The William Hill Northumberland Plate is the headline feature of a cracking card at Newcastle on Saturday, while there is some good action from Newmarket as well as the Irish Derby at the Curragh.

Here are Nick Luck’s fancies.


MOUNTAIN BRAVE is a sporting selection at 18/1 to go well in the William Hill-sponsored TV opener at Newcastle on Saturday (1.45pm). She has decent course form, is always dangerous from near the front over a stiff six furlongs, and fair bolted up at Doncaster earlier in the year off just a two-pound lower mark. She hated the mud at Nottingham and then appeared unbalanced when reappearing at Hamilton last time. She should have no such fears here and can find her form again.

CHIL CHIL looked a horse going places when last seen and can take the Chipchase (2.20pm) for her red hot trainer at 7/1. A half-sister to the stable’s borderline Group One performer Beat The Bank, she has really come of age, thrashing Lord Rapscallion on the bridle at Newmarket in the spring. That runner-up has run a series of excellent races since, including at Epsom and Royal Ascot, and the selection is almost certainly worth a try at this level, particularly given her decent record on the all-weather. 

AUTUMN WAR (EW) is another big, priced horse, but I’d say just about anything could win the Northumberland Vase (2.55pm). I’m pretty sure we’re nowhere near the bottom of this horse and am as convinced as I can be that he wants all of this trip: 12 furlongs at Epsom last time was a completely inadequate test on unsuitable ground. Prior to that, he was pretty progressive on this synthetic surface and still looks feasibly handicapped. His trainer habitually does well in these big staying handicaps, and he should be sharper for that first run after a break at 33/1. 

MANCINI (EW) is another Ian Williams project I can see cycling back into form, this time in the William Hill Northumberland Plate (3.30pm). Go back to the Ascot Stakes, and you would be convinced two furlongs out that he’d be involved in the finish with his stablemate Reshoun. In the end, that extra distance found him out, but he is clearly in great heart, has been dropped by the handicapper, gets the in-form David Probert, is nicely enough drawn, and won his only start on the all-weather. He’s a 33/1 poke.


DESERT DREAMER is worth another chance in the Empress Stakes at Newmarket (2.05pm). It never really happened for her in the Queen Mary, slowly into stride and racing in the worst part of the track against a pronounced draw bias. She’ll enjoy the fast six furlongs on the July course and, with Oisin Murphy in the saddle, can get back to winning ways at 7/1.

DESERT ENCOUNTER is a token choice at 4/1 in a really trappy Fred Archer (2.40pm). The best horse in the race is Logician, but even allowing for a stiff task against Al Aasy, I thought he again looked listless last time and couldn’t really be backed at short odds. Desert Encounter continues in tremendous form, however, and ran a terrific race at Royal Ascot behind Love. He hasn’t had that many opportunities in the last couple of years to run 12 furlongs on good ground, yet that combination has yielded many of his victories.

DUKE OF HAZZARD is an interesting bet at 12/1 in the Criterion Stakes (3.15pm). He has become a little frustrating, but is nonetheless in decent form, having run well (hampered repeatedly at Epsom) and York (ran the race upside down and saw too much daylight). A drop to a fast seven furlongs with plenty of pace might just be the ticket for him, and I want to be finding a way of beating Kinross unless there’s a bit of rain around, in which case he’ll be hard to beat.


MOJO STAR (11/2) has been my idea of the Irish Derby (3.45pm) winner for some weeks and I don’t see any reason to change my mind now. As I have said, he didn’t really get due credit for an outstanding performance in the Derby, particularly given an interrupted passage through the race. Given his impressive physique he should find the Curragh very much to his liking and the ground should be perfect. He looks nicely drawn just to the outside of the Ballydoyle pace and Hurricane Lane and could get the perfect trip if Rossa Ryan has his wits about him.

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