Fabulous Saturday racing – Matt marks our card

A busy Saturday on the racing front with six good-quality meetings in Britain and Ireland with the Irish Derby, a race won on fourteen occasions by the great Aidan O’Brien, the undoubted highlight

Let’s try and point you in the direction of some winners in front of the ITV cameras first, with the action split between the all-weather at Newcastle for Northumberland Plate Day, and down at HQ at Newmarket for three compelling pattern contests.

All today’s cards, and very latest betting, with Betfred

1.45 NEWCASTLE – MAJOR JUMBO

A competitive sprint handicap kicks us off over six furlongs on the Tapeta at Gosforth Park. Woven has had just two starts for local trainer Michael Dods (below) and gone well on both but is just two wins from twenty-two starts, and is a maiden on the all-weather.

Ejtilaab won at Epsom on Derby weekend and is 4lb higher for his return to the all-weather, while Mondammej has been running well over five furlongs and the extra trip may bring out some improvement from this habitual slow starter who has course-and-distance winning form.

He almost got the nod but I’m putting up the ridiculously well-treated MAJOR JUMBO for Kevin Ryan (above). He has been to the track three times and course form reads 123, the latest of which was a close third in the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes on this card last year.

He has not been in sparkling form but is rated 12lb lower than his effort twelve months ago, and the capable 7lb claimed John Shinnick eases the burden still further.

He likes it here, is dangerously well treated, and bouncing back to a semblance of his form makes him very hard to leave out of the frame.

2.05 NEWMARKET – CACHET

A good turnout for this juvenile Listed fillies’ contest with a few having a quick turnaround from Royal Ascot – while four come here on the back of debut success. Arguably the most impressive may have been Najat, who swerved all over Thirsk on her first run and still came home over four lengths clear.

She needs to be straighter this afternoon but clearly is talented. Honey Sweet and Rock Melody also won their only starts well and are respected, while CACHET, Desert Dreamer and Choux all come here after runs at Royal Ascot, the best of which came from the first-named.

CACHET was beaten just over three lengths in the Albany where the going had become heavy, and was impressive on the Rowley Mile for her debut, on good ground. She sees out the stiff six furlongs well and George Boughey has an incredible 32% strike rate with his juveniles this season, which is extended to 44% for the individual runners (12 winners from 29 runners).

2.20 NEWCASTLE – DILIGENT HARRY

The Group 3 Chipchase Stakes looks a decent renewal with the 116-rated Khuzaam the best horse to run in the race since 2016. He was well behind Place Pier on turf two months ago, but his all-weather form bears the closest of scrutiny, notably when he slammed Mums Tipple and Bless Him on all-weather finals day at Lingfield on Good Friday.

He looks the best of the older brigade and is the choice of Jim Crowley (above) of the Shadwell trio ahead of Tabdeed (second on this card last season and last season in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup) and Khaadem (hasn’t lived up to expectations lately but was fourth in last year’s Golden Jubilee).

DILIGENT HARRY is the only three-year-old in the field and gets a valuable 7lb weight concession on just his fifth start, being campaigned exclusively on the all-weather.

He also won on Good Friday, in the three-year-old sprint division, brushing aside the useful Mighty Ghurka with the minimum of fuss. His only defeat came to subsequent G2 Sandy Lane and Wokingham winner Rohaan back in March, a race he should have won but for a troubled passage, and would have got up in another two strides. He’s certainly in the right hands for sprinting – those of Clive Cox (below).

Old boy Brando and Oh This Is Us, who has had a very successful season already, are bigger-priced contenders for the frame.

2.40 NEWMARKET – DESERT ENCOUNTER

Logician continues on the comeback trail with the 2019 St Leger winner, who nearly lost his life the following winter, running ok on his comeback at Newbury behind Al Aasy with the market suggesting he would need the spin.

Frankie Dettori has headed to Ireland so Rab Havlin takes the ride, but he can be taken on at a forecast 6/4.

Pablo Escobarr was well held on his return over track and trip and the visor is reached for, while Outbox and Winter Reprise need to improve on all known form to trouble the principles.

Max Vega ran in the Derby last year and was a fair second to Hukum in the Geoffrey Freer but may need his seasonal debut, while Mrs Hyde is a useful jumper who is thrown in at the deep end, and could not win a Catterick maiden three weeks ago.

