The big race of the evening sees a Group 3 contest take place on the artificial surface at Dundalk where Ballydoyle are set to send out current market leader VATICAN CITY. A three year old who is unbeaten here at Dundalk and despite not tasting success this term has put in very strong performances in better races. An impressive second in the Irish 2,000 Guineas on reappearance is the best form on offer and a return to form when third in the Group 2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang at Leopardstown most recently indicated a step up to ten furlongs should help. With this longer trip and a return to Dundalk likely to suit he shouldn’t be far away.
The biggest threat comes in the form of Crossfirehurricane who disappointed in the Irish Derby but prior to that run was unbeaten including two victories here. A drop in both grade and trip should help and with a light campaign this year should give our selection the most to think about.
A super competitive handicap awaits in the sixth race on the card and I’m hoping the Denis Hogan trained, course and distance winner MAJOR REWARD can add to his former Dundalk victories. He may have been a tad disappointing last time out but produced decent efforts in big runner fields at The Curragh this season. He now resides off a handicap mark of 81 which is lower than when winning a similar course and distance race this time last year. It’s easy to forget that despite being four he’s competed at a much higher level and at a current double figure price seems to have been overlooked by many.
The penultimate race is where I’m hoping one of Ireland’s top jockey’s Colin Keane can claim a winning ride. He jumps aboard the Noel Meade trained four year old CONOR HOGAN. It’s perhaps odd to side with a horse who’s yet to taste success in twelve career starts to date but has shown glimpses of promise at Leopardstown and Roscommon earlier in the season. A drop in trip should help and this jockey booking obviously deserves note. If he can handle the artificial surface then it’d be foolish to think he wouldn’t pose a serious challenge.
For those who follow my selections they’ll know that I’m a fan of horses that hold course and distance form at certain tracks and Dundalk is definitely included in that cluster. With that in mind I’m sure you’ll understand that seeing a race with seventeen horses declared (Three reserves) where only one has winning course and distance form certainly sparked my interest. The five year old MISS LOUISE was woefully poor this year until producing a much improved performance to finish third at Cork last time out. She only holds one course success and that came here. She’s now back to her last winning mark and with Wayne Lordan in the saddle all things point towards a good chance in what looks a poor race.
This Class 4 handicap seems to hold a mixture of lightly raced youngsters and more experienced handicappers. There’s plenty of factors to look at and a case can be made for a fair few. The likes of Mutalahef has only raced twice but is well-bred and represents top connections however is yet to win. You also have Boston George and Lasting Legacy who return to a course they’ve already won at and shouldn’t be discerned despite showing little in their most recent efforts. That being said however I’m hoping experience is going to count for more and as such I’m left siding with six year old course and distance winner ALFRED RICHARDSON. He’s attracted heavy support overnight and has been backed down from as big as 25/1 so I’m hoping that’s a positive sign. He’s won his last two starts here at Newcastle and after some disappointing performances returns with less weight to carry than in either of those performances. It looks a tricky race to decipher but on course form he gets my vote.
If you’re a fan of a horse with course and distance form then it’s hard to dismiss NORTHGATE LAD who holds figures of 321 here over seven furlongs. He’s currently priced around 40/1 which is ludicrous! Yes he’s a veteran but he’s far from past it at the age of eight. He hasn’t competed over tonights conditions in more than two years so this should be a welcomed return. He will have conditions to suit and considering his course victories have come in Class 2 and Class 3 level and he now finds himself competing in Class 5 company he has to have a chance at a massive price!
Although not something I’m a huge fan of I also want to offer up an alternative to my selection in the form of another course and distance winner INSURPLUS. A mixed bag of muddling form in 2020 but is another runner who’s last win came over this trip and at this venue. He was sent out over ten furlongs last time which was clearly not suitable considering he went close over seven furlongs at Doncaster two starts back. A return to seven furlongs here at Newcastle is bound to suit and with an attractive weight to boot can throw down a strong challenge.
I know you’ll think it’s ludicrous to side with a horse who’s form reads at 797479 but that’s exactly what I’m doing here. DEOLALI has been tried over various trips and various courses this year but showed their best effort over seven furlongs at Newcastle when finishing fourth. The six year old gelding has never finished outside of the top four in three starts here over this trip and looks worth a shot at around 33/1 now back to his last winning mark.
written by Rory Paddock
Check out our preview of Saturday's big races from Newmarket from jockey Nathan McCann: