Despite all the protest and petitions, Newcastle’s flat turf course was replaced with a new Tapeta track at the back end of last year, meaning that Saturday’s Northumberland Plate (4.15pm) will be run on an all-weather surface for the first time.
However, any concerns that the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’ would fail to attract its usual level of support were quickly dismissed at the entry stage, with a fiercely competitive field set to line-up for the £150,000 two-mile handicap.
Nakeeta continues to improve at a rate of knots and is only 3lbs higher for a valiant run in the Betway Chester Cup when only a short head behind winner No Heretic.
That was his first run of the campaign so there is every chance he can step forward again.
No horse caught the eye more in-running at Chester than Steve Rogers who travelled ominously well before fading in the straight.
It may well be that he doesn’t stay further than two miles as the extra trip in both the Chester Cup and last season’s Cesarewitch seem to have caught him out.
He goes well on the all-weather having won all three starts on an artificial surface since his debut and will surely run well from a decent single figure draw.
However, at the prices I’m prepared to take a chance on Simon Crisford’s GANG WARFARE at 12/1 with Betway even from a bad draw.
Admittedly, it’s also not ideal that he has to shoulder top-weight, but the race is a far more condensed handicap than it used to be with less than a stone covering all 20 runners.
It’s not an impossible task to head the weights and win as Tominator proved three years ago.
Like Steve Rogers, Gang Warfare was another to travel well at Chester and not quite get home.
He was bidding for a five-timer that day and, more importantly, all four of those wins came on an artificial track.
He can go well back down in trip back on his preferred surface.
My eyes were drawn to Godolphin pair Antiquarium and Polarisation at the beginning of the week.
A strong case can be made for both and it would be no surprise to see them in the mix.
Yet, I’m prepared to leave them alone and take an each-way chance on 33/1 shot NOTARISED, who I’m convinced can outrun his price as he stays and has the tactical speed required.
Trainer Mark Johnston is just about to hit top gear and this one caught the eye at Royal Ascot last week when short of room and eased in the straight.
He disappointed in this 12 months ago, but was probably ridden too aggressively and may do better day if settled in behind from a difficult draw.
THE CASHEL MAN looks the one to be on in the Northumberland Vase (3.40pm).
He looked to carry on from where he left off last season with a good reappearance at York and can go well again off just a 1lb higher mark.
Finally, VICTORIA POLLARD has dropped to a really lenient mark in the penultimate handicap on the card (4.50pm).
She looked a filly with a real future when winning her maiden last April but has been largely disappointing since.
The step up in trip will help, as will the fact that she now has a handicap mark in the 70s.
Rob Hornby takes off another valuable 3lbs and she will take some stopping with her stable beginning to fire.
The Cashel Man e/w, 3.40pm, Newcastle
Gang Warfare e/w, 4.15pm, Newcastle
Notarised e/w, 4.15pm, Newcastle
Victoria Pollard e/w, 4.50pm, Newcastle