The Insider: Number one Caught
The Insider takes a look at Saturday's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle and fancies Nearly Caught to run a big race.
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The betting for this year's John Smith's Northumberland Plate revolves around recent Royal Ascot winner Pique Sous - but you'll either be with or against him at the prices.
He was visually very impressive in the Queen Alexandra Stakes and, turning for home, it was only a matter of if, rather than when, he was going to scamper away from the field and when Ryan Moore let him go, he quickly put daylight between himself and his rivals.
He's clearly unexposed at this sort of trip on the level, is in the right hands and the money for him since Monday suggests that he's definitely going to run. With only the 5lb penalty for that success, he'll definitely be favourite if he runs and could easily be shorter than the 6/1 on offer now.
The cynic in me says I should just stop writing this preview now as Pique Sous seems to tick all the boxes and, given that connections think he'll be even better over shorter, we should all be lumping on now.
However, rarely is the Pitmen's Derby so simple.
Aside from Il De Re's game victory in 2012 on bottomless ground, a string of well-backed favourites have come unstuck in this race and, given the usual traffic problems that can occur in a race of this nature, sometimes the best horse simply doesn't win.
There is also the draw to contend with. History tells us a single-figure draw is advantageous and that we should be looking at this end of the spectrum, especially on quick ground, rather than those drawn high.
That's not to say the high-drawn horses can't win but if Pique Sous is drawn out in Gosforth (or more accurately, in Wide Open), then his price will certainly go for a walk. Overturn famously bucked this trend in 2010 but he was given a masterful ride from Eddie Ahern (remember him?) who steered the front-runner across to the rail at the earliest opportunity.
So what else comes into the equation?
Both of the first two home in the Chester Cup - Suegioo and Angel Gabrial - will doubtless have their supporters but the former needed every yard of 18-furlong trip and the latter may be better placed here to exact his revenge. He certainly looked like the best horse in the race and could easily land one of these big staying handicaps before the year is out. He looks the ideal type for the Ebor though and I just wonder whether that could be his race.
The same could be said for another Marwan Koukash runner in the shape of Duke Of Clarence. He still has to conclusively prove he stays this trip and 14 furlongs could be his ideal distance.
Top-weight Simenon and Oriental Fox both ran really well behind Leading Light in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and it would not be a surprise to see either run well, especially the latter who was just denied in this race 12 months ago by Tominator.
However, he was racing off a 10lb lower mark that day than now and it's unlikely that either of these horses are well handicapped enough to win this though they could easily hit the frame.
De Rigeur is unexposed at this trip for trainer Marco Botti and has a progressive profile but his ability to throw in an absolute howler every now and then is a little worrying.
The Sir Mark Prescott-trained duo of Big Thunder and Alcaeus were typical improvers from the yard last year but Heath House maestro has been very slow to get going this year and only had his first runner this week.
As ever, he can get one ready first time out so monitor the market closely but by having a bet on one of them now, you'd just be guessing as to the wellbeing of the stable and it's surely best off leaving them alone until the day of the race.
So what is going to win?
It's impossible not to be drawn to the chances of NEARLY CAUGHT given the stable form of Hughie Morrison at the moment.
Another Cocktail and Chil The Kite both ran stormers in defeat at Royal Ascot, while Pastoral Player finished best of those drawn low in the fiercely competitive Buckingham Palace Stakes. Every thing he ran at the Royal Meeting did themselves justice and this four-year-old promises to be a good bit better at this trip than he has shown so far.
He was a big eye catcher last time out over two miles at Haydock, where he stayed on strongly at the death to snatch second without ever really threatening the winner Noble Silk, who could reoppose here. He had previously been outclassed in a Group Three earlier on this season and also in the November Handicap at the back end of last season.
However, the Haydock run strongly suggested that two miles is going to be his trip this year and there is plenty of stamina in the family to back this up.
Yes, there is a chance that the majority of the field will be running for second place as Pique Sous does seem to hold outstanding claims on the book, but there's clearly more to come from our selection as well and, at nearly three times the price, he rates a decent bet at this stage.