RACING expert Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bets from Saturday’s action at Newcastle and Curragh.
15:30 Newcastle | Northumberland Plate | ITV
The Northumberland Plate is one of the big staying handicaps of the season and the switch to all weather has added a whole new dynamic to this.
A field of 20 line up and as ever the draw and luck in running can have a huge say on the outcome here, but there is one in this who falls into the “could be anything” category and I’ve backed him here.
It’s Brian Ellison’s birthday week and he would love to win this huge race at his local track. He is a solid stayer and has been favourite for the past two renewals of this.
He is likely to run his race and this is probably his target for the season, but I don’t think he’ll make this third time lucky. He looks good value to place but just always seems to find something too good.
As much as this is a big field it’s not overly competitive and viable win options are a little scarce. Clever Cookie is now 9 and is anything but unexposed.
However, this is his all-weather debut and as a horse who appreciates soft ground, he may take to it. I’m not backing him myself but he may well run above his odds.
The one I really like here is the Mark Prescott-trained Flymetothestars.
He’s 2 from 2 at the track and after only 4 starts he has quickly established himself as a stayer of real potential.
His trainer loves to win big handicaps but it’s rare for him to send one in that’s so inexperienced without good reason.
Last time out he effortlessly beat Endless Acres who was subsequently second in the Ascot Stakes and I’m quite confident he will win this.
17:20 Curragh | Irish Derby | ITV
The Irish Derby is run over very different conditions to its Epsom equivalent and as seems to be the way these days Ballydoyle are responsible for over half the field.
Tactics will prove crucial and it’s hard to work out whether they will make this is a test of stamina or speed, but I think the prize will be leaving Ireland.
Aidan O’Brien has five in this and I genuinely don’t think there is a great deal between them. Wings of Eagles is clearly his number one after his Epsom win, however, I feel the race rather fell into his lap and personally I wouldn’t make him favourite for this.
He stays well and is a very good horse, however, he is a vulnerable favourite in my eyes and I won’t be backing him.
Waldgeist was a group 1 winning juvenile and on has come second in both starts as a three-year-old, last time in the French Derby and this step up in trip looks ideal.
Andre Fabre doesn’t send across runners for no reason so he has to be taken seriously, however, I just don’t think the French form stands up so far and I will swerve him.
The one I have backed, and quite frankly I can’t understand why he’s not a short price favourite is Cracksman. I didn’t fancy him in the Derby but he ran a huge race and out of all the horses who raced prominently he performed best.
John Gosden was worried he lacked experience and I fully expect a more streetwise horse here.
Pat Smullen takes over and that’s a positive for me and I expect Cracksman to win this.