IT’S the day the all-weather supremos get to strut their stuff up north, with the Northumberland Plate the highlight of the day’s fare.
Withhold is a strong favourite for the valuable handicap, but we reckon there’s one at a bigger price to take him on – and we also have two other each-way shots to get you in the Saturday mood.
The first Group race of the day is the Chipchase Stakes, a six furlong contest that has an illustrious roll of honour.
Marginal favourite for this year’s renewal is the veteran Kimberella, who is as consistent as they come. He was third in the race last year when not getting a clear run and it’s a similar level of opposition this time around.
So what’s not to like? Well, he’s already had a long enough season, running six times since February, and he’s only managed one win since August last year. What’s more, he was beaten a nose last time out by a horse that wouldn’t be good enough to win this race.
Consequently, he’s taken on with YAFTA. This is a rise in class for Richard Hannon’s speedster, but he’s been progressing fast and won’t be out of his depth taking on his elders for the first time.
He was a beaten a head over seven furlongs last time, but the drop back to six at a track like Newcastle can only be a good thing. He gets plenty of his weight from his rivals and cam make a successful transition into Group company.
He’s won on the all-weather before and this looks a decent opportunity.
Withhold is a strong favourite for the feature Northumberland Plate, and it’s easy to see why. Roger Charlton’s four-year-old was a very easy winner of the Cesarewitch last season and although he’s not been seen since, that performance is still fresh in the memory.
However, he’s been raised 12lb for that victory and his trainer has voiced concerns that he doesn’t think this test will suit as much as the rolling gallop of the Rowley Mile.
In a competitive race of this nature, he’s definitely worth taking on at 100-30.
Amazing Red has a good chance based on his easy win at Newmarket last time out, particularly as he escapes with only a five pound penalty. However, he needs to show that he can perform in a strongly run two mile contest as there are slight stamina doubts.
Lagostovegas won very well in the Ascot Stakes last week but this is a completely different test, while Higher Power will need to improve on this season’s exploits if he wants to repeat last year’s win.
Therefore, the one to side with could be ISLAND BRAVE.
Heather Main’s progressive four-year-old is unbeaten on Tapeta and has been raised from a mark of 72 to 96 since last October.
It’s been a case of non-stop improvement this season and with such a good synthetic record, he looks overpriced at 20-1.
This will admittedly be the hardest test for him so far, but he’s running off a nice weight and is unexposed over the trip.
12.55 Newcastle – Yafta ‘he’s been progressing fast and won’t be out of his depth taking on his elders for the first time’ (add to your betslip)
1.45 Newmarket – Lake Volta ‘Granted an easy lead here, which he should get, he can make them all go at 10-1’ (add to your betslip)
2.05 Newcastle – Island Brave ‘It’s been a case of non-stop improvement this season and with such a good synthetic record, he looks overpriced at 20-1’ (add to your betslip)
The Criterion Stakes is a really weak race this year, with only three of the seven runners having Group-winning form to their name.
Dutch Connection is the favourite for Charlie Hills. The six-year-old is the classy horse of the field and possesses the best form. However, he was really disappointing last time in the John of Gaunt, and it’s worth remembering that he has a very poor strike-rate for one of his ability.
If back to his best then he’ll probably win, but that’s a big if.
Sir Dancealot and Tabarrak have claims but look too short at their current prices, particularly as neither look bomb-proof in this grade.
One that has escaped under the radar is Mark Johnston’s LAKE VOLTA (1.45).
The three-year-old has quite an erratic profile but his win in a Listed race at Epsom on his penultimate start would give him a very good chance here.
He annihilated his opposition by four and a half lengths that day and although he got an easy lead, it was still a good performance.
He wasn’t nearly as good at Royal Ascot last week but that was a big field and his front-running style was ineffective.
Granted an easy lead here, which he should get, he can make them all go at 10-1.