Higher Power can rule over them all
HIGHER POWER can defend his Northumberland Plate title at Newcastle today (2.05).
There are some solid trends to help us pinpoint the winner of the big race at Gosforth Park.
The best age group to concentrate on is horses from four to six, although the younger end of that generation lag behind their elders a little in terms of strike-rate.
It’s important to have had a relatively recent run – within the past 60 days is ideal. A win over the 2m trip of this race or further is another major box that needs ticking.
Stick with horses that have placed in a big field. Although you get Flat races with more than the 20 runners of the Plate, it’s not the widest track and there can be plenty of traffic problems that put off some horses.
Look for a horse that has won at least at Class Two level. There’s a wisdom that you need a Group-class horse to win these big handicaps. While that may be stretching it a bit, this isn’t a contest for unproven types.
Finishing in the first four last time out has also been a good pointer to the Plate. The draw is a bit more of a moot point. Looking at the past winners table, it seems that a single-figure is preferable. That is broadly the case but three of the past ten victors have come from out wide so it’s not impossible.
In the early part of our sample, there was a strong trend for trainers normally associated with National Hunt racing. But the Flat boys have asserted in the past four years as the pool of staying horses who stick to the level seems to have grown.
As for weight, the trend used to be for horses carrying no more than 9st 3lb to win the race. Again, tying in with the theory that the quality of Flat stayers has improved, that no longer seems to be the case and higher weights have won four of the past five.
Looking at this year’s hopefuls, you have to give a major chance to last year’s winner HIGHER POWER.
He was tipped for the very top of the staying tree after an impressive effort 12 months ago. He fought off a determined challenge from Natural Scenery (who runs again today) and looked set to make a name for himself at Cup level.
That didn’t happen as he struggled against quality performers at Goodwood and York. He hasn’t won in five outings since his Plate success, which could be seen as a negative.
There’s a big positive though as it means he’s only 1lb higher than when winning this last time and, in theory, he has a slightly better draw in stall 10.
Tom Queally is on board again for trainer James Fanshawe, who has his horses in good form at the moment. Tominator in 2011 and 2013 has shown that Plate winners can come back and strike again and that could happen today.
There’s top-class action at the Curragh where Aidan O’Brien is bidding to continue his astonishing record in the Irish Derby at 5.15.
He’s won nine of the past ten runnings and will be hoping Saxon Warrior can recover from his flop at Epsom last time out.
It’s a fair argument that the O’Brien factor is the only trend worth worrying about but he is running four in the race, although the other three – Delano Roosevelt, The Pentagon and Rostropovich look like pacemakers. It’s taking that controversial subject to a new level to have a trio trying to set the race up for a “rival” but that’s how these big contests work out these days.
Saxon Warrior does have a couple of holes on the trends front. He was out of the first three last time and has yet to win beyond a mile. They have both been important for Irish Derby winners.
With that in mind, OLD PERSIAN fits a lot of the trends too and is a doublefigure price.
He has been supplemented after winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last week and can give the favourite something to think about – if he can get past the pacemakers.
Defending champ: Higher Power wins the Northumberland Plate last year HIGHER POWER 2.05 NEWCASTLE OLD PERSIAN 5.15 CURRAGH BEST BETS