Fahey has the Spirit to land Newcastle pot
JONJO O'NEILL and Graham Lee combine in a bid to secure Tominator its second John Smith's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle this afternoon.
Successful off 90 in this lucrative contest for the late Reg Hollinshead in 2011, Tominator subsequently struggled to make an impact when his rating hovered around 100, before he was able to narrowly exploit a drop to 96 at Chester last autumn.
Since then, he has run well in defeat to be placed in both the Cesarewitch and Chester Cup, but is paying the price for that consistency now, as a mark of 102 leaves him with top-weight here. From an inside draw, such a consistent operator couldn't be written off. Still, there are probably more progressive options than the popular grey among the 20-strong field.
Mubaraza and Montaser are two four-year-olds close to the top of the market, but of more interest from an each-way perspective are last year's winner Ile De Re along with Noble Alan.
The Don McCain-trained Ile De Re has dropped back to the mark of 101 that he won off in 2012 and Jason Hart's five-pound claim means that he is nicely in.
Granted, he has yet to find top form this term, but it would be no surprise were he to do so now on slightly slow ground that he is sure to enjoy. As a 10-year-old, Noble Alan has veteran status at this discipline, yet he has run just seven times on the Flat.
He won over 12 furlongs at Thirsk in September and was an honest second on his first try since then off a three-pound higher mark at Ascot in May. If Nicky Richards' charge sees out the two-mile trip, he has the tenacity to outrun odds of 33/1.
That all said, Ingleby Spirit is the horse that appeals as the likeliest winner of the prestigious handicap. A decent hurdler, Richard Fahey's six-year-old managed just one place from two Flat runs in 2012, but he has promised far more this term.
On his first start since early February, he relished the step up to a mile-and-a-half at Doncaster in April when readily stretching three-and-a-half lengths clear to score in style. He then tackled the Chester Cup over an extended two and a quarter miles, when he stayed on with real purpose to be second, with Tominator just behind and the Ascot Gold Cup runner-up Simenon just behind him in a bunched finish.
Interestingly, he was only ridden out with hands and heels that day, as his stablemate Address Unknown took the lion's share of the spoils. As such, it was a rock solid performance that has since been shown in a particularly good light.
It proved pretty conclusively that Ingleby Spirit has a future in staying contests, and the suspicion is that he remains well-treated off just a 2lb higher mark this afternoon.
Tony Hamilton's mount has to overcome a wide draw, but, on slow ground that he handles well, he certainly appeals as being vastly overpriced at around 16/1.
With the rains having arrived at Newcastle, Jack Dexter is also strongly fancied in the Betfred Chipchase Stakes for Lee and Jim Goldie.
This is a competitive six-furlong Group Three, with David Barron's Greenlands Stakes victor Hitchens a live threat.
However, with six wins on soft or worse, Jack Dexter excels when there is a bit of cut underfoot.
A fine sixth behind the likes of Society Rock and Lethal Force at York in May, he defied expectations when fourth to Sole Power over five furlongs on drier ground in the King's Stand at Royal Ascot, so should be hard to beat now.
Over at Newmarket, William Haggas has found Harris Tweed a decent opportunity to score for the first time in more than a year in the Fred Archer Stakes.
Godolphin's reappearing Lost In The Moment is a danger, but Harris Tweed showed enough when second to Willing Foe on his Newbury return to warrant support in this company.
Best bet: Jack Dexter