By: Paul Harrison
There are many Heritage handicaps run over the course of a season, but few have roots dating quite so far back as Newcastle’s Northumberland Plate. The seeds of this race were planted nearly 500 years ago, way back in 1623. It has been run in its current form at this track since 1882, in which time it has been won by popular stayers such as Sergeant Cecil and Overturn. There are no shortage of interesting contenders for this year’s renewal.
Last year’s winner Angel Gabrial returns to defend his crown in the colours of Dr Marwan Kukash. Richard Fahey’s six year old is beautifully bred, by Hurricane Run out of a Galileo mare and was undoubtedly impressive 12 months ago. The handicapper took a dim view of that success however, raising him a hefty 10 pounds. In truth he has never really looked like winning again ever since. There shouldn’t be much improvement left in him at this stage of his career and off a mark which is still seven pounds higher than for last year’s win, he may continue to struggle. Kukash likes to win these feature handicaps, and comes here mob handed with Suegioo, Gabrial’s Star and Gabrial’s King also sporting his colours.Suegioo was second last year off a four pound lower mark and is entitled to go well again.
The class act of the race is Peter Niven’s Clever Cookie. This admirable dual purpose performer is dropping back into handicap company having scored at Listed and Group 3 level on his two previous starts. Three wins over hurdles make him one of the most copper bottomed stayers in the field and he looks sure to be involved in the closing stages. A mark of 114 is fully 26lbs higher than for his last flat handicap success though and he could prove vulnerable to a less exposed rival. He does still make some each way appeal at around 13.0.
The one to be on though is the Brian Ellison trained four year old Seamour. Initially with Jo Crowley, he began his career on the all-weather, recording a success in a maiden over 1m4f at the second time of asking. Being started out over that distance Crowley was clearly of the opinion that stamina was this horse’s strong suit. Ellison seemed to concur with this view, as his first act following the horses switch to his yard in November was to send him hurdling. Two victories from two starts in that sphere appeared to show that as being a shrewd move. Nevertheless it was back to the flat for the current season. He appeared to need the run first time out at York but posted a clear cut success last time out over this trip at Haydock. The handicapper has bumped him up eight pounds for that success which makes life tougher. This will be just his third career flat turf start though and he is the one who looks most likely to rate higher than his current mark as a stayer. In a competitive race, the sensible bet is to take him each way at around the 10.0 mark.