The Northumberland Plate or ‘Pitmen’s Derby’ is one of the richest two-mile handicaps in the world and given the huge prize pot, it’s no surprise that this year’s renewal is as competitive as ever.
On top of that we have the Irish Derby at the Curragh which attracts plenty of interest with trainer Aidan O’Brien looking for his 13th win in the race
Here are the thoughts of our horse racing expert on the marathon Newcastle handicap and the Curragh showpiece, as well as his best bets.
Don’t Withhold any information on Charlton’s chance
Despite not being seen since winning an all-weather handicap at Kempton in July 2017, Roger Varian’s Gibbs Hill has been the subject of a big ante-post gamble as is currently the 5/1 favourite with Grosvenorsport.com.
He’s been gelded since that win and although he’s a six-year-old, he’s only run seven times in his life, so improvement is entirely plausible. However, he’s off a career high mark of 105 here and it’s surely a massive ask to win a race as competitive as this off such a long lay-off. At 5/1, he simply has to be opposed.
King’s Advice has won all six of his starts since joining the Mark Johnston yard, but given his breeding, I’m not sure this trip is what he wants, so I’m going to take a chance on last year’s winner Withhold.
Roger Charlton’s six-year-old has only run once since his win last year – a solid-enough eighth in the Geelong Cup in October. That was over 1m4f, a trip clearly short of his optimum and you feel this race has been the target for the past 12 months.
As well as this race last year, he won the 2017 Cesarewitch, so he’s no stranger to these big-field staying handicaps and at around the 9/1 mark, he looks a good each-way bet to go close again.
O’Brien eyes lucky Irish Derby number 13 at the Curragh
It is fair to say Aidan O’Brien has been in dominant in this race over the years, winning it no fewer than 12 times since his first winner with Desert King back in 1997.
Ahead of the final declarations later this week, the trainer has included six of the possible 10 runners as he looks to add to his impressive tally.
He currently saddles Anthony Van Dyck as the market leader, and is aiming to complete the Derby double for the first time since Harzand three years ago.
Van Dyck heads into the race unbeaten this season, and he stayed on strongly at Epsom that day and is currently 6/5 to win at the Curragh.
He should go well once again, but he looks too skinny for me in the market.
Another of O’Brien’s charges, Broome, looks interesting at 11/4.
He is yet to head either Anthony Van Dyck or another leading contender, Madhmoon, but finished with a flourish in the Derby last time out having conceded a lot of ground early on after a poor start.
However, my fancy is veteran trainer Kevin Prendergarst’s Madhmoon.
No one would begrudge him victory in the Irish classic and though Madhmoon is yet to win this term, he produced a good run at Epsom despite stumbling four furlongs out.
He recovered quickly from that and finished nicely and the Curragh is likely to suit him better in comparison to Epsom. With odds of 5/2 I expect him to come home in front.