Irish Derby Weekend Plus Northumberland Plate Handicap at Newcastle

The weekend is here and after a fairly quiet week following Royal Ascot, and what a week that was, it’s a busy couple of days ahead.

I usually leave the Stobart Rail Northumberland Plate Handicap at Newcastle 3.30 alone but I really do fancy one this year. Natural Scenery disappointed at Lingfield on AWC Finals Day in the Marathon, somewhat unlucky in running, but prior to that she had been winning here, two from two once over track and trip, and I am surprised that 9-1 is about with Hills (was bigger earlier in the week). That course and distance win was very impressive and the filly was worth far more than the 2½ lengths official margin suggests. I have taken the price in the hope she bounces back to form after a near three month holiday.

Elsewhere the Curragh takes centre stage this weekend with the Irish Derby the main event at 5.20 along with a supporting card including the Group Two Railway Stakes on Saturday and Group One Pretty Poly Stakes on Sunday.

Unsurprisingly the betting for the big one has revolved around which Aiden O’Brien horses may or may not turn-up in the build-up; he had over twenty left in at the start of the week! O'Brien has trimmed that number a little and Epsom hero Wings Of Eagles will face eight rivals ion total when he bids to follow up.The Ballydoyle maestro has saddled a record 11 previous winners of the Irish Derby and Wings Of Eagles is joined by Capri, Douglas Macarthur, Taj Mahal and The Anvil from Ballydoyle. British hopes rest upon the shoulders of the John Gosden-trained Cracksman, who was just a length behind Wings Of Eagles when third at Epsom. Gosden, who broke his Irish Derby duck with Jack Hobbs in 2015, was quick to snap up the services of jockey Pat Smullen to replace the sidelined Frankie Dettori. The Jim Bolger-trained Dubai Sand and Grandee from Jessica Harrington's stable make up the home team. The field is completed by Andre Fabre's French Derby runner-up Waldgeist.Just headed in the shadow of the post in the Prix du Jockey Club the French raider is of interest on the softish going if staying this far.  Talking on Tuesday the trainer said how he believed the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is an ideal race for Waldgeist. Fabre last won the Irish Derby with Hurricane Run and as with that colt Waldgeist is also part-owned by members of the Coolmore partnership. Fabre told the Irish Times: "It's a good opportunity for him. I'm sure the pace will be sensible. He stays well and has good acceleration. I think the Curragh is a beautiful track, very well designed. You cannot be unlucky there. It's a very fair course and I've never seen a messy race there.” Get on at 5-2.  

Owners Middleham Park Racing are hoping history will repeat itself in the Group Two GAIN Railway Stakes at 4.40. The syndicate won this with Kool Kompany three years ago, after the colt disappointed in the G.2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. This year's their horse De Bruyne Horse is in the same position as, having won at Ripon and the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom, he performed below expectations in Berkshire –as I know as I was on! Middleham Park racing manager Tim Palin believes a change of tactics could see the Richard Hannon-trained colt in a better light. Palin said: "Going into the Coventry I would have been disappointed to finish third or fourth, to be honest, and he finished eighth, but at the end of the day he was beaten less than three lengths. We rode him like a proper horse on the day and held him up and maybe we would have been better riding him closer to the pace. When he won at Ripon and Epsom, he just ground them into submission and in many ways he reminds me of Kool Kompany. He came out of Ascot as well as can be expected and was as fresh as a daisy on Monday morning. He's travelled over to Ireland and travelled over well, so we're hopeful, but he does need to bounce back. The plan will be to go forward instead of giving him a push-button ride." I am backing him again in the hope he does kick-on and will snaffle the best price on offer as at the time of writing no-one has priced up yet. Murillo, third in the Coventry, will be the jolly.

On Sunday the Group One Pretty Polly at 4.20 sadly won’t see Somehow lining up as she has been given a few weeks off by Aiden O’Brien;  Zhukova and Journey head the market. Dermot Weld inmate Zhukova arrives seeking a hat-trick having won the Grade One Man o'War Stakes at Belmont Park in May. Journey bids to give John Gosden a fourth win in the race. The filly ended her last campaign with victory in the G.1 Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot in October and made a promising return when fifth (tipped on here) to Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup at Epsom a month ago. That will have blown away the cobwebs and the form has been franked by Highland Reel winning the G.1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Idaho winning the G.2 Hardwicke Stakes (Prize Money down the field) and US Army Ranger running a gallant third in the Queen Alexandra since. I have a bit of the 5-2 about her for this.

I wanted to back Frontiersman in the Group Two Curragh Cup but he won’t be lining-up. A weekend long Yankee there if that takes your fancy.

Be lucky