There are two derbies taking place on Saturday, one at the Curragh and the other at Newcastle. The Irish Derby name speaks for itself but in the north-east the Northumberland Plate is known as the Pitman’s Derby. Its an all-aged handicap which means the race conditions are totally different to the English Derby but it still the most famous and prestigious Flat race on the course. Bookmakers will be fearing the favourite in both races because Saxon Warrior and Withhold have been well backed.
Saxon Warrior was an impressive winner of the 2,000 Guineas and was a warm order for the Epsom Derby. Connections thought defeat was out of the question and there was talk of a Triple Crown. That achievement involves winning the Guineas, Derby and St Leger and it was last achieved by Nijinsky in 1970. The three Classics are run over distances from one mile to one mile six furlongs and from May to September. Saxon Warrior was disappointing in the Derby and finished fourth.
Ryan Moore is considered to be the best big occasion jockey in the sport. His services are sought for lucrative races all over the world and he is seen as a safe pairs of hands in the races that matter most. However, he was not at his best on Saxon Warrior at Epsom. The horse did not have a good position entering the straight. When the gaps opened Saxon Warrior was not good enough to peg back the three horses in front and finished four and a half lengths adrift of the winner, Masar.
Dee Ex Bee finished second in the Derby and had three lengths in hand over Saxon Warrior at the line. The two horses meet again at the Curragh under identical terms but Saxon Warrior had trouble in running and can reverse the form. Masar is being saved for another day and Roaring Lion, third in the Derby, is being targeted at the Eclipse at Sandown. Kew Gardens won well at Royal Ascot but has something to find on form with the two market leaders in the Irish Derby which Saxon Warrior can win.
The favourite for the Northumberland Plate is Withhold who is owned by Tony Bloom, the chairman of Brighton FC and a renowned successful gambler on racing and football and other sports. Withhold landed a huge gamble to win the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last October and the money is down again. However, the horse is fully exposed and will almost have to be Group class to win this year’s Pitman’s Derby. Lightning does often strike twice for the same horse in competitive handicaps.
Withhold is trained by Roger Charlton and he suggested backers should not get too excited about a horse carrying 12 pounds more than in the Cesarewitch. The trainer said in the Racing Post this week:
“I don’t see him quite as positively as I did before the Cesarewitch. The odds appear very short for a race of this nature and I don’t think punters should get carried away”
The long term objective is the Melbourne Cup so the Newcastle race is a starting point and a target. If the horse is too short in the betting there is value further down the list and Amazing Red and Natural Scenery have been backed with this in mind and Withhold looks vulnerable at the weights.