Punting pointers as hot favourite Withhold bids for Northumberland Plate glory
Stobart Rail & Civils Northumberland Plate Handicap | 2m | 3yo+ | ITV/ATR
Improving Withhold right type to justify favouritism
Long-time ante-post favourite Withhold has the right sort of profile for a prestigious handicap of this nature and it would be no surprise to see him make his mark in Group company in due course.
A hugely impressive winner of the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last October when landing a mighty gamble in the colours of Brighton & Hove Albion chairman and professional punter Tony Bloom, Withhold has reportedly been slow to come to hand this year, but there are plenty of possible races for him this summer and connections are hoping he may develop into a Melbourne Cup type.
It’s notoriously difficult to make all at Newcastle nowadays, but Withhold, who has adopted such tactics in the past, doesn’t look one-dimensional in the way he can be ridden.
Trainer Roger Charlton said: “He’s in good form and ready for his first race. This looks a good starting point for him. He's a lightly raced horse open to further improvement.”
Red has an amazing chance after last win
Amazing Red is officially 4lb well-in as he races off just a 5lb penalty for his comfortable Newmarket defeat of Golden Wolf last time out.
There was lots to like about the way he settled matters under Frankie Dettori last time, staying on strongly to land the 1m6f event by three and a half lengths.
The step back up to 2m shouldn’t faze him – after all, he won in good style over the trip at Kempton in May – and he lines up as an improving performer who is ahead of the handicapper.
Trainer Ed Dunlop said: “It's a very competitive race, but he deserves to be there. He has form on the all-weather at Newcastle and won last time, so we are hopeful, but we're under no illusions as this is a very hot race.”
Class of 2017 have solid claims again
Last year’s first, second and fourth, Higher Power, Natural Scenery and Lord George, are in opposition once again.
Higher Power is only 1lb higher in the weights than when battling on gamely to defeat the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Natural Scenery by half a length, and he appears to have been carefully mapped out for a defence of his crown by James Fanshawe, who also trains Lord George.
Fanshawe said: “Higher Power is in great form and absolutely loves the track. It's not very often a horse wins the Northumberland Plate twice, but we've had this race in mind and are very hopeful.
“Lord George has run well all winter on the all-weather and was just nudged off at Lingfield in March. Ideally he'd have been drawn lower, but he seems well.”
Lagostovegas aiming for big double
If Ascot Stakes heroine Lagostovegas can transfer that smart turf handicap form to the all-weather she is likely to have strong claims for Willie Mullins.
As is the case with Amazing Red, the peak-form six-year-old mare incurs just a 5lb penalty for that Royal Ascot triumph, and there appears more to come from her.
What they say
Iain Jardine, trainer of Nakeeta
He ran really well in the race a couple of years ago. He needs to be tucked in and produced with a late finish. I think he’ll run a big race. There are plenty of options for him later in the season, including the Ebor once again.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to Mark Johnston, trainer of Time To Study, Watersmeet and Soldier In Action
This has been a key target of Watersmeet's entire summer. He has shown over the last couple of winters he is slightly better on the all-weather than turf. Two miles on an artificial surface is his optimum and I think this race is tailor-made for him. We hoped at the start of the year Time To Study might progress into a Cup horse. He has come up a bit short of that level but back into handicap company he must have a solid chance. Soldier In Action needs to bounce back from a couple of disappointing runs, but he has some good form under these conditions and is starting to creep back down to a feasible mark.
Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Prince Of Arran
He’s thriving, and we have a top apprentice in Adam McNamara taking 3lb off his back. Conditions will suit and, while it’s a tough race and he hasn’t the best of draws, I expect him to run a good race. He’s a surprisingly big price.
Eve Johnson Houghton, trainer of On To Victory
He’s in really good form and has a great draw. If he gets the trip – which I think he will – he holds a good each-way chance.
Alan King, trainer of Top Tug
He ran another blinder in the Duke Of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot and he never lets us down, despite being in the grip of the handicapper. Being drawn widest of all in stall 20 has to be a negative, but he is proven on the all-weather, having won at Kempton and Lingfield. Here’s hoping he’ll again be right there at the finish.
Peter Niven, trainer of Clever Cookie
Last year he was drawn 20 of 20 and now he’s got 19 of 20. It’s a bit disappointing, really, as he’s been aimed at this race. It’s a tough ask, but he was only beaten four lengths off a 5lb higher mark 12 months ago. You never know.
David Simcock, trainer of Curbyourenthusiasm
We have had this race in mind for a while. Hopefully if everything suits he can compete because he's got decent pace. He has won off higher marks before, so fingers crossed he runs well again in this very competitive race.
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