Doubles all round as Tominator leaves it late to claim marathon victory

 

The victory of 8-1 shot Tominator in the Northumberland Plate, by a short-head after a steely-nerved ride from Graham Lee, neatly ticked some statistical boxes.

The horse became the first since Tug O'War in 1978 to take two editions of the marathon handicap, while his rider is now the only man to have won Newcastle's top long-distance prizes under both racing codes; in his days as a jump jockey he took the 2006 Eider Chase on Philson Run.

Tominator's trainer Jonjo O'Neill, though best-known for his exploits at venues like Cheltenham or Aintree, is just as versatile. Yesterday's was his second valuable Flat prize in 12 days, after Well Sharp's Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting.

In yesterday's two-miler nothing was galloping more purposefully a quarter of a mile out than Tominator, but after Oriental Fox (20-1) broke clear of his 17 rivals going to the final furlong, the top-weight's way to go in pursuit was briefly blocked. But Lee, riding the gelding for the first time, kept cool and patient and once in the clear and with a willing partner, landed the £92,000 spoils in the last two strides. "Jonjo told me to be brave," he said, "and when you're given instructions by a man like him, you're better off following them. And massive credit to the horse for the way he picked up and battled."

Third place was shared by Mubaraza, the 15-2 joint-favourite, and Brockwell (20-1), with the runner-up's Mark Johnston stablemate Scatter Dice (33-1) fifth. The other market leader Handsome Man beat only one home.

When Tominator won his first Northumberland Plate two years ago with a similar late swoop, he was saddled by the late Reg Hollinshead, who died last month. "Reg did a great job with the horse," said O'Neill, "and left a little in the tank for me."

The grey was acquired as a hurdles prospect last autumn by one of O'Neill's longest-standing patrons, Patsy Byrne. "He enjoys it better on the Flat," said O'Neill of the six-year-old, "and though I was a little worried about the weight he had to carry today, as he's got older, he's got stronger and better. And Graham is a great tactician, the sort of jockey you just have tell what a horse is like and he'll ride him spot-on."

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