Newmarket Red lead the way after opening night of Racing League

Team Newmarket Red top the William Hill Racing League despite drawing a blank on the opening night at Newcastle.

The six-race card was the first of six meetings which make up the inaugural running of the £1.8million competition, with a total of 12 teams taking part and every race worth £50,000 in prize-money.

Each race is restricted to 12 runners, with 25 points awarded to the winner down to one point for the 10th-placed horse.

While none of the horses trained Robert Cowell, John and Thady Gosden, Sir Mark Prescott or David Simcock managed to get their head in front at Gosforth Park, three finished second and two were third. With only one runner unplaced, Newmarket Red head to Doncaster next week leading the way on 85 points.

Second in the league are Team talkSPORT, who landed the fourth race of the evening with James Fanshawe-trained 13-8 favourite Bonneval, ridden by Jack Mitchell, and also enjoyed a second and a third from six runners.

Broadcaster Rupert Bell, who manages Team talkSPORT along with Alan Brazil, said: “There does seem to be quite a nice, friendly feeling about it, with all the teams doing their bit.

“I think it does feel right. It’s a long haul, but if the racing can stay as competitive as it is at the moment, that’s great.

“You’ve guaranteed 10 to 12 runner fields and surely the racecourses want that and the betting industry wants that.”

The victory of William Knight’s 20-1 shot Pearl Beach helped Team Racehorse Lotto end the night in third place on 63 points.

Pearl Beach (right) won the finale at Newcastle
Pearl Beach (right) won the finale at Newcastle (Tim Goode/PA)

The opening race went to 15-2 chance Saluti for Team Arena (49 points overall), trained by Paul Midgley and ridden by Paul Mulrennan.

“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of money being pumped into our sport, which can’t be anything but good,” said the jockey.

“I know there’s a few people unhappy they’ve not been able to compete this year, but it might be their time next year. It could be a different trainer or jockey that gets a chance.

“There’s a real good buzz in the weighing room tonight. All the teams and everything just makes it a bit different – it’s not your usual Thursday night at Newcastle.

“You look at this horse. In his last three races, he’s been racing for buttons and tonight he’s come here and won £25,000.”

Strike Red claimed top honours in the second race for eToro Racing (53 points). The 7-1 shot is trained by Richard Fahey and was ridden by Paddy Mathers.

The eToro Racing team is managed by William Easterby, son of trainer Tim, who also has several horses in the squad.

Easterby said: “Richard thought Strike Red had a good chance after he won last time out.

“It’s been really easy working with Richard and Robin (O’Ryan, Fahey’s assistant), but we’ll only be cheering on their horses on a Thursday night!

“I think it’s a fantastic idea. The owners are really enjoying the day and the prize-money is great.

“I think it’s great for the sport to get some publicity and to try to get more people into racing.”

Echo Red was a 5-1 winner for trainer Hugo Palmer, jockey Laura Pearson and the Goat Racing team (45 points).

Hayley Turner, no stranger to team competitions as a regular participant in Ascot’s Shergar Cup, got her name on the scoreboard by steering Andrew Balding’s Roscioli (28-1) to a narrow victory for Team ThoroughBid (47 points).

John Smith’s Cup aim for Northumberland Plate conqueror Nicholas T

Nicholas T will bid to provide trainer Jim Goldie with a second victory in the John Smith’s Cup at York following his thrilling triumph in Saturday’s Northumberland Plate.

The nine-year-old came from last to first to land the Newcastle showpiece under Ben Robinson and is set to turn out a fortnight later for another prestigious prize Goldie won with stable stalwart Euchen Glen in 2018.

Goldie said: “He’s come out of the race grand – he only really raced for half a furlong!

“He’ll get in the John Smith’s Cup. Up until winning over two miles on Saturday, his best trip was a mile and a quarter, so I would think we’ll go down that route.”

If Nicholas T can bag a second big-race victory on Saturday week, he will likely return to the Knavesmire in August for a tilt at the Ebor.

“To get in the Ebor he’ll probably need to win that (John Smith’s Cup). He’s rated 100 now and to get in the Ebor I would imagine you’d have to be 106 or 107, so he’ll need to win again,” Goldie added.

“Anyway, it can be done.”

Goodwood Cup on the agenda for Trueshan

Trueshan will be trained for the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup after pleasing trainer Alan King with his performance in last weekend’s Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.

Having been taken out of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot due to unsuitable ground conditions, the high-class stayer instead carried top-weight in the feature race of the season at Gosforth Park.

