Racing News – 28 June 2016

Anti-Climax For Boys In Blue and Harzand Doubles Up

Saturdays saw Newcastle’s biggest flat race of the season take place for the first time on the track’s brand spanking new Tapeta Surface. There were many critics of the turf course being pulled up, and the 2016 edition certainly looked a lot different than in years gone by, but on its biggest day of the year it served up a dramatic finish and a fine advertisement for all-weather racing in the end.

The primary objective for Godolphin, following a substantial reorganisation, is no doubt to become a player in the major Group 1 events once again and regain some of the ground they have lost to team Ballydoyle. They haven’t quite managed that just yet but are still enjoying their best season in some time, having recorded a number of wins at Group 2 and Group 3 level. Nowhere have they been more successful though than in these big field handicap events, with wins in the Lincoln, Victoria Cup and Royal Hunt Cup already on the board headed into this race.

Polarisation was rated the more likely of the two runners for the boys in blue here but produced a laboured effort to finish stone last of the twenty runners. Outsider Antiquarium however did much better. Held up throughout he looked to have it all to do approaching the final furlong but quickened up very impressively to reel in the leader at rewarding odds of 16/1 to notch another big race success for Charlie Appleby.

Spare a thought in all this for Newcastle born handler Brian Ellison. Now based in Yorkshire, the trainer makes no secret of the fact that the Northumberland Plate is a race which is very close to his heart, and one he would dearly love to win. For a while on Saturday it looked as if the dream would be realised as his representative Seamour shot three lengths clear in the home straight. Backers on the exchanges certainly thought it was all over at that stage as he was punted right in to 1.01. And then came Antiquarium with that late irresistible surge and Ellison’s dream was snatched away for another year.

With New Zealand jockey James McDonald having travelled over from the other side of the world to partner up with Anitquarium, it seems the horse may be making a similar journey of his own in the not too distant future. It is the Melbourne Cup which is now the rumoured target for Charlie Appleby’s colt

Just over an hour after the Northumberland Plate on Saturday evening came the latest edition of the Irish Derby over at the Curragh. Hyped as the rematch between Epsom hero Harzand and runner up US Army Ranger, it was disappointing that the Aidan O’Brien trained US Army Ranger was a late withdrawal from the race. Nevertheless we still had the third placed runner from the English Derby in the form of Idaho, three others from the O’Brien yard and the promising English raider Red Verdon.

It was the Epsom form which played out once again though, as Harzand became the 18th runner to complete the English and Irish Derby double. The Dermot Weld star didn’t have it all his own way as Idaho ran a cracker to only give best in the final fifty yards of an enthralling head to head battle. Idaho must be getting a little sick of Harzand, as he is now 0 from 3 in his battles with the son of Sea The Stars.

It’s all eyes to Chantilly for Harzand as the colt is given a well-earned break ahead of an autumn campaign including a crack at the Prix De l’Arc De Triomphe. He’s into 7/1 for that contest.

The Racing Ahead

Looking ahead to the weekend and Saturday’s major contest is the Coral Eclipse at Sandown Park. Fresh from his battle with fellow Guineas winners Galileo Gold and Awtaad at Royal Ascot, The Gurkha looks set to be pitched straight into another three way tussle here. The compilers are finding it difficult to split Aidan O’Brien’s French 2000 Guineas winner, Roger Charlton’s proven course performer Time Test and the shock Prince of Wales’s Stakes hero My Dream Boat. With the 2014 and 2015 winners of the French Derby, New Bay and The Grey Gatsby also looking set to go to post, we have a cracking contest in store.