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Georges Saint was a bit of a monkey at Ffos Las. He managed to get the win, but it should've been much more straightforward than what it was as he was 5L clear but idled for the best part of 3f, which gave the runner-up every chance to go past, which he did, but when he did, Georges Saint began to rally.
Newcastle 12:05 – Saunton Surf 5/2 (1pt)
Warren Greatrex has had only nine runners at Newcastle in the last five years, which has resulted in 2x wins, 3x 2nds and 2x 3rds. He sends one up to Newcastle and James Bowen goes up for one ride for Saunton Surf in the opener.
This horse looks like a nice prospect when landing an Aintree bumper. The form looks decent with the runner-up franking the form since. The runner-up is 1/2 over hurdles and has recorded RPRs of 117 & 120 from his two runs over timber.
This looks like a fairly weak race and the hurdles experience that Saunton Surf got at Huntingdon will be a big help, as will hit fitness which will have come on plenty for the run. The Archie Watson runner doesn't look like the strongest of stayers so the step up in trip is a big concern. The Derek Fox mount will be a nice horse for the future and is evidently the Lucinda Russell horse to be on out of the two in the race, but he has to defy a 644-day break.
Newcastle 2:25 – Vocal Duke 4/1 (1pt, All bookmakers apart from Bet365)
With 13 runners in this class 4 handicap it looks like a minefield on paper, but I liked how Vocal Duke bounced back to form last time out at Carlisle with the first-time cheekpieces, so he gets my vote.
The cheekpieces clearly revived this well-handicapped horse last time out, he battled hard to finish 2nd in a slightly worse grade (0-105), but it was promising to see him run as well as he did as he was on a downward spiral from February of this year. The cheekpieces are still on for today's run, so fingers crossed they work their magic two times in a row. This horse is rated 106, and his last win came off 111, and he's finished 2nd off 116 so he's more than capable of winning in this level of race off his current handicap mark.
I am a big fan of Charlotte Jones, she is definitely one of, if not the best conditional jockey riding in the North. Charlotte's strike rate speaks for itself, she has ridden 64 winners from 321 rides which is a 20% SR and the form she has been riding at over the last two weeks is quite incredible, but a lot of that has to be down to the trainer, James Moffatt. James is 5/5 in the last fortnight and Charlotte is 5/6, which is incredible, four have been on favourites and one on a 3/1 shot, but they haven't been on odds-on shots, with the lowest being 2/1. This level of stable form has to be respected, and James is a quality trainer who definitely goes under the radar, so having a horse who is well handicapped combined with the form of the jockey and yard, he looks a bet at 4/1.
Newcastle 3:00 – Hello Judge 5/2 (1pt, Most Bookmakers)
This is a step up in grade for Hello Judge, but I thought he put in a nice performance at Carlisle last time out, and he can still be ahead of the handicapper with just a 4lb increase in the weights.
Ann Hamilton is another trainer who goes under the radar, she does very well with the horses she has and she often improves horses at a serious rate so I can see this horse continuing to win and go through the handicap. 2m 4f is definitely his trip at the moment, as he was outpaced over 2m on his seasonal reappearance at Hexham, but he stayed on strongly, which is why it was no surprise to see him next time out over 2m 4f.
With the ground being heavy, it's a nice spot for this horse to run as he is running off bottom weight and you'd like to think his main rivals are those who are carrying much more. Cruz Control is one of three runners making the journey up from the Tom Lacey stable, but his jumping hasn't been great since moving to fences and on collateral form he should be behind Hello Judge in this contest as Hello Judge was ahead of Jipcot when they met at Carlisle and Jipcot was well ahead of Cruz Control before falling at the last at Ascot.
Newcastle - 12:05 pm
5/2 @ Bet365
Newcastle - 2:25 pm
4/1 @ PaddyPower
Newcastle - 3:00 pm