While favourite-backers were ultimately out of luck, Trueshan was not disgraced in finishing sixth – and King is keeping his fingers crossed for some ease in the ground to allow him to take on the likes of Subjectivist and Stradivarius on the Sussex Downs.

“I was happy with the run. He was beaten less than four lengths and has been absolutely fine since,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

Trueshan was a famous winner for Hollie Doyle on Champions Day last year
Trueshan was a famous winner for Hollie Doyle on Champions Day last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’ll have a quiet week and then we’ll train him for Goodwood and see what the ground is like.

“We were very keen to get a run into him and we can leave him alone now for a week or 10 days. You can’t keep these horses bubbling away and that’s why we ran him. I thought he ran very well really.

“If the ground wasn’t suitable at Goodwood then there’s the Lonsdale Cup at York, I suppose, and he’s in the Irish St Leger, but that’s not until later on (September).

“We’ll go one race at a time and just see what the weather does.”

Nicholas T swoops late for Northumberland Plate prize

Nicholas T sprang a 33-1 surprise when getting up close home to land the William Hill Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.

Jim Goldie’s nine-year-old, wearing a hood for the first time, was produced on the far side of the all-weather course to lead inside the final furlong and deny long-time leader Hochfeld, giving jockey Ben Robinson his biggest success in the saddle in the process.

Hochfeld had been prominent throughout the extended two-mile test with Australis, Rajinsky, Reshoun and the 5-2 favourite Trueshan among those up with the pace.

There was all to play for when the 20 runners turned for home in the prestigious staying handicap.

Hochfeld (28-1) was proving hard to pass but Nicholas T, carrying a 5lb penalty for a victory at York two weeks ago, wore down Mark Johnston’s charge to take the £81,000 first prize by half a length.

Rajinsky (16-1), who crossed the line in fourth place, was promoted to third following a stewards’ inquiry with Island Brave (16-1) demoted to fourth.

Robinson said: “I’m lost for words. My only doubt was staying the two miles as he can be a keen-travelling horse. I switched him off out the back and he got a lovely run up. He put it to bed really well.

“It’s unbeatable. It’s a race that Brian Ellison, my boss, has wanted to win all his career and for me to win it, for someone else, is really good.

“Jim is a very, very good trainer and he always manages to get one or two decent animals. This horse has never put a foot wrong.”

Goldie admitted victory in the historic contest had long been an ambition of his.

He said: “It’s one of those races that was kind of on my bucket list.

“It’s a great race and a traditional race. Sir Chauvelin has been placed in the race before, but it’s a hard race to win.

“Nicholas T won over a mile and a half here (in November) by almost five lengths. Phil Dennis (jockey) said he couldn’t believe he picked up like that as stayers don’t. You saw that again today – from last to first.

Ben Robinson after winning the Northumberland Plate on Nicholas T
Ben Robinson after winning the Northumberland Plate on Nicholas T (Tim Goode/PA)

“He had to go to York for a ladies race, which got him the penalty to get into this.”

Asked where the victory ranked in his career highlights, he said: “On the day it’s always very good.

“To be honest, when I won the Grand Sefton over the Grand National fences (with Lampion Du Bost in 2007), that was huge, and then I went and did it the next year with Endless Power.

“To win this race is great.”

Zeeband impresses with Northumberland Vase victory for Roger Varian

Zeeband powered clear of his rivals in the William Hill Pick Your Places Northumberland Vase at Newcastle.

Third on his comeback run over a mile and three-quarters at Newmarket last month, Roger Varian’s charge was a 4-1 shot as he stepped up to two miles for the first time in the £75,000 consolation race for the Northumberland Plate.

Always travelling well in a first-time visor, Zeeband moved onto the heels of the leaders under a motionless Andrea Atzeni on the far side of the track before readily extending two and a half lengths clear of Margaret Dumont.

“He’d won over a mile and six (furlongs) and his comeback run at Newmarket was quite nice,” said Atzeni.

“He’s obviously improved since then, he worked with a set of visors on last week and Roger was quite confident this morning.

“The draw is obviously a big help here, but the way he won you’d think he could have won from any draw.”

Ejtilaab followed up success on Derby day at Epsom with a dominant display in the Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap.

Three weeks on from a narrow verdict on the Downs, the Ian Williams-trained sprinter was the 9-2 favourite to add to his tally at Gosforth Park under David Egan.

Having bagged the near side rail early, Ejtilaab looked to have his rivals covered from a long way out and was two and a half lengths clear of nearest pursuer Mondammej at the line.

