Trainer Archie Watson is expected to make the 600 mile round-trip from Lambourn to Newcastle Races on Friday evening, with an almost unmatchable course record and a horse that once held Classic ambition.
While attention is drawn to Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting, Kempton winner Higher Kingdom looks set to be given a low-key chance for redemption, having been a well-beaten favourite at Yarmouth in June.
It was his first run of the year, and that defeat saw him withdrawn from the Irish 2,000 Guineas, but this time the three-year-old drops in trip to 6f, and returns the all-weather – a surface on which he was so impressive on debut.
That day over 7f at Kempton in October, the son of Noozhah Canarias barely saw another rival, racing like a pro straight down the centre to justify odds of 8/11f by a comfortable four lengths.
He was sent off the 10/11f at Yarmouth, but appeared no fan of the fast turf. Switching surfaces and dropping in trip should see him back on track, with his trainer boasting a huge 42% strike-rate on Newcastle’s all-weather this year.
Much of that form is down to course specialist Glen Sheil, who earlier this month graduated from all-weather handicap winner to Group 3 winner and Group 1 second in Haydock’s Sprint Cup. Can Higher Kingdom follow suit?
The most valuable race on the Newcastle card this Friday is the £9,250 1m handicap for horses rated up to 80, but more interesting is the opening fillies’ handicap at 4.50.
Top course jockey Ben Curtis is booked to ride hat-trick-seeking Nikolayeva, having ridden the three-year-old to win at Catterick over 1m6f. Eight days later, Oisin Murphy steered her to victory over 2m1/2f at Wolverhampton, and on Friday she makes her Newcastle debut over 1m4f.
Having won so well over longer distances lately, trainer Michael Appleby is taking a gamble and the odds will be telling as to how confident connections are about this switch, particularly given the competition.
Her main rival in the odds is set to be Bollin Margaret, who had been a revelation since first being fitted with a tongue tie at Redcar in June. That day she overcame being drawn in the widest stall to take the lead early and win by more than three lengths.
Jockey David Allan has adopted the same front-running tactics on her two runs subsequently, where she finished second and again won, this time over Friday’s distance of 1m4f.
Her latest victory was only 11 days ago, but she was so good at Thirsk that Allan was able to ease her down approaching the line. There appears plenty left in the tank and trainer Tim Easterby’s team are in cracking form, recording seven wins in two days last week.
It’s also worth noting Curtis’s ride in the 7f handicap at 8.00. Blue Cable galloped into third on the line over 6f last time out, and was beaten just a length.
She was running for the first time this year, and will surely improve in fitness and for the step up in distance. Having only run twice, the James Eustace-trained three-year-old looks ahead of the handicapper and has been double figures in the odds, so could represent a value bet on Friday. Newcastle Race 888 Horse racing betting odds preview will give you all the favourites on the days
It’s rare that North Yorkshire-based Richard Fahey leaves Newcastle without a winner and he has three possibles in the featured 1m handicap at 7.00.
This is the aforementioned 0-80 event, and Fahey’s most likely runner is a best-watched newcomer to his yard Mutalahef.
Success could come more easily for Fahey against Bollin Margaret and co in the opening race. Let Her Loose, beaten only a nose over the same distance 16 days ago, has been handed a reprieve by the handicapper and races off the same rating.
She won by just a neck when rated 3lbs lower on the turf at Redcar earlier this season, so it remains to be seen how much she does have up her sleeve. She seems straightforward to ride and booking a claiming apprentice would be a plus to her odds.
Though that Fahey runner is unlikely to be a favourite, Lucky Lucky Man is set to be short in the betting for the concluding 6f handicap.
Two years ago he won over course and distance rated 80, and surely benefitting from jockey Oakley Brown’s 7lb claim, because they went on to win Ayr’s Bronze Cup.
The son of top-class miler Clodovil struggled in handicaps last season, but has had a much lighter campaign in 2020 and appears refreshed.
With his handicap rating back down to 66, he teamed up with Paul Hanagan for the first time to win at Hamilton over 6f last time out. The five-year-old grey looked back to his best and rated only 69 as he returns to Newcastle, with Hanagan retaining the ride.
It’s a tricky event, two-time course winner Devil’s Angel galloping away readily over course and distance last time he was at Newcastle for example, but Lucky Lucky Man looks worth the bet.