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THERE are plenty of big races up for grabs this afternoon, none more so the ultra competitive Northumberland Plate Handicap at Newcastle over two miles at 3.30.
Trueshan has in a way been forced to race off his huge weight of 10-08 here because of the lack of soft ground on the turf, but off a rating of 120 it would be one of the greatest weight carrying performances of all time in a flat handicap, should he defy his mark.
With him standing his ground, there are plenty of decent stayers set to receive a huge amount of weight from Alan King’s six-year-old, so the obvious way to play this race is an each-way wager further down the entry.
My main pick comes at the foot of the weights in the form of recent Haydock Park winner VALLEY FORGE. Previous to that success at the Merseyside track, the Andrew Balding-trained runner had been crying out for a step up to two miles. However, he needed every yard of the trip to win there last month eventually getting on top inside the final 25 yards to win by a head. That small margin of victory meant that the handicapper could hardly penalise too much and a 4lbs penalty makes him look pretty well weighted here.
There should also be plenty more improvement in him on only his second start at the trip, while this much stiffer track should also play to his strengths.
Of his other rivals, the consistent ante-post favourite, Rajinsky, has solid claims, but at bigger prices the likes of Bandinelli and Tribal Art are also interesting. The last named is also unexposed over this kind of test and looked all set to play a part in the home stretch in the two and a half mile Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting, before running out of puff. This drop back in trip looks perfect for the Johnston runner and there are far worse each-way plays at big prices in the field of 20 runners set to go to post at the Gosforth Park track today.
Earlier on the card, the Consolation Plate at 2.55 also looks a tough one to call with 19 runners set to line up. Evaluation has been put in as the favourite by the bookmakers as he bids to complete a five-timer, but this looks a whole lot more competitive than the races he has been taking in and he will need a career best by some way to continue that sequence. Still, at least he comes here in good form. However, I am going to plump for a 16/1 shot ZOFFEE.
Hugo Palmer’s runner is lightly raced for a horse of his age (27 runs under rules) but comes here in rude health following a last gasp win at Carlisle last time out. He really only asserted close home that day and has always looked as though he would be very well suited by a wholesale test of stamina, which he should get here. The selection gets the nod over former course and distance winner Smart Champion.
Elsewhere on the Gosforth Park card I think that ABOLISH should go well at a huge price for Iain Jardine in the six furlong handicap due off at 1.50, while the Group Three Chipchase Stakes at 2.25 may go to BIELSA.
Last season’s Ayr Gold Cup hasn’t really found his feet this term, but showed a bit more last time out at York when he was a never nearer seventh of 22 behind Dakota Gold beaten just under three and a half lengths.
The slowish Tapeta track should certainly suit his run style and if he takes another step forward here then he could prove too good for the likes of Glen Shiel and likely favourite Sense of Duty for William Haggas.
The same yard may strike in the seven furlong handicap at 4.38 with top weight BOOSALA, who was far from disgraced when a running on second to Red Mirage at Chester last time out. That was only his eighth career start and there should be plenty more to come from the son of Dawn Approach, who has already run well at this venue before.
Over at Chester, the feature seven furlong handicap due off at 3.40 features some progressive three-year-olds, the best of which could be the four timer seeking HEBRIDES. He may not be a very original selection, but it is hard to fault his victories at Nottingham and Newbury (dead heat). On that last run he could well have done with a faster pace which looking at the declared runners here, he should get.
Of the all-aged events, I am quite keen on NAVELLO in the five furlong sprint at 3.10. He is one of four course and distance winners in the field of six, and should get a really nice tow through the race courtesy of both Glory Fighter and the very quick Bossipop.
There is also a good card at Newmarket where the Listed Empress Fillies’ Stakes may well go the way of Ralph Beckett’s LEZOO (2.05).
This beautifully bred bay filly easily dismissed 11 rivals on her career debut at Bath earlier in the month, and her astute trainer would not let her run in this much higher grade unless he thought she could do herself justice against the likes of the Richard Hannon trained Minnetonka and Malrescia.
The feature Group Three Criterion Stakes at 3.15 looks wide open and many of you will want to be on the popular Pongo, winner of the John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock Park last time out. However, he has a penalty to carry here and had the run of the race that day. So the opposition call has to be the second home that day Laneqash, beaten a nose after not getting the best of runs. He is three pounds better off at the weights here.
Finally, the Irish Derby at the Curragh has attracted a disappointing turn out of just eight runners at 3.45 and the Epsom Oaks runner-up, TUESDAY, looks the call to give Aidan O’Brien another classic winner, most probably at the main expense of Epsom Derby third Westover.
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