The winner is entered in both the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket and the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood next month, and Williams said: “He’ll go for one or the other – it’s nice to have options like that.

“It was a cracking performance. The drop to six furlongs has really helped him improve on his previous form over seven.”

Catch Cunningham came out on top in a thrilling climax to the opening William Hill Play Responsibly/EBF Novice Stakes.

Catch Cunningham (second left) won the opener on Northumberland Plate day
Catch Cunningham (second left) won the opener on Northumberland Plate day (Tim Goode/PA)

Sixth on his debut at York before finishing third at Haydock a fortnight ago, the Kodiac colt was a 9-1 shot to make it third time lucky in the hands of Tom Eaves.

There was not much to choose between Kevin Ryan’s juvenile and Secret Strength passing the post, but the judge had confirmed Catch Cunningham had won the day by a short head.

Ryan said: “It didn’t work out the way we’d planned. We’d intended taking a lead, but he jumped well and nobody else wanted it, so we had to revert to plan B.

“It (making the running) is hard to do here, but he’s game and genuine.

“He’ll be a better horse in a better race being dropped in.”

Spectators during William Hill Northumberland Plate Day at Newcastle
Spectators during William Hill Northumberland Plate Day at Newcastle (Tim Goode/PA)

James Fanshawe and David Probert teamed up to claim top honours in the William Hill Build Your Odds Handicap, with the impressive Second Slip (11-4) skipping almost five lengths clear of 9-4 favourite Hasty Sailor.

Having earlier landed the Group Three Chipchase Stakes with Chil Chil, trainer Andrew Balding completed a double on the card with Oo De Lally edging out Sunset Breeze by a short head in the William Hill Extra Place Races Handicap.

Winning jockey David Probert said: “Andrew’s horses are in great form and we knew this horse handled the track.

“Will Carver gave him a great ride at Goodwood the last day to finish second, so he was probably in the form of his life really going into today.

“Things never really went my way. We got stopped a bit coming out of the gates and then late on we got a bit of bump off the second, so it was a tough performance and he probably deserves to win a race like this.”

Chil Chil too hot in Chipchase

Chil Chil came with a rattling late run to take the Group Three honours in the William Hill Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle.

Andrew Balding’s five-year-old mare had plenty to do with a furlong left, but she produced a telling turn of foot when given the office by Silvestre de Sousa.

Storming past long-time leader Good Effort, Chil Chil (15-2) galloped on strongly to land the spoils by three-quarters of a length with Diligent Harry a further half-length away in third place.

Good Effort made the running from his stands’ rail draw while the well-fancied Diligent Harry was up with the pace in the centre of the track.

The 5-2 favourite Khuzaam appeared to have very chance but never threatened when dropped down to six furlongs for the first time.

Good Effort kept up the gallop but had no answer to Chil Chil, who was cut to 20-1 from 40-1 for the July Cup with Betfair and Paddy Power and 7-1 from 14-1 for the Stewards’ Cup with both firms.

Balding said: “I’m delighted, she’s a mare who has improved a lot since last year.

“She’s very effective on a sound surface and I’m delighted she’s now a now Group-race winner.

“We couldn’t run her in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last week because of the soft ground and it’s worked out well.”

On future plans, he added: “I think we’ve probably blown our cover for the Stewards’ Cup now given the weights haven’t been published yet.

“If the ground came up fast, I think we’ll probably have a crack at the July Cup.”

De Sousa was also impressed, adding: “She’s a very talented mare. She has disappointed a few times, but when she’s right she’s very good.

“She was very lean early on last year but she’s different now, she’s grown up a lot mentally and physically. Andrew has done a great job, shown a lot of patience with her, and it’s paid off today.”

Ben Curtis targeting speedy return from shoulder injury

Championship-chasing jockey Ben Curtis is aiming to be back in the saddle by the end of next week after dislocating his shoulder when winning on Crack Regiment at Newcastle on Friday evening.

Curtis had just produced his mount to take up the running in the Three Mile Handicap when his shoulder popped out of its joint, but he managed to retain his balance and still win the race.

“Everything is good, I have no pain at my end,” Curtis told Sky Sports Racing.

“It was a shame really, the race went absolutely perfect up until that point. I just went to give him one reminder and my shoulder popped out, which made it a little bit uncomfortable in the last 100 yards. Luckily we still won but it wasn’t an ideal situation.

“Your arm just goes limp and it just feels like a dead weight. There’s not much you can do, I was just trying to keep him straight with one arm. The arm is fairly useless at that point.

