The feature contest at Newcastle on Friday night is a stayers handicap run over the same distance as the Northumberland Plate. 10 runners go to post in this fascinating 0-95 race.
IN SUMMARY: Champagne Champ would be a big player if able to get his own way out in front but he may struggle to hold a pair of progressive and unexposed types in Endless Acres and FLYMETOTHESTARS. Preference is for the latter with Luke Morris going to Newcastle to take the mount rather than head to Newmarket where Sir Mark Prescott has a short priced favourite in the 3.55pm. He looks like a typical Prescott stamp of a horse, a dour stayer, he could well run up a sequence this season.
1 GAVLAR – Strong stayer is 4/13 on the all weather, including when victorious over this course and distance in March. He found things happening too quickly for him off this career high mark on the turf at Ripon last time and could do with a better pace to run at here. It won’t be easy to defy this mark against a couple of younger, progressive types, but if the race is run at an end to end clip on this stiff track, he may make the frame again.
2 CHAMPAGNE CHAMP – Looks the pace angle into the contest, a relentless galloper, he should ensure that this doesn’t turn into a sprint. He is another to face a career high mark, having kicked off his 2017 with a battling runner up effort over 18f at Newbury. He carries his head rather high but that is just his way, ungainly rather than ungenuine, he will need another career best here but his sires offspring do continue to improve with age so that cannot be discounted.
3 EXCELLENT RESULT – Formerly very smart, a Dubai City of Gold winner in his younger days, he has been kept ticking over of late running with plenty of credit over hurdles. This will be his All Weather debut and his first run over this trip on the flat since July 2014. Both are slight question marks but Richard Spencer has seemingly found the key to him and a mark of 93 is tempting given his 115 pomp if he copes with the new conditions.
4 ISHARAH – Started 2017 in smart form, including when winning over this course and distance. That run of form has hit a brick wall somewhat in a pair of turf runs so the gelding looks like he will enjoy being back on the sand. This is clearly a happy hunting ground with two wins and a second in three runs here and although ten pounds higher for the latest of those triumphs, he was placed off just two pounds lower in a February handicap on the Wolverhampton Tapeta.
5 MIJHAAR – Strong traveller is a frustrating type for punters, regularly finding less than looks likely. This mark is well within his grasp if he is on a going day, a mark he so nearly defied at Ayr last September when out battled close home by Impulsive American. He ran respectably on his only run so far on Tapeta at Wolverhampton last year over an insufficient trip. Certainly capable of winning but more of a back to lay in running type.
6 ENDLESS ACRES – Lightly raced gelding has taken his form to a new level since stepped up to this trip the last twice at Kempton. He is another who is going to be ideally suited by an end to end gallop, with the long straight here ideal to wind him up steadily. He has only had six races in his career and having originally been aimed towards the Chester Cup before finishing third in the Queen’s Prize, there should be plenty more improvement in the tank from him.
7 FLYMETOTHESTARS – Dam was the winner of a mile and half handicap in Ireland when in training with Dermot Weld, as well as a 10f Group 2 so it was no surprise that he took his form to a new level when a comfortable winner on handicap debut over 12f at Newcastle in October. The impression he made on that occasion was that further still would suit him this season so it would be no surprise to see him well supported ahead of this 2017 return. Sir Mark Prescott is already 8/29 on the Tapeta surface here (5/11 on turf) for a level stakes profit of £11.49. He looks a big player on his return to action.
8 ZAKATAL – Four wins and six places from twelve career runs on Tapeta, the eleven year old is a gritty veteran for the excellent and under-rated Rebecca Menzies. None of those wins have been above Class 4 level though and this is a career high mark on the flat so it’s tough to give him too much of a chance in this deep of a field.
9 RED RANNAGH – Has looked on more than one occasion that a step up from a mile and a half would suit since arriving from Ireland. Four times a beaten favourite in his last five races point to a frustrating individual, the last of those only earlier in the week at York. This is a very quick turnaround for him and he’s likely to need to up his game to claim this prize.
10 UNCLE BERNIE – Travelled like a dream over 18f last time out when a comfortable winner at Pontefract, his first career win on turf. He boasts four Tapeta wins to his credit at Wolverhampton, including three over this trip but this will be his first visit to Newcastle. For all that he was impressive last time, this is a far deeper race and realistically, this assignment should be too tough for him.