Saturday is a day of Derbies on the racing front as June comes to a close. Whilst it’s the three year olds who light up the track at The Curragh, Newcastle has a “Derby” of its own on offer.
Commonly known as the “Pitmen’s Derby”, the Northumberland Plate Handicap is the track’s biggest race of the year and is invariably one of the most popular betting heats of the summer months.
Whilst this is an old race – having been with us since way back in 1833 – one of the most significant changes in its history only came recently with the conversion of Newcastle from a turf to an all-weather track in 2016.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 27th June 2020
- Winner: Caravan Of Hope
- SP: 9/2
- Trainer: Hugo Palmer
- Jockey: Harry Bentley
2m½f is the trip for this Class 2 handicap which offers total prize money of £40,000 in 2020. The race will take place on Newcastle’s all-weather Tapeta surface, with the track riding slightly on the slow side at present.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Standard To Slow||2m½f||Class 2||£40,000||20 Runners||1/4 1-4|
Northumberland Plate Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Newcastle’s biggest flat event of the season invariably proves popular with owners and trainers, and beyond the lack of fans, things are no different in 2020, with a maximum field of 20 set to go post. Given the stamina demands of the race, this is one of the few contests of the season which attracts runners from both the top flat and National Hunt yards.
Paul Cole is the most successful trainer in the history of the race, but doesn’t have an entry this year; which leaves Richard Fahey, Mark Johnston and 2019 winner Alan King as the only handlers with a previous win amongst the trainers who are represented in 2020.
This race has experienced its share of shock results over the years but, considering just how competitive the event is, the market leaders actually have a solid record over the past decade. Three of the past 10 favourites have come home in front, and given the odds have done well, returning a level stakes profit of 4.5 units.
|Australis||5/1||8st 2lbs||Roger Varian||David Egan|
|Carnwennan||7/1||8st 12lbs||Charlie Fellowes||Stevie Donohoe|
|Magic Circle||12/1||9st 10lbs||Richard Fahey||Tony Hamilton|
Australis – 5/1
Roger Varian enjoyed an excellent Royal Ascot festival and continues to have his string in solid form heading into the weekend. 19 of his previous 25 runners have finished in the first three at the time of writing. All of which bodes well for the current favourite in this year’s race – Australis.
Zero from six on turf, the switch to an artificial surface seems to have worked the oracle for this four year old son of Australia. Successful on his all-weather debut at Chelmsford last year, he then ran a solid race to finish second at Wolverhampton, despite blowing the start.
Returning to the track at the Dunstall Park venue at the beginning of June this year, he found himself back in the winner’s enclosure having toughed it out from Caravan Of Hope - who also goes here. Yet to race at beyond 1m6f, this trip poses a question mark, but he does look to have room to progress from a current rating of 82.
Carnwennan – 7/1
Also prominent in the market is the Charlie Fellowes runner, Carnwennan. Boasting career form figures of 211822 at around this trip on an all-weather surface, this five year old by Cacique clearly thrives under these conditions. Significantly, the pick of those efforts came at this very meeting in 2019 in the Northumberland Vase consolation race. He did it in some style that day, travelling well throughout before clearing away for a 3½l success at the line.
He is 9lbs higher than for that win last year, but is still only five years old, and arrives in good form on the back of a solid effort over this course and distance last time out. Whilst he couldn’t quite master the re-opposing Smart Champion that day, he did only go down by a mere ½l to that rival, despite being shouldered with a welter burden of 9st12lb. He is 4lbs better off with Smart Champion here, and also has a much more manageable racing weight of 8st12lb to carry. With Stevie Donohoe taking the ride, he looks set to go well at odds worth considering for an each way bet.
Magic Circle – 12/1
Richard Fahey has been enjoying a relatively lean time of things by his standards, but his yard is now showing a few signs that it may be about to spring into life, and it is he who saddles the class act in this year’s line-up, Magic Circle. Now eight years old, he likely is slightly past his best now, but this race has fallen to three eight year olds in the past so it certainly isn’t beyond him. Certainly, if he is within a few pounds of his peak, he has the form in the book to go close.
Five times a winner at 2m+, he has fewer questions to answer than many on the stamina front, and having been rated as high as 116 as recently as May 2019, he would look to be fairly handicapped getting in off a mark of 108 here. That lofty rating came as a result of victories in the Chester Cup and a six length romp in the Group 3 Henry VII Stakes at Sandown, and for a horse whose most recent start came in the 2019 Ascot Gold Cup, this represents a significant step down in class.