Ben Curtis on Crack Regiment (right) just before he dislocated his shoulder
Ben Curtis on Crack Regiment (right) just before he dislocated his shoulder (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’ve done it before, coincidentally at Newcastle, it really dropped down a long way and was very painful, but yesterday it hadn’t dropped too far. It was painful, I spent the next five minutes trying to persuade someone to put it back in but no one would take the risk and I was shipped off to hospital.

“I went and had an X-ray, once they realised no bone had chipped they put it back in and did another X-ray and they were happy with the way it had set.

“There’s not much pain this morning and hopefully no lasting damage. Timeline wise, from my point of view I’d be well able to get back by the end of the week but you have to jump through a lot of hoops and there’s a lot of red-tape, so it will ultimately be up to Jerry Hill when I get back and he has my best interests at heart.

“I’ll get in to see a specialist in York and if they think it could happen again I’ll bite the bullet and have an operation in the winter but it’s not a great time of year to be out, it’s the busiest period.”

Zeyaadah back on track with Hoppings success

Zeyaadah put her Oaks disappointment behind her as she produced a telling late challenge to win the William Hill Hoppings Fillies’ Stakes at Newcastle.

Roger Varian’s Shadwell Estate filly could finish only a distant 13th of 14 behind the impressive Snowfall when sent off a single-figure price in the Epsom Classic at the start of this month.

But she put her career back on track in this Group Three, down to 10 furlongs on Newcastle’s Tapeta surface.

Jim Crowley held Zeyaadah up well towards the rear, and still had just one horse behind entering the straight. But she quickly made ground and overhauled eventual runner-up Technique in the final furlong to win more comfortably than the official margin of a head suggested – justifying her status as 15-8 favourite.

Crowley told Sky Sports Racing: “It just didn’t happen (for her at Epsom) – the rain tipped down that day, and she’s obviously a top-of-the-ground filly.

“She did win on it (heavy ground) one day at Newmarket, but I think she’s better on a better surface.

“Obviously today, I just had to sit a little bit. I was drawn eight, and didn’t really want to go three wide the whole way.

“They went a nice pace, and the horse in front was a nice target to aim at.

“She won pricking her ears. I thought she was going to go and win well, but she was probably just keeping a little bit up her sleeve as well.

“It’s a nice confidence-booster for her today, and I hope she’ll take a step forward again.”

Earlier on the card, Caspian Prince proved yet again that age is no barrier to him as he won the William Hill Gosforth Park Cup Handicap for the second successive year – at the age of 12.

Mick Appleby’s veteran sprinter showed his customary early dash, and the necessary determination too, to get to the front from the equally speedy Ornate and then hold off all challengers for a popular 12-1 victory under 3lb claimer Theodore Ladd.

Caspian Prince was winning for the second time in succession, and 23rd in all, on his 114th appearance – resisting the late thrust of May Sonic by a neck, with outsider Blue De Vega another three-quarters of a length back in third.

Ladd said: “It’s the biggest winner of my career so far.

“Last year, he actually sat second – which is unlike Caspian Prince. But that Ornate (third 12 months ago) has such early toe, so if you take each other on you burn each other out.

“Mick said to me ‘if that Ornate wants to go on, don’t get in a battle with him – and he’ll come home strong at the end’.

“I’m absolutely over the moon.

Stephen Louch, who co-owns Caspian Prince with Rutland trainer Appleby, added: “Words can’t describe him really – he’s taken us to some fantastic places.

“He’s 12 years old, and he’s still running like he’s four. He’s coming up against some cracking horses today – that was a really tough race.

“We won it last year. But to come back and win it twice, against good opposition and 12 years old, he is amazing.

“He just loves racing. A horse will fall out of love with racing at one point in his life – (but) he just seems to love it, and thrives on it.”

There was drama in the opening Three Mile Handicap, in which Ben Curtis suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder while riding a finish on Henry Spiller’s Crack Regiment.

The 5-1 shot collared favourite Tarroob to be first past the post by a head  – and he kept the race after a stewards’ inquiry, despite carrying the runner-up right in the closing stages with Curtis unable to take corrective action.

The winning jockey was clearly in pain and dismounted on pulling up, however, and had to give up his three remaining rides on the card.

Burrows ready to unleash Tabdeed in Chipchase Stakes

Tabdeed is all set to return to action in the William Hill Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle.

Owen Burrows’ sprinter has had his fair share of problems throughout his career, but has shown on more than one occasion that he has plenty of talent – beating The Tin Man in last season’s Hackwood Stakes, before being bogged down in soft ground in Haydock’s Sprint Cup.

