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Northumberland Plate: Roger Varian confident Australis will stay two miles

Fri 26 Jun 2020

Roger Varian reports Australis to be in fine shape as the lightly-raced gelding bids to justify his place at the head of the betting for the Betfair Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on Saturday.

The four-year-old made a winning reappearance at Wolverhampton earlier this month, on what was his first outing for 241 days.

He had looked progressive before his absence and the manner of his victory offered the promise of more yet to come.

“He’s a lovely horse. He didn’t race at two, he’s a late-maturing type. He had a good winter and looks to have strengthened up nicely as a four-year-old,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“He won a tidy little race at Wolverhampton a couple of weeks ago and we’ve been very happy with him since.

“Whether he can win on Saturday, I don’t know, but I do know he’s in good form and he’s probably at the right end of the weights.

“I’m confident he’d get the two miles.”

Charlie Fellowes feels the race is tailor-made for Carnwennan as the five-year-old bids to take the main event 12 months on from success in the consolation race.

Carnwennan showed the extended two miles on the artificial surface at Gosforth Park was right up his street when winning the Northumberland Vase decisively last summer.

He has already paid a visit to the north-east circuit this year, finishing a close second over the course and distance in February.

“He loves Newcastle. He obviously won the consolation last year and this has been the plan for a while,” said Fellowes.

“I did put him in at Ascot, but we decided we’d rather wait for this. A big field really suits him because they go a nice gallop and he loves the track.”

“Drawn 13 is fine. I don’t mind the draw. We’ll slot in wherever we can – there is plenty to be positive about.”

In contrast, Hugo Palmer was left ruing his luck with the draw as his two runners, Caravan Of Hope and Collide, were drawn 17 and 19 respectively.

Caravan Of Hope is the better-fancied of the pair, having run Australis to half a length at Wolverhampton.

“He’s got a good chance. He ran really well on his reappearance and things did not go well for him,” said Palmer.

“He got caught out wide from a bad draw all the way and he’s got a bad draw again. He’s got that to overcome, but both my horses have got bad draws, so if either of them win the jockey will receive an awful amount of praise.”

Collide only ran at Royal Ascot last week, but he has taken the race so well Palmer thought it would be best to give him his chance.

“He’s been so well since Ascot he just may as well run,” said the Newmarket handler.

“He’ll improve for the step up in trip.”

Mark Johnston is double-handed with King’s Advice and Anyonecanhaveitall as he aims for a second win in the historic contest after Quick Ransom in 1996.

King’s Advice was sixth 12 months ago and reverts to handicap company after running in better class races.

“He finished sixth in it last year. He’s found it a bit tough up in Group company, but he ran respectably in the Sagaro behind Nayef Road over the course and distance,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“He’s just struggled to make that transition from top handicaps into Group company so far this year.

“Trip, track and conditions are all fine for him and I’m sure he’ll acquit himself well, as he always does.”

PJ McDonald rides King’s Advice as Joe Fanning can do the required 8st on Anyonecanhaveitall.

“Joe is one of the very few jockeys now that can do 8st,” said Johnston.

“Obviously in normal circumstances he would have been riding King’s Advice, but with that horse getting in and having someone of Joe’s calibre who can do 8st is hard to find. That’s why he’s on Anyonecanhaveitall and PJ is on King’s Advice.

“We didn’t expect him to get in. We thought he’d be in the Vase. There’s only eight runners in that and would be an easy race to win.

“He’s getting in off a low weight. He ran well on his comeback run at Pontefract. I think he’ll come on quite a bit for that, this is a major leap up in class for him but he got in the race so we’ll see how he gets on.”

Ante-post Wokingham favourite Mubakker is aiming for quick consolation after missing the Ascot race when he lines up in the Betfair Backs Racing Welfare Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle.

Sir Michael Stoute felt the ground was too soft for the four-year-old ahead of the big handicap last weekend – and instead he gets to test the water in Group Three company.

The Speightstown colt looked a cut above his rivals when winning over this course and distance on the second day of racing’s resumption, a victory so comprehensive the handicapper raised him 9lb.

He is owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who enjoyed six winners at Ascot, despite Mubakker not running.

“Hopefully Mubakker should run well,” said Angus Gold, the owner’s racing manager.

“We pulled him out of Ascot last week because of the ground, he doesn’t like it soft. The fact he’s been up to Newcastle and won should be in his favour.

“Hopefully he’s a progressive horse and this looks the right race for him.”

Dane O’Neill rides Mubakker, while Jason Watson will sport the blue and white silks on the Owen Burrows-trained Shabaaby.

“Shabaaby has had another year off, he’s had plenty of issues,” said Gold. “This is a starting point for him. We want to see him come home well.

“He has a lot of ability, but he’s never been the easiest horse to train. Owen’s always thought a lot of him, but he’s hard to keep fit.”

One who did run at Ascot last week was Chiefofchiefs, who won the Silver Wokingham for Charlie Fellowes on his first ever run over six furlongs.

“There’s not much else for him after this so I felt this was the right place to go. I think the track is very similar to Ascot, I think he’ll love it,” said Fellowes.

“He’s got a good all-weather record and in Australia it’s completely normal to back up a sprinter a week later.

“He’s had a holiday. He’s only just come out of the paddock and he seems to have taken his race really well. He’s a seven-year-old so he takes his racing pretty good. I’m looking forward to it.

“There’s not much more for him until maybe the Stewards’ Cup, so we thought we’d give it whirl.”

James Tate has enjoyed a good start to the season and has two runners in the three-year-old Dream Shot and the filly Shimmering Dawn.

“They are slightly outsiders, but I thought it looked a very open race. Dream Shot always runs with credit and he’s been Group- and Listed-placed already this year. I’m sure he’ll run his race and he has a nice draw in stall 10,” said Tate.

“Shimmering Dawn is a bit more of a punt. She seems to be better on the all-weather than the grass and she’s a filly that likes to finish late over six furlongs around a bend. We just wondered what she would be like over a straight six on the all-weather and it’s a black-type opportunity.”

Kevin Ryan’s eight-year-old Brando sets the standard, but he was below form on his return when only fifth in the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket.

The other Group race on the card is the Betfair Exchange Hoppings Stakes, in which Ed Dunlop’s Virgin Snow is an interesting runner.

A daughter of Dunlop’s top-class globetrotter Snow Fairy, she is by Gleneagles and won at the third attempt when stepped up to 10 furlongs for the first time at Haydock.

“The step up in trip brought about some improvement for sure,” said Dunlop.

“She’s taking on older fillies and she’s obviously bred to be a better three-year-old.

“It’s still very much a learning curve with her and we are restricted to what races we can run in so we’ve ended up taking her to Newcastle.

“She’s run on Polytrack before when running well in a nice maiden at Kempton, so we’ll have to see. Black type is obviously vitally important to her and to her mother.

“We’re not sure just yet what her optimum trip will be. We hope she might stay a little further, but she can be a bit keen in her races. It’s hard to say so we’ll learn more about her in this.”

Ralph Beckett’s unbeaten Aloe Vera is already a Listed winner, while Andrew Balding’s Look Around has some solid form to her name.

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