Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Northern Trainers Home in on Plate

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Northern Trainers Home in on Plate

Article excerpt

Byline: By John Budden

Saturday's 125th running of the historic Northumberland Plate will probably go to a Northern-trained horse for only the third time in 11 years.

The bookmakers support that view and the trainers themselves are quietly confident.

Early betting has consolidated the position of the Alan Swinbank-trained Far Pavilions as the 5-1 market leader from the Mark Johnston duo of Golden Quest and Swift Sailor trading at 7-1 and 10-1 respectively.

Support for the Howard Johnson-trained Balyan is also gathering pace, with the Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned stayer as low as 8-1 with Totesport.

Far Pavilions is a worthy ante-post favourite. Carrying the familiar white and light blue spotted silks of David Abell, this versatile dual purpose performer has been in the form of his life.

Switched to the Flat after winning over hurdles in the New Year, Far Pavilions has notched a quickfire hat-trick.

Successful at Catterick in April, he turned a competitive two-miler at Nottingham into a cakewalk in May and last time out proved his quality by coasting home from Peak of Perfection and Swift Sailor in the pounds 20,000 Sheraton Grand Cup at Musselburgh.

Prize money on Saturday is nine times greater, with no less than pounds 180,000 on offer for the John Smith's-sponsored Northumberland Plate, making this year's renewal the most valuable two-mile handicap to be staged in Europe.

Alan Swinbank, though, is optimistic that Far Pavilions has the ability to step up in class and land the 2005 Pitman's Derby.

He says: "Far Pavilions is a quality horse, probably the best I've trained and on a par with Collier Hill, who has scored bigtime in Sweden, Dubai and Germany since he finished fourth in last year's Plate."

The Scotch Corner handler has just one worry. With a maximum field of 20 a near certainty, he is anxious about the draw.

Swinbank added: "When I ran Gracilis in 2002, he was drawn wide and last season Collier Hill was in the No 14 stall and forced to race on the outside all the way through the race. I shall be keeping fingers crossed for a low draw."

Far Pavilions relishes a sound surface and connections will be hoping that James Armstrong, Newcastle's Clerk of the Course, is not too generous with his planned watering. …

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