The five-year-old will make his seasonal reappearance in Saturday’s Group Three as one of three runners for owners Shadwell Estate – along with Roger Varian’s Khuzaam and the Charlie Hills-trained Khaadem.

Burrows said of Tabdeed: “It’s well documented he’s not been the easiest – but he ran well there last year, trying to give Glen Shiel weight in a handicap, so that was probably nigh on impossible!

“We know that he acts there on the surface, so you don’t have to worry about it being too quick or too soft.

“Obviously at Haydock, in the Sprint Cup, he never went a yard.”

Burrows is hoping Tabdeed can have a busier campaign as a six-year-old, but points out target races are not plentiful.

“It would be nice to have a good run at him this year, but he’s in the same boat as quite a few – there’s not a great programme for the Group Three sort of sprinter, hence Shadwell having three in the race on Saturday,” added the Lambourn trainer.

“Roger’s horse is dropping in trip, but has always shown speed, while Charlie’s is in a similar boat to us – not quite top-class, and there is a lack of races for them.”

Khuzaam winning at Lingfield on Good Friday
Khuzaam winning at Lingfield on Good Friday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Varian is looking forward to seeing how Khuzaam fares on his first start over six furlongs.

The Kitten’s Joy gelding won the All-Weather Mile at Lingfield on his penultimate start, before finishing a distant last of four behind Palace Pier at Sandown.

Varian said: “He has loads of pace. He won over seven furlongs at Chelmsford before stepping up to the mile at Lingfield.

“His work is as good as ever, and a stiff six furlongs at Newcastle on the Tapeta should suit him.

“It’s an experiment, but it’s an interesting one.”

Tabdeed and Khuzaam are joined at the head of the market by Clive Cox’s Diligent Harry.

The three-year-old makes his first appearance since impressing on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield, having missed an intended appearance in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot last week because of the rain-softened ground.

“Conditions didn’t allow us to run at Ascot, and that was it,” said Cox.

“He’s in good form. This is a nice option for him, against older horses obviously.

“He’s proven on the all-weather, and it’s a good step to take at this point. He’s rated 105, and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to go to Newcastle after the ground meant Ascot was not a possibility.”

Trueshan facing ‘huge ask’ under Plate welter burden

Alan King is under no illusions about the “huge ask” facing his stable star Trueshan in the William Hill Northumberland Plate.

An impressive winner of the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day at Ascot, the five-year-old made a promising start to the current campaign when runner-up to Japan in last month’s Ormonde Stakes at Chester.

Connections had been looking forward to a tilt at Gold Cup glory at Royal Ascot, but he was taken out on the day of the race because of the prevailing fast ground. As luck would have it, heavy rain later that night turned the ground bottomless for the following afternoon.

Having sidestepped his main objective, Trueshan will instead carry top-weight in the most prestigious race of Newcastle’s season on Saturday.

King said: “It was obviously very frustrating when the rain came (at Ascot) a few hours later, but I have no doubt we did the right thing taking him out – we couldn’t risk him on that ground on Thursday.

“It’s a huge ask on Saturday, I know that, but I’m just desperate to get a run into him. It’s a long time to wait for Goodwood, and if it was quick ground there and he couldn’t run again – you can’t keep them on the boil forever.

“We’ll take our chance and see what happens. At least we know the surface will suit.”

Apprentice rider Rhys Clutterbuck takes over in the saddle from Hollie Doyle, with King keen to offset some of the welter burden of 10st 4lb.

Alan King also saddles Rainbow Dreamer
Alan King also saddles Rainbow Dreamer (John Walton/PA)

He added: “Rhys has never ridden for me, I don’t think. But I spoke to Tony Hind (jockeys’ agent), and he recommended him very highly.

“It (5lb claim) all helps, hopefully.”

The Barbury Castle handler has an interesting second string to his bow in Rainbow Dreamer, who has won six times on the all-weather and was not beaten far into fifth place in last year’s Northumberland Plate.

“He’s a much better horse on the all-weather, as we know,” said King.

“His last couple of runs on the turf have been OK, and he seems in very good order, so I’d hope he’ll run well.”

The Charlie Fellowes-trained Dubious Affair came close to making a triumphant return from eight months off the track at the Royal meeting – going down by a head to Amtiyaz in the Copper Horse Stakes.

The daughter of Frankel is turned out just 11 days later for this weekend’s Gosforth Park feature.

Fellowes said: “She ran a huge race at Ascot, where arguably she was a bit unlucky. She would have got a penalty for winning that, and in another metre we probably would have won, so we’re basically a winner running without a penalty – which is rather nice.