That leaves DESERT ENCOUNTER (above) for trainer David Simcock, who has won three of the last seven renewals of this race. His globetrotting stable star ran well on his return at Sandown behind Waldkonig, and had no pace to aim at when runner-up at Goodwood before a great effort last week at Royal Ascot, going down by just four lengths to Love in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

He has finished third in two runnings of the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, the Group 2 run over this track and trip at the July meeting, and he may turn up there again on the back of a victory in this with Outbox and Logician likely to set a decent pace.

2.55 NEWCASTLE – BELLATRIXSA

The Northumberland Vase is the consolation race for the Plate thirty-five minutes later.

Favourites have won three of the five renewals and that tag is likely to be held by East Asia, who has been a revelation since joining Ian Williams from Dubai.

He was a maiden in the Gulf but is three from three on turf here, including an impressive success despite being under pressure early at Goodwood recently, and is 7lb well-in on his turf form.

Zeeband was most progressive last season and was a fair third on return at Newmarket. Connections reach for headgear though which is a concern but if sharpening him up, he is a major player – while Indigo Times has won six of his last seven all-weather starts, rising 38lb in doing so, and is officially 2lb well in under a recent penalty.

Lots of others have recent winning form, including Raymond, Byron Hill, Blow Your Horn, and A Star Above.

I will take a chance with BELLATRIXSA. She was a course-and-distance winner on her last start for Michael Dods and subsequently changed hands for 80,000 guineas.

She joined Venetia Williams (above) for a hurdling campaign, where she has won two and finished runner-up from four starts (the other was fifth in Listed company). She is rated 124 over jumps but now returns to Newcastle just 5 spots higher than her win in September, making her look well treated.

The Venetia Williams yard landed the Chester Vase (consolation for the Chester Cup) so know what they require and Connor Beasley, on board for that latest win, takes the ride again. Double-figure prices each way must be snapped up.

3.15 NEWMARKET – ROYAL CRUSADE

The Criterion Stakes is a rare Group contest over the specialist trip of seven furlongs.

Kinross has been expensive to follow but everything fell right at Haydock last time. The ground may be quicker than ideal though, and he has a penalty for that latest success.

Glorious Journey is a regular in the seven furlong Group races. He was second to Limato in the 2019 renewal and is 3lb better off for under three lengths with Kinross. He should be bang there once again, while another trip specialist Lord Of The Lodge progressed from handicaps to go close at this level in Ireland a fortnight ago.

Duke Of Hazzard has had excuses this season and is respected, but we may have a mini-shock on the cards.

The Derby winning duo of Charlie Appleby (above) and Adam Kirby team up with ROYAL CRUSADE, who won on debut over course and distance back in 2019, before finishing second in the G2 Champagne Stakes.

He beat subsequent Champions Sprint star Glen Shiel over at Deauville on his final start as a 3yo and has only raced seven times, most recently being less than three lengths behind Extravagant Kid in the G1 Golden Shaheen at Meydan on World Cup night.

He appears to have been underestimated if ready to fire on his first start for three months.

3.30 NEWCASTLE – ISLAND BRAVE

The Northumberland Plate is the biggest flat race of the summer at Newcastle.

The race is also referred to as the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’ as it was a holiday for local mine workers and run on a Wednesday, before switching to its current home in the calendar seventy years ago.

It is run over two miles and attracts the best staying handicappers in training, although this year we have welcome, added quality.

That bonus comes in the shape of last season’s Long Distance Cup winner Trueshan who heads the weights, and Alan King has booked top 5lb apprentice Rhys Clutterbuck to ease the 5yo’s burden of 10-4.

Sadly, we don’t get to see genuine Group 1 horses carrying big weights in handicaps anymore, so it’s a real sporting decision of connections to roll the dice here, considering he missed a shot at Gold Cup glory at Ascot due to the fast ground.

He was second to Japan at Chester in the Ormonde Stakes on his return and will make them all go, despite shouldering top weight.

The master of Barbury Castle will also saddle last year’s fifth Rainbow Dreamer who has an excellent strike rate on the all-weather with six wins from eleven starts. He is 3lb higher than last year though, and needs to find a little improvement which may not be forthcoming at the age of eight.

