SPEEDO BOY and PROSCHEMA are our two diamonds against the field in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle (3.35) today in the race better and more affectionately known as the Pitmans Derby.
For all the stories of plot horses and everything else that the bookies love to stir up the market with – the Gibbs Hill plunge story has been fried to a cinder at this stage – hot recent form is more times than not essential for success in these fiercely contested handicaps. And Speedo Boy brings that in abundance.
Trained by the gifted and ultra versatile Ian Williams, he ran a blinder last time out, three weeks ago over a mile and six at Newmarket when second to Red Galileo, who reopposes with a 5 lbs. penalty here. Speedo’s previous run in the Chester Cup can be ignored as the ground was way too soft. As a five year old he has the perfect age profile as four of the last five winners were that age when tasting glory at this Geordie shindig. A stall 13 draw is perfect as Higher Power had that box when winning this two years back while Withhold ran from stall eleven when triumphant twelve months ago. Indeed a draw in double digits seems almost essential as most of the placed horses were in that category too.
Williams is a master at having his charges cherry ripe on the days that matter most, as we saw with The Grand Visir in the Ascot Stakes. The Clifford Lee ridden Speedo Boy can make full use of the 5 lbs. pull on Red Galileo and the longer trip will certainly suit also.
We can say much the same for Proschema as he too is better off at the weights with Red Galileo, is drawn high and will like the marathon trip. Jane Elliott takes a valuable 3 lbs. off the Tom Dascombe trained gelding who was a very smart three year old stayerlast season. He finished third in the Melrose Stakes and then returned to York in October when second to Elegiac in a tough handicap over a mile and six. This young horse has ample scope for improvement and can continue on the upgrade here.
Plenty of others with chances but, not only has the value gone on Gibbs Hill, but he also has a long absence to overcome and is relatively lightly raced for a tough assignment like this. Last year’s winner Withhold is interesting first time back after a breathing operation but has 8 lbs. more to carry than last season. For once Willie Mullins drew a blank at Royal Ascot – though Buildmeupbuttercup went close – so he’ll be keen to bounce back here with Stratum. The recent Ballinrobe hurdles winner has only moderate flat form but massive improvement on that would not surprise.
This hasn’t really been a lucky race for Mark Johnston but he’s hoping King’s Advice can change that and that horse certainly knows where the winning post is and is favourably drawn. Indeed Johnston seems to be throwing the kitchen sink at it this time as Making Miracles and Austrian School are also strong contenders. Red Galileo is clearly right on top of his game right now, with Who Dares Wins and course winner Bartholomeu Dias others clearly in the mix. But Speedo Boy and Proschema are the duo to concentrate on.
1/2 Point Each Way Speedo Boy (14/1 William Hill paying 5 places)
1/2 Point Each Way Proschema (11/1 generally, look for bookies paying 5 places)
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