“You’ve just got to hope that after such a long time off she’s got over the exertions of that race and that it hasn’t left a mark on her.

“Stepping up to two miles will be no problem. I think she’ll love the track, and she likes a big field, so there’s lots of positives.

“It’s just slightly in the lap of the gods whether she’s back to 100 per cent, after what would have been a tough race at Ascot.”

Australis in action at Wolverhampton
Australis in action at Wolverhampton (Steve Davies/PA)

Roger Varian saddles last year’s runner-up Australis, and is hopeful of another bold bid.

“He was second in the race last year and has some very good form on the all-weather,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“He had a nice run over a mile and a half on Derby day at Epsom to sharpen him up and he’s quite an interesting runner, I think.”

Mark Johnston fires a five-pronged assault in his bid to win the race for the first time since Quick Ransom struck gold in 1994 – with Mildenberger, Watersmeet, Themaxwecan, Lucky Deal and Hochfeld all declared.

The Ian Williams-trained Reshoun, a narrow and surprise winner of the Ascot Stakes last week, also features.

Trueshan in line to take Northumberland Plate chance

Trueshan heads the weights for the William Hill Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on Saturday.

The torrential downpours that hit Royal Ascot on Friday came 24 hours too late for the Alan King-trained stayer and his Gold Cup bid, with the British Champions Day winner withdrawn from his clash with Stradivarius and company due to unsuitably quick ground.

King’s charge boasts a rating of 118, which means he will have to shoulder 10st 4lb if he lines up at Gosforth Park, although 5lb claimer Rhys Clutterbuck has been provisionally booked to ride.

The Barbury Castle handler also has last year’s fifth Rainbow Dreamer in contention on 9st 10lb.

Mildenberger is next in the weights and is one of eight still in contention for Mark Johnston, with a total of 61 horses standing their ground.

Mildenberger has not run since contesting the richly-endowed Red Sea Turf Handicap in Saudi Arabia back in February, while the likes of Themaxwecan, Hochfeld and Rochester House all ran at Ascot last week.

Sir Mark Prescott’s Longsider is among the leading ante-post fancies, although he needs a number of runners to come out to make the field, along with William Haggas’ Dancing King, who ran in the Queen’s Vase last week, and Dubious Affair from Charlie Fellowes’ yard, with that one having been touched off by just a head in the Copper Horse Stakes at the Royal meeting.

Fellowes has three others still in the two-mile feature, with Ascot Stakes winner Reshoun heading eight for Ian Williams. Those horses eliminated will be given the chance to run in the consolation Vase over the same course and distance.

Recent Salisbury winner Opera Gift, the Roger Varian-trained pair of Zeeband and Australis are also prominent in the betting.

Napper Tandy strikes Newcastle gold

Andrew Balding enjoyed a big-race double at Lingfield on Good Friday and was also on the mark at Newcastle with the promising Napper Tandy.

While Bangkok winning the Easter Classic and Ranch Hand being crowned the leading all-weather stayer will have been more beneficial financially for the Kingsclere handler, as a lightly-raced three-year-old Napper Tandy represents the future.

A winner over a mile at Kempton in November having gone down by just a short-head on his debut, he was a beaten even-money favourite last time out when stepped up to a mile and a half.

The slow pace did not suit that day though, and while David Probert initially looked worried at the top of the straight this time, he came back on the bridle in the Ladbrokes-sponsored handicap.

Hot favourite Defined never looked likely to win having raced keenly and the 5-1 chance was ridden out to score by a length and three-quarters, looking as his stamina is his forte.

Speaking from Lingfield, Balding said: “He was quite impressive today and possibly he could be a Queen’s Vase horse for Royal Ascot.”

Probert said: “He actually won over a mile at Kempton in a race that worked out well when I was given an easy time in front, but possibly last time at Wolverhampton he found the track too sharp.

“It suited him well today. I was a little bit worried on the turn about getting him crowded, but as soon as I had him out and in his top gear, he really hit the line quite nicely.”

Kevin Ryan registered what is likely to be the first of many juvenile winners of the season when Anadora came from last to first to win the Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Fillies’ Conditions Stakes.

Kevin Stott returns on Anadora
Kevin Stott returns on Anadora (Nick Robson)

Slowly away, the daughter of Havana Gold was sent off a 13-2 chance as the market spoke in favour of George Boughey’s Cashew, but he was beaten by halfway.

