Thursday 7 December 2023

Northumberland Plate

The Northumberland Plate has been run at its present venue, High Gosforth Park, which houses Newcastle Racecourse, since 1882. However, in 2016, the owners of Newcastle Racecourse, Arena Racing Company, replaced the turf course with Tapeta and, since then, the Northumberland Plate has been run on the new synthetic surface.

Until the middle of the twentieth century, the Northumberland Plate was run on a Wednesday, as the highlight of a holiday period for local mineworkers, known as 'Races Week', and was known colloquially as the 'Pitmen's Derby'. The race was moved to a Saturday in 1952 and, nowadays, forms the centrepiece of the third and final day of the Northumberland Plate Festival, which is staged annually in late June or early July.

Run over an extended two miles, the Northumberland Plate is a Class 2 handicap open to horses aged three years and upwards. With total prize money of £150,000, it is one of the most valuable races of its kind run anywhere in Europe and, unsurprisingly, remains one of the highlights of the Flat racing season in the north of England. Just one horse, the diminutive Underhand, trained by John Fobert, has won the Northumberland Plate three times, in 1857, 1858 and 1859, and also finished second in 1860. Much more recently, other notable winners of the historic race have included Celeric in 1996, Sergeant Cecil in 2005 and Overturn in 2010.

Sunday 15 October 2023


Nowadays, Galileo, by Sadler’s Wells out of Urban Sea, is best known as a champion sire. Indeed, in 2017, he was named leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland for the ninth time in ten years, with 12 Group 1 winners, including Classic winners Churchill and Winter, and just under £12 million in prize money. Since 2012, he has stood exclusively at Coolmore Stud, Co. Tipperary, for a “private” fee, which is reputed to be in excess of €400,000.

In a racing career lasting exactly a year and a day, Galileo won six of his eight races, including the Derby, the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in 2001, and earned over £1.6 million in prize money. He raced just once as a juvenile, winning his maiden, over a mile, at Leopardstown, by 14 lengths from subsequent winner Taraza. He reappeared in the Listed Ballysax Stakes, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at the Co. Dublin course the following April when, at odds of 1/3, he made short work of stable companion – and future St. Leger winner – Milan, winning easily by 3½ lengths. He stepped up in class for the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial over the same course and distance less than a month later but, although he had to work a little harder for victory, he stayed on strongly to beat Exaltation by 1½ lengths.

As an unbeaten colt with a top pedigree, owned by Mrs John Magnier and Michael Tabor and trained by Aidan O’Brien, it was really no surprise that Galileo started joint favourite, at 11/4, for the Derby at Epsom. His main market rival, Golan, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, was also unbeaten and already a Classic winner, having beaten Tamburlaine in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket the previous month. Nevertheless, it was Galileo who prevailed, leading inside the final quarter of a mile and drawing clear for an impressive 3½-length win over Golan, with Tobougg a never-nearer third, beaten a further neck. Galileo earned a Timeform rating of 132, making him one of the best Derby winners since the turn of the century, alongside Authorized and Workforce.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Ryan Moore

Born on the 18th September 1983, Ryan Moore is an active flat racing jockey from Brighton that to date, has won the champion jockey title three times, as well claiming many other British classics. They include two Epsom Derby triumphs, two Epsom Oaks wins, two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes and the St Leger Stakes in 2017.

Right now, he is the primary jockey for the stable of Aidan O’Brien and Ballydoyle, which means that the majority of his rides are on horses from the Coolmore Stud.

In the Blood

Ryan Moore’s involvement with horse racing comes as no surprise, as many of his family have been connected to the sport over the years in a number of different capacities. His father, Gary L Moore is a successful trainer and he has two jockey brothers, Jamie and Joshua, as well as his sister Hayley Moore who is a leading light in amateur racing.

He even has an Aunty Candy who plies her trade as a professional jockey, so you could say that he belongs to a racing mad family.

Early Start

Having showed an interest in racing as four year old, Ryan joined a local pony club and after finding the experience a bit too ‘tame’ for his liking, he progressed to competitive racing at the age of 12. He joined the big time at the age of 20, becoming part of the Richard Hannon stable, for who he was still riding as late as 2013.

The first major race won by Ryan Moore was the 2002 Cesarewitch Handicap, which he claimed in the saddle of Miss Fara and whilst he wasn’t exactly lighting the flat racing world on fire, he would still become a Champion Apprentice in 2003.

In the years since, the jockey has ridden winners for St Michael Stoute and Aidan O’Brien and at the age of just 34, he still has many years ahead of him and no one would bet against him becoming flat racing champion again soon.

Time will tell just how iconic this jockey can be and where it places him in the pantheon of the sport’s greats.

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Willie Carson

Having been born and raised in Stirling, Scotland, Willie Carson 75, has been an ambassador for horse racing for many years and is a face is familiar to most people living in the United Kingdom. Featuring on television for decades, he was once a team captain of BBC1’s Question of Sport, appearing nationally every Saturday evening.

He earned his name in the sport that he still loves today and his journey began as an apprentice to North Yorkshire based Captain Gerald Armstrong. His first win of note came at Catterick Bridge in the Summer of 1962, when he rode Pinker’s Pond to victory in an apprentice handicap.

