Newcastle invigorated by brown ale

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Prize-money for next year's Northumberland Plate, sponsored by Newcastle Brown Ale, has been boosted to an estimated total of over pounds 125,000 - making the two-mile handicap easily the richest race of its type in Europe.

The figure is almost double the added prize-money for this year's Newcastle race won by Bold Gait and is part of a package increasing prize money at the track to over pounds 1m.

The extra money is part of a new three-year deal with Newcastle Breweries, worth in excess of pounds 250,000. The Plate day cards over the next three years will be worth in excess of pounds 750,000. As well as increasing the prize on offer for the Plate, the deal also sees the introduction of the Newcastle Brown Blaydon Race, a one-mile nursery handicap with an estimated value of over pounds 50,000 - making it the richest nursery handicap in Europe. The inaugural running of the race will take place on August Bank Holiday Monday next year. It will be run on the straight mile which is to be reintroduced to the track for the first time since the early 1950s.

Stan Clarke, who has made a rapid transformation of the Gosforth Park track since taking over as chairman, said: "Racing of this calibre is critical to the success of the sport in the area. I am very proud that together with Newcastle Breweries we have brought big-time racing to the North."

n Newmarket's clerk of the course, Nick Lees, yesterday confirmed that the attendance of 17,172 at last Friday night's meeting was a record for the July Course ."This is the largest attendance in living memory and has come at a time when there has been criticism in the media over the number of fixtures," he said.