Newcastle's been given the go-ahead, and Keith Melrose is heading there for today's placepot...
At the time of writing, the field size for the Northumberland Plate sits precariously on sixteen, so a prayer for no further non-runners is the first requirement. After that, put The Betchworth Kid in your perm.
14:15 - The Chipchase Stakes kicks off the placepot, and it's pretty much a stock-standard lower pattern-level sprint. The key difference, though, is that there are only nine runners, making our task that bit simpler. Both Eton Rifles and Maarek are fairly reliable as far as sprinters go, are within hailing distance on the Timeform ratings and, crucially, both have plenty of form on softer ground. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Hopefully.
14:45 - With this being a placepot perm we don't always look for marvellous value, preferring to take reliable sorts and duck dodgy favourites, but here we'll make an exception. A seven-year-old sprinter by the name Marvellous Value stands out in this tricky-looking race on account of his being on a decent mark (second in last year's Ayr Silver Cup from 2lb higher), having plenty of form both at this course and on softer ground and because last time he shaped as though a return to form isn't far away. Tajneed is another that's adept on testing ground and, for all he's clearly not the force of old, he is holding his form well this year and now sits on a mark that reflects the ability he retains.
15:20 - At the time of writing, the field size for the Northumberland Plate sits precariously on sixteen, so a prayer for no further non-runners is the first requirement. After that, put The Betchworth Kid in your perm. The fact he's never run on heavy and has won on firm isn't a big issue, with him having a Flat win and plenty of hurdles form on soft ground, while his reappearance was more than encouraging enough to think he'll be back in the groove now. Our second spot goes to Lexington Bay, twice a winner on softer than good last year and his only flop in 2012 coming when he was poorly placed in the Queen Mother's Cup. Veteran Halla San is perhaps a surprising third choice, but his selection comes from the same school of thought as Tajneed's, while he of course has a second-placed finish in this race to his name already.
15:55 - With lines totting up, we're in need of a banker at some stage, and this looks to be the best opportunity we're going to get. It was only two days ago that Memory Cloth finished third here, but the quick turnaround is the only doubt. The pair who finished ahead of Memory Cloth (who was in turn well clear of the fourth) that day both have good profiles, so coming into this race of the same mark puts him in a good position from a handicapping perspective. Throw into the mix that he's done most of his racing on softer ground and is himself generally forward-going and the case for Memory Cloth becomes even more compelling.
16:25 - With just four runners left in this maiden, we're going to take them all. The market suggests that perhaps debutant Red Gift isn't showing as much at home as his pedigree would imply, but even so that pedigree is enough to force us to keep him on side.
16:55 - This field has been decimated by non-runners, more than any other on the card, leaving us with a tricky seven-runner affair. Our first selection is sole three-year-old Party Line, who hasn't been out of the frame this year (two of those runs came on heavy ground) and has been fitted with blinkers, presumably as a precaution on this drop back to ten furlongs. Second spot goes to Amazing Blue Sky, another who's firmly proven on testing ground and has been on something of a recovery mission in 2012, posting his second win of the campaign over a similar trip to this at Haydock last time.
14:15 - 4, 5
14:45 - 8, 9
15:20 - 7, 16, 18
15:55 - 3
16:25 - 2, 3, 4, 6
16:55 - 3, 12
= 96 lines
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