Alan King admits Saturday’s Jenningsbet Northumberland Plate is far from the be-all and end-all for his star stayer Trueshan.
Beaten into sixth place when favourite 12 months ago, the six-year-old went on to win the Goodwood Cup and the Prix du Cadran before successfully defending his crown in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot.
Having missed last week’s Gold Cup at Royal Ascot for the second successive season due to unsuitable ground, and subsequently the Queen Alexandra Stakes on Saturday, the proven mud-lover will once again head to the north east to compete on the all-weather.
He will have to concede upwards of 19lb to each of his rivals, however, and King views the prestigious contest as more of a means to an end than a major target.
“We want to get a run into him as he’s been ready to go for a while,” said the Barbury Castle handler.
“We took him up to Newcastle last year as well and it’s important that he has a proper outing to hopefully set him up for the second half of the season.
“It’s been a long time since he ran and he’s ready for a race. It’s not all about Saturday, far from it, it’s more a case of just getting a run into him.
“I’m very happy with him, all good, but you can’t keep him simmering away for too long.”
King chose to claim 5lb off Trueshan in the 2021 Northumberland Plate by booking Rhys Clutterbuck, but he will be ridden this weekend by his regular partner Hollie Doyle, meaning he will carry the welter burden of 10st 8lb.
“He’s a horse that takes a little bit of knowing, so as soon as we knew Hollie was available she was going to ride him,” he added.
Trueshan will be joined by a pair of stablemates in 2019 winner Who Dares Wins and Rainbow Dreamer.
King said: “Who Dares Wins is not as good as he was, but we couldn’t run him at Ascot as it was too quick for him as well. He’s definitely not quite the force of old.
“Rainbow Dreamer has had a wind operation since his last run and we’re very happy with him. He’s run well round there before, so he could run very well.”
The likely favourite is the Hugo Palmer-trained Rajinsky, who finished third in last year’s renewal and kicked off the current campaign by beating subsequent Royal Ascot winner Get Shirty at Ripon.
He went on to finish third in last month’s Chester Cup, one place behind another Royal Ascot victor in Coltrane, and Palmer is anticipating another bold showing, with star apprentice Harry Davies keeping the ride.
Palmer said: “It’s a big field and you’ll need a lot of luck, but the horse is in very good form.
“He was ready to run at Royal Ascot last week, but knowing we had this up our sleeve we were not going to make any mistakes about running him on the wrong ground at Ascot.
“The form stacks up, the horse is in great order and looks tremendous, so we hope very much everything goes right.”
Andrew Balding has a pair of leading lights in Valley Forge and Spirit Mixer, while Newcastle-born Brian Ellison would love to break his duck in the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’ with Onesmoothoperator.
The latter is yet to finish out of the first three in six visits to Gosforth Park, most recently finishing third in the Marathon on All-Weather Championships Finals Day.
Ellison said: “He’s in good form, I’m really happy with him. We could have done with a better draw (stall 17), but that’s where we are.
“He likes the track and has loads in his favour, we just want to get a nice position.
“His last run at York was a bit of a farce. The handicapper put him up 3lb for it, so he obviously ran well, but they crawled into the straight. Anyway, it served a purpose and we’ve been happy with him since, so we’ll see how we go.”