NORTHUMBERLAND Plate Day is always a big day out for the lads and lasses of Newcastle who will converge on High Gosforth Park in their thousands for the track’s biggest meeting of the year.
Better known as the Pitmen’s Derby, the extended two-mile contest is one of the most valuable staying handicaps to be contested anywhere in the world, boasting a first prize in excess of £90,000.
Roger Charlton has won two of the last five renewals of the race, and his WITHHOLD took the spoils twelve months ago. The Champs Elysees gelding will bid to defend his crown on the back of as 248-day absence, and he won this race following a similar spell on the sidelines last year.
He can run well again from an 8lb higher mark this time around, and he is still low-mileage for a six-year old so could well have more to offer.
A notable gamble meanwhile has already begun to gather pace with Roger Varian’s GIBBS HILL the subject of solid support over the past few days.
He was a general 20/1 last weekend but is now just 4’s with Carrigill’s.
The Mastercraftsman gelding would be making his first outing since winning at Kempton back in July 2017 where he beat the useful hurdler Zubayr, and in seven career starts he has yet to finish worse than third which includes no less than three successes.
He had looked a potentially classy performer when last seen, building on a win at Wolverhampton on his return from 300 days off to finish third in the Jorvik Handicap at York prior to that last success where he ran out an easy seven lengths’ winner.
He’s been absent since, but there is every likelihood that he has plenty more to come given his lightly-raced profile and, although the handicapper didn’t miss him with an 11lb rise in the weights following that success, there is every possibility that he remains well-treated with the potential for better still to come.
He’s been back in training since the start of the year and this race has always been the plan. If owner Paul Smith, son of Coolmore’s Derrick Smith, puts the money down he could go off even shorter.
Varian landed the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last Saturday with Cape Byron and can continue his purple patch with FLAVIUS TITUS in York’s 6f handicap at 2.45. He has won two of his three starts since returning to action following a winter gelding operation. A 4lb rise following a win on the July course where he showed a good turn of foot still leaves him off a workable mark.
Newmarket’s Criterion Stakes looks an ideal opportunity for SUEDOIS to build on his second place at the same level at Haydock last time out. The progressive Safe Voyage proved too strong for him on Merseyside but the quicker surface will help David O Meara’s gelding.
LIMATO goes over his optimum trip and also deserves serious respect at this level despite a penalty for winning a Group 2 last October.
If the Derby is anything to go by, we could be in for an exciting renewal at the Irish Derby at The Curragh tomorrow (Saturday).
Less than a length separated winner ANTHONY VAN DYCK from MADHMOON and fourth-placed BROOME at Epsom and the form has been franked by third-placed Japan and sixth-placed Circus Maximus, who both landed big races at Royal Ascot.
My tip at Epsom was BROOME who was forced to challenge wide and looked to become unbalanced before stepping on the gas in the last 150 yards.
If this becomes a stamina test, he can fulfil his promise as Ballydoyle’s original Derby horse.
CARRIGILL’S NAP (money back as a free bet if finishes outside top 4): WITHHOLD, Newcastle, Saturday, 3.35.
AUGUR’S BEST BET: BROOME, The Curragh, Saturday, 5.20.