Grandmaster Flash is an intriguing Irish raider for Joseph O‘Brien. He won two races at Dundalk back in the spring but was well held in the Chester Vase. Back on the synthetics he is respected, as are the Mark Johnston-trained quintet, the best of which may be Mildenberger (second over course and distance in rearranged 2020 G3 Sagaro Stakes), although he also saddles staying handicap regulars Hochfeld, Themaxwecan, Lucky Deal, and Watersmeet.

Australis was runner-up last year but returns 10lb higher and not in the same form, while progressive 5yo and Royal Ascot runner-up Dubious Affair should go well.

A chance is taken though with ISLAND BRAVE for Heather Main and 3lb claimer Ray Dawson. He ran as well as could be expected in the Ascot Stakes last week, beaten seven lengths for a 125/1 shot, and had no chance with Stradivarius in the Sagaro.

However, he is a dual course winner, including over this trip when he had four of today’s rivals behind in an all-weather finals fast track qualifier. He is 2lb wrong, but that is negated by the rider’s claim, and is weighted to confirm the form over those rivals – yet trades at around 20/1, and that offers genuine value in a big field handicap.

3.45 CURRAGH – The Irish Derby

The big race over the Irish Sea is the Irish Derby, and Aidan O’Brien (below) saddles five of the eleven-strong field in his quest for an incredible FIFTEENTH victory.

Flat Racing Trainer - Aiden O'Brien

Chief amongst them is the talking horse of the winter High Definition. He made a lasting impression in two juvenile starts, coming from a long way back to win both over a mile, but had a setback over the winter and faced a race against time to get ready for a Derby trial.

He missed his intended target but did take up an engagement in the Dante at York when made favourite, coming home two lengths behind Epsom third and the reopposing Hurricane Lane.

He was strong in the market on the Knavesmire but for such a big horse you felt the run would bring him on a bundle, and he was not ready in time for Epsom. He takes his chance here though, and could finally be the star of the classic colts that Coolmore are hoping for.

However, he is as short as 7/4, and their 3yo colts have hardly set the world alight this year. High Definition may be the best of them, but he needs to be by someway for a team without a colts classic or three-year-old Royal Ascot success this season.

The Ballydoyle maestro also saddles Queen’s Vase runner-up Wordsworth, who will need every yard of this trip and more, looking every inch a St Leger type – while Van Gogh is a Group 1 winner as a 2yo that has disappointed in three starts this season.

Arturo Toscanini and Matchless look to be in there for pace-making duties, which will ensure this is a true test.

The British head over mob-handed with a three-pronged attack, including the Epsom second and third. Mojo Start ran a massive race for a maiden and was arguably unlucky not to be closer, having to wait for a narrow gap to appear. He has been supplemented for the race at a cost of €75k, although he earned £250k for his valiant Epsom effort.

It would be an incredible return to his homeland for jockey Rossa Ryan, who was having a blazing start to his 2021 campaign before a fall at Wolverhampton broke his collarbone, and he developed appendicitis which also prolonged his absence.

These will be his first rides in over a month at The Curragh, but what a lovely story it could produce.

Hurricane Lane was a gallant third at Epsom when challenging out wide. He lost both his front shoes but I’m not sure that made a difference to being beaten three lengths by Mojo Star. He did win the Dante in fine style and the form of his Newbury win over Maximal was advertised when he ran fourth in the St James’s Palace Stakes, while the third home at Newbury was second at Royal Ascot.

Mac Swiney bids for the Irish 2000 Guineas/Derby double, and the Jim Bolger team have already plundered plenty of prizes this season with him and Poetic Flare leading the way. Unless they get plenty of rain though he may just find the round a little lively.

That leaves LONE EAGLE, the mount of Frankie Dettori, who has already landed two classics over here this season, but competes against the Coolmore clan this time.

He teams up with Martyn Meade to ride this bay son of Galileo, taken out of the Derby at declaration time and instead aimed here. He won the final recognised Derby trial impressively at Goodwood five weeks ago, seen above when Epsom was still very much a possibility, to take his record to four wins from six starts.

In his two defeats he was first chinned on debut, and then finished four-and-a-half lengths behind Royal Ascot winner Alenquer in the Sandown Classic Trial. Runner-up that day was no less than Epsom Derby hero Adayar, four lengths ahead of Meade’s charge.

He got closer to Adayar in that race than any of the Epsom runners did, and may just be the overlooked runner in the race at around 7/1.

Betfred TV’s Matt Hulmes

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