Willie Carson learned his trade over the next decade, at which point, he really came to prominence. 10 years after winning his first ever race, he went on to win his first British Champion Jockey title in 1972 and then again in 1973. It was a feat he repeated three more times, coming out on top in 1978, 1980 and 1983.

Ironically, Carson’s best ever tally came 7 years later in 1990, riding to an astonishing total of 187 winners. In many other years, this would have been enough to claim the Champion Jockey mantle, but the imposing figure of Pat Eddery stood in his way and got there first with a staggering 209 winners.

That same season saw Carson become one of just 4 jockeys ever to win 6 winners at the same track on the same day in the whole of the 20th century.


Carson always looked after himself and this allowed him to continue until well into his 50s. In 1996, he retired at the age of 54 and was very much still at the top of his game. In 1983, he was deservedly awarded an OBE for his contribution to horseracing and will certainly go down as one of the greats.

Sunday 23 April 2023

Hampton Novices' Chase


The Hampton Novices' Chase is a Grade 2 novices' steeplechase run over 3 miles at Warwick in January. Open to horses aged five years and upwards, who start the season without a win over regulation fences, the race was inaugurated, as a Class 2 weight-for-age contest, in 2004. However, it was promoted to Listed status by the Jump Pattern Committee of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in 2015 and, having continued to exceed the required rating parameters, was promoted again, to Grade 2 status, in 2020.

In the relatively short history of the Hampton Novices' Chase, Paul Nicholls has saddled four winners, namely Gungadu (2007), Rocky Creek (2013), Next Destination (2021) and Threeunderthrufive (2022) and is the leading trainer so far. As far as future winners are concerned, it is worth noting that, despite field sizes of no more than seven, just three of the last ten renewals have been won by the favourite, who was odds-on on all three occasions. That said, the longest-priced winner in that period was Sego Success, who was sent off 5/1 third favourite in 2015, so the Hampton Novices' Chase is no get-rich-quick scheme either.

Course form, even winning course form, appears unimportant, but all bar one of the last ten winners had previously won at least once between 2 miles and 7 furlongs and 3 miles and 1 furlong. Other recent trends suggest that the runners on which to concentrate are those aged seven or eight years, officially rated 137, or higher, with recent, last time out winning form, preferably within the last seven weeks or so.

Sunday 5 February 2023

Ryanair Chase

The Ryanair Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 2 miles, 4 furlongs and 127 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in March. Open to horses aged five years and upwards, the race is a relatively recent addition to the Cheltenham Festival programme, having been inaugurated in 2005, when the Festival was extended from three days to four. The Ryanair Chase can be considered a replacement for the Cathcart Challenge Trophy, which was run for the last time in 2004, although in its final incarnation the Cathcart Challenge Trophy was restricted to steeplechasers in their first or second season. 

Officially registered as the Festival Trophy, the Ryanair Chase initially held Grade 2 status, but was promoted to Grade 1 status in 2008; the race has been sponsored by Irish budget airline Ryanair for all bar the inaugural running. Nowadays, the Ryanair Chase is the feature race on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival and is ideally suited to top-class steeplechasers who lack the speed required for the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the stamina required for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Two horses, namely Albertas Run (2010 and 2011) and Allaho (2021 and 2022), have won the Ryanair Chase twice. Willie Mullins, trainer of Allaho, also saddled Vautour (2016), Un de Sceaux (2017) and Min (2020) to victory and is the leading handler in the short history of the race. Looking ahead to the 2023 renewal of the Ryanair Chase, scheduled for 2.50pm on Thursday, March 15, Allaho could attempt an unprecedented hat-trick and is currently a short-priced favourite to do so. However, the opposition, headed by the likes of Galopin Des Champs – a desperately unlucky loser in the 2022 Turners Novices' Chase – looks certain to be strong, so adopting a waiting brief may be the best ploy.

Tuesday 3 January 2023

Arkle Challenge Trophy

The Arkle Challenge Trophy is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 1 mile, 7 furlongs and 199 yards on the Old Course at Cheltenham in March. The race is open to horses aged five years and upwards who, at the start of the current season, have yet to win a race over regulation fences. Named after Arkle, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years running, in 1964, 1965 and 1966, the Arkle Challenge Trophy was established, in its current guise, in 1969. Currently scheduled as the second race on the opening day of the Chelteham Festival, the Arkle Challenge Trophy is, in fact, the leading race of its kind in the British National Hunt calendar.

Of course, it follows that the best novice steeplechasers over the minimum trip become the best steeplechasers in open company; in recent years, Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, Voy Por Ustedes, Sizing Europe, Sprinter Sacre, Altior and Put The Kettle On have all won the Arkle Challenge Trophy followed by the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the next Cheltenham Festival. Nicky Henderson, trainer of Sprinter Sacre and Altior, also saddled Remittance Man (1991), Travado (1993), Tiutchev (2000), Simonsig (2013) and Shishkin (2021) for a total of seven wins and is the leading handler in the history of the Arkle Challenge Trophy.

Looking forward to the 2023 renewal of the Arkle Challenge Trophy, which is scheduled for 2.10pm on Tuesday, March 14, the ante-post lists are dominated by Jonbon and El Fabiolo, who finished miles clear when first and second in the Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree, and Sir Gerhard, a comfortable winner of the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. At longer odds, Monmiral, described by trainer Paul Nicholls as 'a proper horse', has always looked an embryonic steeplechaser in the making.