This weekend sees the ITV crew provide a short burst of Saturday afternoon racing action, with seven races squeezed into a 1h45m window. Newmarket and Newcastle are this week’s destinations, with HQ providing a trio of contests at Listed level or above, headlined by the Group 3 Criterion Stakes.
Up at Newcastle, it’s the biggest day of the season at the North East track as the Geordies descend in their masses for the latest edition of the Northumberland Plate. The mighty staying handicap takes centre stage, but the undercard is also strong – featuring the consolation event of the Northumberland Vase and the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes over six furlongs. Here we pick out our best bets in each of the seven contests on offer in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
12:20 JenningsBet Festival Handicap
Class 2, 6f
Sprint handicapping action kicks off the entertainment in what looks to be an extremely competitive affair. Raatea makes obvious appeal at the head of the betting, having won well at Haydock last time out and scored twice on the all-weather in the past. Lethal Levi is another for the shortlist, having enjoyed no luck at Ascot on his most recent outing – this will be his first all-weather run, but if taking to the Tapeta, he should go close.
It is to the foot of the weights to which we turn for our selection here, with the Simon and Ed Crisford-trained Animate catching the eye. As the only three-year-old in the field, this son of Shamardal is more open to improvement than most and is yet to finish out of the first three in four all-weather starts – including two wins. He drops down to six furlongs for the first time, but Andrea Atzeni has an excellent chance to grab the lead from stall two, and this strong front-runner may prove tough to pass.
12:40 Maureen Brittain Memorial Empress Fillies’ Stakes
We have more sprinting action in the first race from Newmarket, as the juvenile fillies take to the track in this Listed class contest. Of the 10 fillies on show, seven won last time out, making for a competitive-looking contest on paper. The William Haggas-trained Indispensable broke her maiden at the third time of asking at Ripon and can go well if finding further improvement, whilst Charlie Johnston’s What A Question was value for more than the winning margin of four and a half lengths in his debut success at Goodwood. Both make the shortlist, as does the debutant, Rare Jewel, who looks the part on paper.
However, it is the Charlie Appleby runner Star Of Mystery who sets the clear standard. Looking a little clueless when second on her first start at Doncaster, she promptly put that effort well behind her when scorching clear by the small matter of eleven lengths at Haydock. By strong speed influence Kodiac, and out of a mare in Mistrusting who won at Listed level over this trip, she looks worth backing to handle this step up in class.
12:55 JenningsBet Chipchase Stakes
Group 3, 6f
Eight go to post for the only Group class contest of the season at Newcastle, and with the top five in the betting currently priced between 3/1 and 5/1, this looks wide-open. Brad The Brief brings strong form to the table but will need to be fit and ready following a break of 259 days. Tiber Flow and Witch Hunter have more recent efforts to call upon, with the latter, in particular, looking dangerous on the back of his excellent success in the Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
With so little to choose between the market leaders, it may be worth siding with Mount Athos, who has two solid reasons for potential improvement here. Firstly, this will be his first start since a wind-op, and secondly, he drops to six furlongs for the first time, which may suit this son of the speedy Dark Angel. With a perfect two from two on the all-weather to date, the mount of Neil Callan can make a bold bid from the front.
1:15 Cavani Menswear Sartorial Sprint Fred Archer Stakes
Just the five go to post in this Listed event, but we still have a couple of intriguing contenders on show. Charlie Appleby won this with Rebel’s Romance 12 months ago and saddles the favourite, New London, this year. Never out of the first two in six career starts, this Dubawi colt scores top marks for consistency and was last sighted finishing second to Eldar Eldarov in the St Leger at the back end of last season. Tongue-tied on his first start since a wind-op, he likely won’t be far away.
However, New London may have a fight on his hands if the William Haggas-trained Al Aasy returns to the track at anything like his best. A five-time winner at around this trip, his best effort came in defeat when going down by just a head to Pyledriver in the 2021 Coronation Cup. Already a Group 3 winner at this track, he boasts the best overall form for our money and is the one to be on, with the excellent Jim Crowley in the saddle.
1:30 JenningsBet Northumberland Vase Handicap
Class 2, 2m½f
As is almost always the case, the feature event of the Northumberland Plate is oversubscribed in 2023, but those to miss the cut do at least have this consolation race to go for. The Ian Williams-trained Blow Your Horn is the one the market has latched onto here. Heading into the race seeking a four-timer, this Golden Horn gelding was impressive last weekend at Pontefract when staying on powerfully to score over 2m2f. On the downside, he is now zero from four over this sort of trip on the all-weather, and at the prices, we will look elsewhere.
Irish raider Cozzene is an interesting each-way contender at a big price, but the one to be on is Heather Main’s Mostly Sunny. This one ran a cracker to go down by under a length in a decent event at Goodwood earlier in the month and has been left alone by the handicapper on a mark of 78. Solid as that Goodwood effort was, it is his only previous outing over this course and distance which really catches the eye. That came on his final start of 2022 and resulted in a comfortable success by almost three lengths, with Blow Your Horn amongst those in behind. Considering the recent climate, the four-year-old would be an aptly named winner and can get the job done under Jason Hart.
1:50 Cavani Menswear Fashion Face-Off Frenzy Criterion Stakes
Group 3, 7f
A tricky-looking Group 3 to round out the action from Newmarket, with the top three in the market having questions to answer. Aldaary is the clear favourite, but his best form has come on soft ground, which doesn’t seem likely here. There may, however, be enough rain around to turn conditions against Jumby, who appears to need quick going these days. Pogo, meanwhile, has shown absolutely nothing in three starts so far this season and needs a major revival.
In a difficult betting heat, the advice is to take a chance on the John Gosden-trained Audition to cause an upset. This one has the benefit of being the most unexposed runner in the field and suggested he may be on the upgrade when scooting clear to land a handicap at Leicester off a mark of 99 back in October. This will be his first start since, but the others don’t set an impossible standard to aim at, and he may well be up to the task.
2:05 JenningsBet Northumberland Plate Handicap
Class 2, 2m½f
Last but not least, the main event, as a field of 19 lock horns in the “Pitmen’s Derby”. A decent case can be made for many of these, with impressive course and distance winner, Zoffee, and Omniscient from the yard of the shrewd Sir Mark Prescott amongst those proving popular in the market. William Haggas’s Post Impressionist and Deborah Faulkner’s Golden Rules would be our pick from those towards the head of the betting, but with many firms paying out each way on the first six places, we prefer to take an each-way chance on a runner at a much bigger price.
David Simcock’s, Mountain Road has performed only adequately in two turf starts this season, but if we take those out and look only at his all-weather form, he has a pretty attractive profile for this. In four starts at 1m6f+ on a synthetic surface, this son of Churchill boasts form figures of 2211. The most recent of those successes came when making light of a welter burden of 9st9lb to comfortably score in a Class 2 event at Chelmsford at the back end of last season. He’s up four pounds here but is still only four years old and, significantly, will carry only 8st5lb on the day. As a hold-up performer, he’s going to need a bit of luck from stall one but is fancied to run on late and at least hit the frame.