The Northumberland Plate is one of the most famous staying handicaps of the year and has a prize this year of over £92,000.
The race was narrowly won last year by HIGHER POWER for James Fanshawe and Tom Queally and he is towards the top of the antepost market in his attempt to defend his crown.
He is only one pound higher than when edging out Godolphin’s NATURAL SCENERY but it’s no surprise to see Roger Charlton’s WITHOLD head the market and deservedly so. He landed a monster plunge in the Cesarewitch and is capable of a bold show despite a hefty rise in his handicap mark.
However, at more than double his price AMAZING RED makes plenty of appeal having looked an improved horse at Newmarket last time and this could prove to be another step on the road to the Melbourne Cup.
Last year’s principals Higher Power and Natural Scenery are both capable of going well again while NAKEETA, WATERSMEET and ADDICTED TO YOU appeal most among those at bigger prices.
THE GRAND VISIR won’t get into the main event but looks the one to beat in the consolation Northumberland Vase. He remains unexposed in these stamina tests and can handle a 4lb higher mark.
Charlie Hills came away from Royal Ascot empty handed but he can make amends with DUTCH CONNECTION in the Criterion Stakes (2.45) at Newmarket tomorrow (Saturday).
Hills said: “He had a hard race in the Lockinge which might explain why he was a bit below par in the John O’Gaunt when fourth to D’bai and this could be the race to get him back on track.”
Hills’ other big entry is NEBO in the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle (12.55) and he should appreciate the Tapeta surface, but a topical winner could be TOP SCORE for Saeed Bin Suroor, who will enjoy a solid pace over this 6f trip and comes of a good winter campaign in Dubai.
Tim Easterby has been in brilliant form so far this flat term and his Shergar Cup winner at Ascot last year GOLDEN APPOLLO can turn his form around and relish a strongly-run 6f contest.
There’s plenty of local action to choose from this weekend and at Doncaster tonight (Friday) Sir Mark Prescott’s MIDNIGHT BLUE would have won pulling a milk cart at Lingfield last week and must go well in the 4.30 off a feather weight.
Paloma Faith appears after racing at York on Saturday, but I will be keeping the faith with TYLERY WONDER who can retain the Jump Jockeys’ Nunthorpe. He is reportedly coming to himself and has been targeted at this race since winning last year under a front running ride from Tom Scudamore.
Jason Ward’s MAIFALKI can feature again following his win at Beverley on Wednesday if the Middleham handler turns him out again quickly in Newcastle’s closing handicap on Saturday, but he may plump for prize money at York earlier in the day in the 2.45 and is a sound each way punt.
• CARRIGILL’S NAP (Stake returned as a free bet if selection does not finish in the top 4): NATURAL SCENERY, Saturday, Newcastle, 2.05.
• AUGUR’S BEST BET: AMAZING RED, Saturday, Newcastle, 2.05.