All the talk ahead of this weekend’s William Hill Northumberland Plate has been about the Ascot Gold Cup absentee Trueshan, and as well it might.
I can’t recall a horse running in this race ever being as highly rated. The trend towards more 100+ rated horses running in it has been marked over the last few years – perhaps on account of it now being an all-weather race, and a slightly different pool of horses competing for the prize – or maybe it is on account of handicappers showing a noticeable tendency to over-rate performances over the course of the last 5-10 years.
Either way, Trueshan looking down from his lofty perch as top weight defines the race somewhat, and it may be that he is classy enough to toy with his rivals, but it wouldn’t be the type of race that I’d instantly think would suit him.
Plus, in utilising Rhys Clutterbuck’s 5lb claim, connections are trying to ease the burden somewhat. Clutterbuck is a brilliant young jockey, who will go from strength to strength undoubtedly, but unless he is booked in an earlier race on the card on Saturday, he will enter the William Hill Northumberland Plate fray, having never had a ride on the Tapeta surface at Newcastle. It is a track that can be very nuanced in how it rides depending on rainfall, temperature, wind direction etc, and can take a large chunk of experience just to get to know.
So, in summation, I would be keen to take on Trueshan at the current prices, and that’s also before we know the draw – which can also have a stark effect on proceedings.
Last year’s race is the first and definitive port of call for me, as there are a couple of horses who could make their returning trips to Tyneside more profitable than 12 months ago.
If Australis finished in the same runner-up position as last year, he would win five times the amount of prize money for connections, given the obvious vagaries of funding issues last season. But I think Roger Varian’s strapping five-year-old can go one better and win it this time around.
Sponsors William Hill are extending a brilliant ante-post offer by offering six places for each-way bets, and aren’t being noticeably less generous on price either. So, best to take advantage of this by backing Australis at 12/1 each-way with William Hill for this Saturday’s William Hill Northumberland Plate.
Four-year-olds can and have won this race, but it is more the later maturing five and six-year-olds that can be ideally suited, as they would still be lightly raced enough to be improving, and yet strong enough to be suited to the rigours of the race.
Australis has the look of a horse that Roger Varian has targeted at the 2021 running ever since he was chinned last year, and he comes into it off the back of an eye-catching effort over a drastically inadequate 1m4f at Epsom three weeks ago.
The other one to back now is Tom Dascombe’s Rajinsky, who is 33/1 with Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook for five places each-way, or 25/1 with William Hill for those aforementioned six places. At this stage, I’d go with the 33/1, as that is just big enough to tempt me away from the extra place with Hills.
Rajinsky was only seventh last year, but in a race run at an unsuitably slow tempo, he actually did well to play any hand, having been held up further back than most. On the evidence of this season’s three starts, Rajinsky has improved again, and is in the same niche as Australis, in that he is a five-year-old in that perfect sweetspot of maturity and improvement.
Given the warmer weather, yes, even up on Tyneside (!!), the Tapeta surface is likely to be riding slow and testing – which will suit they type of galloping stayer that both Australis and Rajinsky are, as opposed to some of the nippier all-weather types.
Both selections look to have been targeted at this race given their profiles, and are overpriced – Australis at 12/1 with William Hill and Rajinsky at 33/1 with Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook, so I suggest backing both each-way.