Listen to this article
Newcastle might lack the glamour of Royal Ascot, even when transplanted up north, but Saturday’s John Smith’s Northumberland Plate is just as resonant with racing history. The contest was first run in 1833 and thanks to generous sponsorship it remains the richest two-mile handicap in Europe.
If you believe that money talks there is only one horse to back in this race. Alan Swinbank’s Far Pavilions has been gambled on as if defeat is simply not an option. When the market opened on Tuesday he was available at 8/1, by Thursday evening he was 11/4.
Sometimes ante-post plunges are inspired. But this one was misguided. In the last 10 renewals eight winners emerged from single figure stalls and five were drawn in berth six or lower. Far Pavilion fans have not enjoyed the luck of the draw. He starts from stall eleven.
Balyan looks a horse with a highly progressive profile and has an excellent draw in stall five. The combination of trainer J Howard Johnson and owner Graham Wylie has claimed some notable trophies, including three races over the jumps at the Cheltenham Festival and one on the flat last week at Royal Ascot. Johnson trains just up the road at Crook in County Durham and Balyan may well be laid out to collect this prize for his number one patron.
Sunday’s Budweiser Irish Derby doesn’t quite have the history of the Pitmen’s equivalent at Newcastle, it’s a mere 140 years old. What it lacks in history it makes for in quality. Hurricane Run is a horse with a mighty reputation as his odds of 4/6 suggest. Bar an exquisite piece of riding by Frankie Dettori on Sharmadal in France this horse would already be a Derby winner.
Sharmardal has since given the form a huge boost, destroying a quality field in the St.James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. But Walk In The Park is chanced to go one better than his fast-finishing second to Motivator at Epsom.
2:10 Newcastle Beckermet (win) 3:15 Newcastle Balyan (each-way) 3:50 Curragh (Sunday) Walk In The Park (win)
3:15 Newcastle Balyan (each-way)
3:50 Curragh (Sunday) Walk In The Park (win)