Having missed the break, Kevin Stott guided his mount to the rail and she finished with a real rattle to catch Alaskan Jewel and win by a head.

“She missed the break, but other than that did everything right. She was a bit green early doors, but I got a nice, clean run and I had the rail to help me,” said Stott.

“I couldn’t fault her and this is a nice place for them to start off.”

Ryan was also on the mark with Treble Treble (7-1) in the Betway Handicap, ridden by Tom Eaves.

Jonny Peate has ridden three winners from just nine rides
Jonny Peate has ridden three winners from just nine rides (Nick Robson)

Charlie Johnston was full of praise for apprentice jockey Jonny Peate, who got his fractions spot on aboard Gobi Sunset (4-1) in the Bombardier Handicap.

Caught on the line at Wolverhampton last time out, this time Peate kicked his mount into a huge advantage at halfway and was still four and a half lengths in front at the post.

“It was basically all over at halfway, the favourite (Broctune Red) gave us a 15-length head start,” said Johnston, assistant trainer to his father, Mark.

“I know it can be a difficult place to make all, but not when they’ve got that much of a lead.

“That’s Jonny’s third winner from just nine rides. He came to us briefly last summer, went to do his course at the British Racing School and has been back about eight months. He’s got a fantastic attitude to work and life – as all of our apprentices do, two more (Andrew Breslin and Oli Stammers) were in that race!”

The day will be forever remembered by fellow apprentice Aidan Redpath, who rode his first winner on Michael Dods’ Havagomecca (14-1) in the five-furlong novice.

Megallan on top in Burradon Stakes

John and Thady Gosden’s impressive start to their new arrangement was given another boost by the victory of Megallan in the Listed Burradon Stakes at Newcastle.

Highly tried after winning on his debut last season, Megallan ended his campaign in the Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.

He got bogged down in the heavy ground on that occasion, but was better judged on his fourth to One Ruler in the Autumn Stakes – and the Gosdens are clearly keen to crack on with him this year.

Out early for the Spring Cup over an inadequate seven furlongs at Lingfield where he was a fast-finishing second, he was back over a straight mile on the Tapeta this time.

His presence scared plenty of the potential opposition away – with only three taking him on, but they included Roger Varian’s lightly-raced Legion Of Honour.

The pair had it between themselves for the last two furlongs – and while Andrea Atzeni briefly looked to be going better on Legion Of Honour, Megallan’s depth of experience told close home.

Robert Havlin always looked as if he held the upper hand, and in the final 100 yards Megallan (4-6 favourite) began to pull away to win by half-a-length.

Havlin said: “He ran over seven (furlongs) at Lingfield – which we knew was going to be a bit sharp for him, but it sharpened him up mentally.

“That showed today, and I think you have to give him a lot of credit.

“Last year he was a bit too keen in heavy ground at Doncaster in the Futurity Trophy, but I think he’s grown up a lot. I ride him a bit myself at home, and he’s come on a lot.

“I think he’s better than this (class). It was a good old ding-dong battle with the second, but he was going away at the line.

“I wouldn’t rule him out going over a mile-and-a-quarter later in the season, because his mind is much better now – he used to be really racy.

“He might end up in something like the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket over a mile-and-one (furlong) – that could be an option.”

Paddy Power cut the winner to 20-1 from 33-1 for the 2000 Guineas, while the runner-up is now 25-1 from 50-1.

Voyage steps up to Listed level for Burradon test

James Tate’s Final Voyage will bid to extend his unbeaten run in the Listed Burradon Stakes at Newcastle on Friday.

The three-year-old was victorious on his last four starts on the all-weather, a winning streak that began in October last year and culminated in a half-length success at Wolverhampton in late February.

Friday’s contest represents a step-up in calibre for the son of Camacho, but Tate is hopeful that the colt can rise to the challenge and retain his form.

“He’s been a great horse for us over the winter,” he said.

“He’s won his last four and he’s five from six on the all-weather. Obviously it’s a step up in grade, but he’s been in very good form and he deserves to take his chance.”

Final Voyage will face only three rivals in the one-mile contest, but he has more runs under his belt than any other entrant having competed in eight races.

“He’s a very experienced horse, he knows exactly what to do,” his trainer said.

“I’d say he’d be tactically able to do whatever he needs to to give him the race, it’s just a question of whether he can step his form up again.

“He hasn’t disappointed us for the last four runs and I think he is unlucky not to be unbeaten on the all-weather, so we are very much looking forward to the race and as I say, he deserves to take his chance, so let’s see what happens.”

