MICHAEL Bell won tomorrow’s Northumberland Plate (3.05pm), or Pitmen’s Derby as it is known locally, in 2007 with an unexposed four-year-old in Juniper Girl. He has two to go to war with this year – Tactician, owned by the Queen, and ACTIVATE, who is seeking a four-timer after an impressive win at Haydock last time.
Activate has been given what looks a terrible draw in stall 18 of 20 and William Hill have pushed him out from 5/1 to 7/1. However, three of the last five winners came from double-figure stalls, including last year’s winner Overturn. Donald McCain’s horses are in tip-top form, but you have to rewind 33 years for the last back-to-back winner of this marathon. He is much better drawn this time around in stall two, but will find it far more difficult off top weight.
Harlestone Times and Investissement are both well drawn and hold decent chances, but their prices have collapsed and I think the market has over-reacted to Activate’s draw. Hayley Turner will need a lot of luck, but the son of Motivator is adaptable to both the ground and tactics, as he can make the running or be dropped in. He would have been too short at around 4/1, but is good value each-way at 7/1 with William Hill.
The opening maiden at Newmarket tomorrow (1.45pm) has been a Richard Hannon benefit in recent years, with him winning four of the last seven renewals. However, I think it can go to a smaller yard this time as Julia Fielden’s ACER DIAMONDS holds really strong claims. He was a big market mover on debut at Newbury a couple of weeks ago, but was too green to do himself justice and will have learnt plenty from that. He is very well regarded at home and we should be able to pick up a decent each-way price.
Sir Henry Cecil is taking MIDDAY over to the Curragh tomorrow for the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes (3.35pm) and she is a knocking bet at 4/5 with William Hill. It looks a straight match between her and Snow Fairy and she must have a fitness edge over Ed Dunlop’s runner.
The Irish Derby on Sunday looks tough to call as there was nothing between Carlton House and Treasure Beach at Epsom, while Seville will be much more at home at the Curragh. I’ll leave that race alone and will back GOLD SCEPTRE in Salisbury’s opener on Sunday instead. He has been working really well at the Hannon’s and he should be good enough to win on debut.
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