BULWARK can prove he’s still one step ahead of the handicapper by landing the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate (3.20) at Newcastle today.
The best way for a horse to make sure the assessor can’t establish a firm grip is to win his races by narrow margins.
And Amanda Perrett’s colt has a happy knack of doing just that – for, although he landed a two-mile handicap at Nottingham last September by two and a half lengths, his remaining four victories have been by a length and a half or less.
That makes it hard for the handicapper to catch up, and Bulwark’s latest visit to the winner’s enclosure, at Haydock three weeks ago, is a case in point.
Taking up the running inside the final furlong, the Pulborough runner didn’t pull away from his opposition, eventually having just half a length to spare over Colloquial.
Given that result to work with, it’s hard for the BHB’s man to give Bulwark a hefty hike in the weights, and despite a 4lb rise the selection still looks well treated.
There are two other factors that weigh heavily in Bulwark’s favour this afternoon – his draw and his jockey.
Statistics anoraks rank alongside trainspotters as interesting people to talk to – but they do have their worth. And when the stats men tell you to avoid horses with a double-figure draw in the Pitmen’s Derby, it’s worth taking note.
It may seem odd to talk about the ef fect of the draw in a staying handicap, but only three horses since 1990 have landed the Plate from stalls 10 and above. The anoraks’ clipboards will also reveal that seven winners in that time have come from stalls five to 10 so Bulwark, housed in the nine box, is OK on that score.
It’s well known that Bulwark’s head carriage – and his apparent reluctance to give his best under pressure – has turned the air blue in the nation’s betting shops.
But in Kerrin McEvoy he looks to have found the perfect partner.
Before the boy from Streaky Bay took his place on Bulwark’s back he hadn’t even seen the inside of a winner’s enclosure.
But since they first got together at Warwick in May of last year, they’ve scored five times out of six tries.
With 20 runners declared, dangers lurk on every corner, and Greenwich Meantime is an improving stayer who is well treated with a penalty for a success at Ayr last Saturday.
But he’ll find it tough to win from stall 18, and a bigger danger could be Dorothy’s Friend, sure to have come on for his comeback sixth to Bulwark.
MASTA PLASTA, winner of the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot at York last June, is fancied to make a winning reappearance in the John Smith’s “Extra Cold” Chipchase Stakes (2.10).
Howard Johnson’s son of Mujadil looked a very useful juvenile when scorching two lengths clear of Strike Up The Band on the Knavesmire.
And, although he didn’t manage to build on that later on in the summer, two of his three subsequent defeats came on softish ground.
Johnson reports Masta Plasta in excellent form for his return to the fray, and the return to six furlongs should hold no fears.
The totescoop6 Northern Sprint (Handicap) (2.45) looks a real punters’ puzzle, but the vote goes to the in-form MY GACHO.
His trainer, David Barron, is fancied to complete a double with IMPERIAL ECHO in the (3.55).