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A big prize on offer for Newcastle’s 7 furlong feature race and, with £28,000 going to the winner, the track has been rewarded with a strong 13 runner field. Read on for our expert runner by runner guide to the race plus our free tip.
IN SUMMARY: Holiday Magic heads the market after rattling up a hat-trick including wins on all three all weather surfaces. Officially two pounds well in under a penalty and still three pounds below a career high mark, he has a chance of making it four on the bounce but lacks value. The yard’s other runner, Qaffaal, merits serious consideration despite the step down in trip while Suzi’s Connoisseur on a going day would be overpriced at 16/1. It’s Mick Channon’s VOLUNTEER POINT who gets a strong call on this return to the UK having run most recently in France. Her run style should be suited to this first go on a straight all weather track and this Tapeta winner looks overpriced.
1 REALIZE – NR
2 STEEL TRAIN – A winner over Course and Distance when last seen in December. The second and fourth that day have both been placed since to give the form a solid look. Is eight pounds better off with Pactolus from their meeting the time before at Chelmsford (taking the rider’s claims into account) so should reverse that form. As Patrick Vaughan said after his latest win, he “has improved all season” and for a yard who have already had three winners from eleven runners in 2017, he may improve again.
3 FLAMING SPEAR – Another recent course winner, but over the straight mile trip. That was a welcome return to form for connections, notching his first win since a debut victory at Yarmouth in July 2014. That form is a career best RPR, with a five pound rise in the weights leaving him still two pounds below a placed effort at Newmarket last Spring. He arguably had the run of the race on that occasion from the front but jockey Robert Winston should find he settles better down in trip.
4 VOLUNTEER POINT – A winner of six races on artificial surfaces, including the 2016 Fillies’ and Mares’ Championship Final on Good Friday at Lingfield. She scored a touch cosily on the Wolverhampton Tapeta when last seen in the UK before being outclassed in a Listed race in France. She is a pound higher in the handicap than when third to Charles Molson at Chelmsford but on her first go on a straight all weather track, which might just suit her come from behind style, she looks a big each way player.
5 SUZI’S CONNOISSEUR – One of two runners in the race for trainer Stuart Williams, he seeks his first win since October 2014. He wins no prizes for consistency with runner up efforts in recent campaigns rare high spots amid otherwise disappointing form. A runner just once on the sand when not finding much luck in running late in the day at Wolverhampton over a trip short of his best. 7f is his best trip and a repeat of either his second at Newmarket’s July meting or at Goodwood in late August would be good enough to see him in the frame at a big price.
6 GREY MIRAGE – A seven time winner on artificial surfaces but only on the Polytrack at Lingfield and Kempton. A mark of 93 would be more than fair on the pick of his form but signs recently have been that he is on the downgrade. He makes his first start for new trainer Gay Kellaway, having been in the care of Marco Botti as recently as the 31st of December. He can only be watched so soon after joining new surroundings but his best recent effort did come when today’s jockey, Luke Morris, was in the plate.
7 PACTOLUS – Generally campaigned over further than this with three of his last four wins coming at 9.5f or above. He can force the pace, winning from the front at Chelmsford in November. Those tactics might be the hope over a trip he hasn’t tried since August 2015 but with others who like to force the pace in opposition, dictating the terms as he did in his most recent win will be far more difficult.
8 HOLIDAY MAGIC – A revelation late in the year for Mick Easterby, winning on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton and Chelmsford’s Polytrack before completing a hat-trick on the Fibresand at Southwell. He is officially two pounds well in here, running with a penalty before his new mark of 94 comes into effect. He has been as high as 95 in the past so 92 might not stop him given the form he is in but he was beaten on the straight course here before embarking on his winning spree and now eighteen pounds higher, that is a nagging doubt over one so short in the betting.
9 HORSTEAD KEYNES – Formally very smart, including when runner up at Royal Ascot in 2014 off a nine pound higher mark, his recent form has been on a downward trajectory. He has failed to beat a single rival home in his last four starts including twice on Tapeta and despite the excellent 8/28 record of his yard at Newcastle since the Tapeta surface went down here, he is impossible to support with any confidence.
10 SHYRON – A victim of his own consistency, his mark has stayed between 86 and 93 on the all weather for the last two years. He is a former Tapeta winner at Wolverhampton so the surface is no concern while this specialist trip of 7f has been his favoured distance, five of his seven wins at this trip. He will be the first runner at Newcastle for the yard since the Tapeta went down which is interesting for a canny yard but he will need to step up on recent runs to take a hand.
11 NIMR – A debut winner, he lost his way a little before returning from a six month break with a win at Wolverhampton. That was his first run since being gelded which is a likely contributor to his return to form. Both wins have come fresh and over 6f though so although he stays a mile and it was a career best last time, there is a slight doubt on the suitability of a relatively quick return.
12 AL KHAN – A course and distance winner in December, this is a step up in class for him. He has never won in a higher contest than a Class 3 and has placed just twice when off a mark of 90 or above in seventeen handicaps. He is an admirable old veteran but he looks outclassed pitched in at this level.
13 FORT BASTION – A winner just twice in his last twenty six races, both in claimers, he has a bit to find with a few of these. Behind both Pactolus and Flaming Spear recently and the Tapeta surface (his debut on it) will have to make a big difference to turn those runs round. Brian Ellison’s horses are running well in the main of late but that is a slim hope for followers to hold onto.
14 QAFFAAL – Another for Mick Easterby who has been in flying form in recent months. His recent form has all come over a mile but given his run style, coming through horses, a strong run straight seven may suit just as well. Despite going up twenty four pounds in the handicap in the last nine months, he has run career best RPR’s in his last five starts so further improvement may yet be on the cards.