Final Voyage has run only twice on turf and was beaten on both occasions, leaving his Newmarket-based trainer pondering a future trip overseas.

“He has very few options because he appears to not go on the grass at all, so there are about two races on the all-weather in May and that’s about it,” he said.

“There really aren’t many options, we could even give him a break and wait for the autumn races, unless we think about racing him on dirt in a different country.

“We’ve been getting him ready for this race for a while, we’ve had it in mind and obviously he’s got to step up and he’s a bit of an outsider, but we’re certainly looking forward to the race.”

John and Thady Gosden’s Megallan will be Final Voyage’s main rival, with the Kingman colt beaten just a short head in the Listed Spring Cup at Lingfield on his last outing.

Roger Varian runs Legion Of Honour, who was a winner when last seen triumphing by a two and a quarter lengths over seven furlongs at Newcastle in November.

Making up the field of four is Mark Johnston’s Ghost Rider, who also returns to the scene of his latest victory having won at the track in a seven-furlong novice contest in February.

Crosspark still at height of powers for Eider defence

Caroline Bailey is confident Crosspark is as good as ever as he prepares to defend his Eider Chase crown off top weight at Newcastle.

The 11-year-old won the last running of the Vertem-sponsored handicap by just a neck in 2019, defeating Michael Scudamore’s Mysteree, and is vying for favouritism in this year’s renewal.

Crosspark has not tasted victory since, with a repeat performance in 2020 ruled out when the fixture was abandoned, but he was second in the 2019 Scottish Grand National and has also finished runner-up in all of four outings this season – no more than a length behind the winner on each occasion.

“He’s been in as good a form as ever,” said his trainer.

“You can’t knock the horse at all – he tries his little heart out.

“I’m very happy with him. He had a little break after Sandown (runner-up in the veterans’ final early last month), and we freshened him up.”

Tristan Davidson’s The Dutchman also lines up this weekend, having last been seen taking a late when leading into the straight in the Grade Three Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

Davidson reports the 11-year-old, winner of the 2018 Peter Marsh Chase when with Colin Tizzard, to be in good form at home.

Davidson is hopeful rather than certain he will handle this extended trip, however.

The Cumbria trainer said: “He’s well – Sean Quinlan came and schooled him the other day, and he schooled well.

“We’re hoping for a big race. He was unlucky at Wetherby, but that’s racing – he was going well that day.

“The ground won’t bother him at all. I just hope he stays four miles one (furlong), that’s my only doubt.”

Tom George is represented by Springfield Fox, who will run in cheekpieces after being pulled up in both the Welsh Grand National and on his subsequent appearance in the Dick Hunt Chase at Wincanton.

George said: “It’s been a bit frustrating for him this season – because he had a good run over hurdles, and then in the Welsh National he was always going one stride quicker than he wanted to.

Springfield Fox ridden by Jonathan Burke jumps the last to score at Chepstow Racecourse
Springfield Fox and Jonathan Burke jump the last to score at Chepstow (Simon Cooper/PA)

“We needed to run him again, and the same thing happened at Wincanton.

“I’d like to think a pair of cheekpieces will sharpen him up, and he shouldn’t be out of his comfort zone over four and a quarter miles.”

Lucinda Russell’s Big River also takes his chance, having finished eighth in the Welsh National in January.

Russell considers the 11-year-old to be in better shape than he was before that run, and expects him to be suited by the marathon trip.

“He ran a good race in the Welsh National, and I think he’s better now than he was before then,” she said.

“They’re probably his sort of conditions. Four miles is his sort of trip – and if the ground is soft enough he could run a big race.”

Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell has two chances in the Eider Chase
Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell has two chances in the Eider Chase (Ian Rutherford/PA)

Russell has also entered outsider Haul Us In, absent since finishing sixth at Bangor in November and who runs from 4lb out of the handicap but has Blair Campbell’s claim offsetting 3lb of that off bottom weight.

Russell said: “She’s been unfortunate – she’s missed a few races because of the weather.

“Ideally she’d have run at least another once, if not twice, before coming into this race.

“We decided this was going to be our aim for her for this season.

“We’ve been brave and put the entry in and tried to get her as right as we can at home. She’s probably got a chance at a big price.”

Brian Ellison’s Sam’s Adventure heads the market, with David Bridgwater’s Salty Boy and Matt Sheppard’s Cyclop also at the top end of the betting.

Paul Henderson runs Crossley Tender, with David Pipe’s Little Red Lion, Ian Duncan’s Strong Economy and Martin Smith’s Friends Don’t Ask completing the field of 12.