellison sends his strongest team to date to this year’s running which is headed by the progressive Seamour.
This son of Azamour has only had six runs to date winning four and there is surely more to come. Connections will be cursing their luck, however, as Seamour has been allotted the widest draw of all. Silvestre De Sousa will have to work his magic to get nice early position. The fact his mount seems a straight-forward type will help.
Had he not been allotted such a poor stall we’d fancy him strongly to build on his recent Haydock handicap win. His trainer really rates his charge and the four-year-old has plenty going for him, the draw aside.
One horse that appears to have plenty in his favour is Roger Charlton’s Quest For More. A progressive son of Teofilo, his trainer will hope the rain doesn’t arrive. While the prospect of fast ground will aid his cause it will also dent the chances of many of his closest market rivals.
From a good draw in stall three, his forward-going style will be suited to gaining a good early position. There doesn’t appear to be a mass amount of pace on so if George Baker can sit prominently on fast ground off a slow pace, Quest For More will prove tough to peg back.
That was nearly the case – hard to peg back – on debut this season when he was just caught close home at Newmarket having raced keenly. Next time out the four-year-old was more tractable and proved too good having stolen an early mark on the fast-finishing runner-up. Although he has plenty weight, he at least comes here in form and the less rain the better.
The race that Seamour won last time out sees many return in trying to turn the tables. Heading that pose for us is Nearly Caught, who, having raced keenly early was outpaced in the closing stages by the winner and the runner-up Totalize.
Hughie Morrison’s charge is a sound stayer at these sort of trips and is one who will appreciate a stronger early pace. As well a better gallop his chance would probably be enhanced by significant rain. Should the heavens open up at Newcastle and produce good to soft terrain, or slower, he is certainly capable of hitting the frame.
Another from the Brian Ellison team we respect is Totalize. This son of Authorized finished three-quarters of a length in front of Nearly Caught last time out. He is slightly worse off at the weights with that horse now, however, and having been drawn in 14 is probably not in as good a shape to attach the race.
That said, though, there is little between them and he is another who will appreciate any ease in underfoot conditions. He’s also entitled to strip fitter as last time out was his first run of the campaign.
Yet another entrant that will be better with rain is Ed Dunlop’s Oasis Fantasy who has been in great form this season. The son of Oasis Dream’s form figures read 323.
It’s frustrating he hasn’t been able to win as the four-year-old has gone up nine pounds in the handicap.
Two starts back at Goodwood he shaped as if a marathon test like this could eke out some extra improvement. The drop to 12 furlongs on fast ground didn’t suit last time out at Epsom, but he still ran well. His keen-going style of racing isn’t ideal with him stepping up in trip, that’s the second worry. The other? The ground. He’d appreciate any rain.
Richard Fahey’s Gabriel’s King is worth a strong positive mention on the back of his opening two runs this season. At Ripon on debut, and next time out in the Chester Cup, he ran two sound races, but it was disappointing to see him only finish eighth behind Seamour last time out. It may turn out to be a strong race at Haydock and if that’s the case he may find it hard to win.
Rite To Reign finished in front of Gabriel’s King last time out, but behind Suegioo, Nearly Caught, Totalize and Seamour. There wasn’t a whole lot between them all at the end, however, and Rite To Reign was by far-and-away the keenest of the quintet.
Given how free he was it was a sound effort and if able to settle better and ration his energy properly he can run a big race. He is another who would like a drop of rain to enhance his chances and should it fall, he looks the race value at around the 14/1 mark.
The admirable Clever Cookie will have to produce a career best off top-weight while Willie Mullins’s Max Dynamite is an intriguing runner, although he doesn’t exactly come here in form. That pair, along with Suegioo would appreciate any rain, but must produce top performances carrying big weights.
This race really hinges on the weather. There are so many horses in this year’s race that would appreciate any rain that fell. If the weather forecast is to be believed no more rain will fall on ground that is now officially described as ‘Good’.
The ground may not be fast enough for Quest For More who, although in form, probably needs quicker conditions given the big weight he is set to carry. Clever Cookie, Max Dynamite and Suegioo should run on ground that will be safe, but are vulnerable at the top of the handicap.
Angel Gabriel is respected although he didn’t shape like a horse at the top of his game last time out while Oasis Fantasy’s keen-going ways may find him out late in the race over this marathon trip.
Based on the run last time, where they all took each other on it’s proving tough to split the quartet of Seamour, Totalize, Nearly Caught and Rite To Reign. All four of these have positives coming in here on the back of their recent runs.
Seamour is a young, progressive horse who surely has more to offer off this type of mark, but has been handed a poor draw. Totalize is probably not open to as much improvement as these, but he ran well last time out on seasonal debut. He’s entitled to strip fitter.
Both Nearly Caught and Rite To Reign, especially the latter, were keen last time out and in that respect can run better in a race that is sure to be run at a stronger gallop.
It’s tough to split these, but we’re just going to side with youth and suggest to win bets on SEAMOUR and RITE TO REIGN. Seamour may be able to overcome a poor draw given he is better than his mark while Rite To Reign has nearly everything in place to run well off a low weight.