A horse returning from a long break could dominate today’s big betting race at Newcastle – and that sets punters a right old conundrum.
Gibbs Hill goes in the feature Betfair Exchange Northumberland Plate – often known as the Pitman’s Derby – on a testing artificial surface.
The six-year-old might be plotted up. But his credentials are dated.
Gibbs Hill has been off the track through injury since scoring at Kempton in July of 2017.
The in-form Royal Ascot winner Roger Varian trains the six-year-old, who was subject of a huge ante-post gamble for owner Paul Smith.
However, Smith, the man who saw his colours succeed in the 2014 St Leger at Doncaster with Kingston Hill, denied any responsibility for the market move when I interviewed him on Sky Sports Racing at Windsor Monday night.
Varian said: “It’s a long time since Gibbs Hill last ran and he had all of last year off due to injury, but his recent work has been pleasing.
“He’s been back in training since the turn of the year and this has always been the plan so long as he stood up to the pressures of training.”
Varian added: “His form on synthetic surfaces has always been very good. He’s off [a handicap mark of] 105 now, but he looked very good when we last saw him at Kempton just under two years ago. I’m looking forward to getting him back on the track.”
Gibbs Hill will need to be a Group horse to land this after the lay-off. But he might well be just that.
Another horse who would have set punters a real poser was the Roger Charlton inmate Withhold, the 2018 hero, although he was taken out of the contest yesterday after a bad scope.
It means there is plenty of each-way value against the plunge, including a horse who beat a Charlton hotpot when landing his maiden. It was back in 2015 that Who Dares Wins went to Wolverhampton on the tapeta and destroyed the Beckhampton handler’s Ataman, sent off the 8-15 favourite under James Doyle.
Since then, Who Dares Wins has proved himself an admirable performer both over jumps and on the Flat and I expect him to come home strongly at decent each-way odds. His run last time in the Chester Cup was a fine one, and he might just get buried away in mid division before being unleashed with late stamina.
Elsewhere on the card many eyes will be on Invincible Army in the Group 3 Betfair Exchange Chipchase Stakes over six furlongs.
latest in horse racing
The James Tate-trained stable star has a Group 3 success to his name on the all-weather, and probably found the ground too fast when disappointing in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes won by Blue Point at Royal Ascot. Prior to that he had looked really good at York.
For purists all eyes will turn to the Curragh over in Ireland at 5.20pm, with the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.
Epsom hero Anthony Van Dyck is back in action, as is the Derby fourth Broome, who I think was very unlucky after a poor start.
Bookmakers were very slow on the uptake in the ante-post lists for this event, when it became clear leading hope Sir Dragonet was not going to run.
As a result, I told everyone who would listen to back Broome each-way at about 5-1, and I hope he will turn out to be an excellent wager.
Donnacha O’Brien rides Broome, and his number one job is to get the horse out on terms from the gates. I am hoping the team at Ballydoyle has done a load of stalls practise with the son of Australia. If Broome gets just a fair start I think he will take all the beating.
Ante-post bets include each-way betting covering three places, but those wagering today will also have that luxury after a strange move from Coolmore.
DON’T GO MAD Your in-depth guide to the Irish Derby
We have been told that Coolmore supremo has added Il Paradiso to allow there to be eight runners which triggers bookmakers to pay the full place betting terms. Il Paradiso has no chance on paper, so it seems a strange decision in many ways. It’s hard to explain to first time racegoers that a horse is in a race merely to allow place betting!
Two Derbies today. Two very different races. But lots of questions to answer.