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Newcastle’s big day in the sun, the Northumberland Plate is one of the most valuable two mile handicaps in the land.
There’ll be 20 runners going to post in what always appears to be an impossible puzzle to solve at Gosforth Park.
However a luck at previous renewals, the best bet is to focus on those towards the head of the pool.
Of the last 10 winners of the race, seven have been within the top three in the betting, suggesting the market often gets it right.
Looking at this year’s entries, Alan King looks to have a strong hand with a pair of Barbury Castle inmates towards the head of proceedings.
Trueshan is the stand-out without any question. A dominant winner of the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day at Ascot, the five-year-old showed that was no fluke when running former Group 1 winner, Japan, close at Chester. He skipped the Gold Cup due to the ground and might just bag a consolation prize at Newcastle.
There are questions about the son of Planteur though, not least the fact that he’s got to carry top-weight, giving more than a stone to all but three of his potential rivals. You have to go back to Tominator in 2013 for the last top-weight winner, so Trueshan has a big task on his hooves.
Beaten off a mark of 109 in the Ebor last year on his last handicap outing, he’s also got a new rating of 118 to surpass here, though the 5lb claim of Rhys Clutterbuck will undoubtedly help.
King’s other runner has a more experienced pair of hands in charge with Jim Crowley getting the leg up on Rainbow Dreamer.
He’s been well beaten on his last two outings, but is a different animal on the all-weather, shown with his excellent fifth in this race last year off a 3lb lower mark.
His win over Ocean Wind at Kempton in January took a lovely boost when that horse ran Stradivarius to within a length in the Sagaro Stakes.
The eight-year-old clearly stays and handles the track, but will need to bounce back here.
Step up in trip to suit Ascot runner-up
Charlie Fellowessent out the globe-trotting Prince Of Arran to come second in this race back in 2017 and looks to have another serious contender for the race in the shape of Dubious Affair.
The mare will surely appreciate this step back up in trip having stayed on eye-catchingly in second over 1m6f in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot, just failing to reel in long-time leader Amtiyaz.
She has already bumped into Trueshan in this past year, when well beaten at 150/1 in the Long Distance Cup. On soft ground, the daughter of Frankel has never really put up her best performances, so it's fair to forgive that run, whilst also bearing in mind that Alan King's Group 2 winner now has to give her 18lbs.
Her run at the Royal Meeting was a career best and with her mark unchanged from that performance looks a real danger to the likely favourite.
Northumberland Plate trends
With the change in conditions of the race from the turf to the Tapeta in 2016 focusing too much on trends can be fraught with danger.
Since the switch the benefit of being drawn high has been plain to see with 65% of the horses finishing in the frame drawn in stalls 12 upwards (from 43% of runners), while more than a third were drawn in 17+.
Other more general trends worth noting include the fact that 17 of the last 20 winners were aged six or younger, while 18 of the last 20 finished in the first five last time out.
Those criteria see the likes of Alright Sunshine and Rajinsky enter calculations as each-way options.
The former has only raced on the all-weather once, when a good fifth in the rearranged Sagaro Stakes over course and distance last year. Considering three of the four in front of him that day were rated more than 10lbs superior at the official ratings, it marks as a good effort.
More recently, Keith Dalgleish's charge came from off the pace to win a hard-fought race at Hamilton over what was probably an inadequate trip.
Rajinsky is another who has shown his toughness this year, not least when out-battling Notation at Ripon. He followed that up with an excellent second at Haydock, but while he's in good heart he arrives here 5lb higher than when seventh in the race last year.
Northumberland Plates best bets
Trueshan is the cliched ‘Group horse in a handicap’ here, but he would be the highest rated winner of this handicap in modern times so it’ll be some weight carrying performance if he were to do it.
Instead, a more appealing bet looks to be Dubious Affair for Charlie Fellowes with this step back up in trip highly likely to see her to better effect. She came home late under a typical Jamie Spencer ride at Ascot, just failing to get up, and with a longer trip to get going, could pass them all late off the same mark.
She's not got the ideal high draw, but having avoided the low numbers, can slot in where her rider likes.