Previously with Ian Williams, Magic Circle will be making his first appearance for Fahey, and just his second start on an all-weather surface. The artificial track does pose a question, as he did disappoint in that sole previous effort at Kempton back in 2017. One race is a small sample on which to write a horse off though, and it would be no surprise were he to run a big race once again.
Northumberland Plate Winners
|2020||Caravan Of Hope||9/2||Hugo Palmer||Harry Bentley|
|2019||Who Dares Wins||12/1||Alan King||Tom Marquand|
|2018||Withhold||5/1||Roger Charlton||Robert Winston|
|2017||Higher Power||11/2||James Fanshawe||Tom Queally|
|2016||Antiquarium||16/1||Charlie Appleby||James McDonald|
|2015||Quest For More||15/2||Roger Charlton||George Baker|
|2014||Angel Gabriel||4/1||Richard Fahey||George Chaloner|
|2013||Tominator||8/1||Jonjo O'Neill||Graham Lee|
|2012||Ile De Re||5/2||Donald McCain||Jim Crowley|
|2011||Tominator||25/1||Reg Hollinshead||Paul Pickard|
About The Northumberland Plate: The Pitmen’s Derby
Late June/early July each year sees what is the highlight of the flat racing season in the North East, as Newcastle plays host to the truly historic handicap contest of the Northumberland Plate. Acting as the headline act on the final day of a three-day festival – including an incredibly popular Ladies Day on the Friday – the race is annually one of the main targets of the season for the top staying handicappers in training.
Two miles and 56 yards is the trip in a contest which is open to all runners aged three and older, with a maximum field of twenty all but assured. With total prize money having now risen to £150,000, reduced to £40,000 for 2020, it is no surprise the event proves so popular with connections of those runners for whom stamina is a strong suit.
THE PITMEN’S DERBY
Having first been run not far off 200 years ago in 1833, the race is already one of the oldest of its type run anywhere in the world, but actually has its roots even further back in time. The race which eventually grew into the Northumberland Plate first took place at the now defunct track on Town Moor as long ago as 1623, not taking up residence at its current Gosforth Park venue until 1882.
Taking place in the week which was a traditional holiday period for the thriving local mining industry, the event rapidly became hugely popular with workers in the area who flocked to Gosforth Park year upon year. So synonymous did the race became with the mining community that it quickly became known as the “Pitmen’s Derby”, a nickname which still lingers to some degree today, long past the mining heyday of yesteryear.
FROM MIDWEEK TO THE WEEKEND, TURF TO TAPETA
Considering it has been with us for so long, it’s not too surprising that the race has undergone a couple of changes over the years. The two most significant of which concern the day on which the race takes place, and the surface upon which it is run.
Much like the Epsom Derby itself, this race was initially one of the standout midweek contests of the season, taking place on a Wednesday until 1952.
A more recent alteration came with the decision of Newcastle racecourse to switch from a turf track to a synthetic Tapeta surface in 2016. Roger Charlton’s Quest For More landing the last ever turf edition of the race in 2015. The switch had its detractors at the time, but certainly hasn’t affected the quality of the race in terms of the class of entrants it attracts.
UNDERHAND ABOVE THE REST
There have been a number of hugely popular winners of this over the years including the tough as teak stayer Sergeant Cecil who came home in front for Rod Millman in 2005, and the talented dual-purpose performer Overturn who lead his rivals a merry dance in 2010.
We have to go a fair way back through the history books to find the most successful runner in the history of this race though. That record belongs to a horse by the name of Underhand who took the prize three years in succession between 1857 and 1859.
COLE MINES THE MOST SUCCESS
Rather appropriately given the history of this race, it is Paul Cole who boasts the best record in modern times amongst the trainers, having sent out the winner three times between 1997 and 2001.
PAUL COLE’S NORTHUMBERLAND PLATE VICTORIES
|2001||Archduke Ferdinand||Franny Norton||12/1||8-04||17|
|1997||Windsor Castle||Thomas Richard Quinn||10/1||8-10||20|
The fact that a total of just two wins is the benchmark amongst the riders in the modern era is a testament to just how competitive this race is. Willie Carson and Kevin Darley are the men in the saddle to have recorded those dual successes.