Make hay with English Summer in the Northumberland Plate

With this sport's financial shortcomings currently under debate and scrutiny, it is not entirely inappropriate that the Northumberland Plate was founded in a year significant in Britain's fiscal development.

The Newcastle marathon, which offers today's most valuable domestic first prize, was first run in 1833, when the Treasury first became a ministerial department as part of a shift towards prudent accountability. The rest is undoubtedly history, which can be viewed with sighs and cynicism as appropriate.

In racing's own little world the latest suggestion for reform seems quite a sensible one; that the better stuff should be underpinned from the (ever-decreasing) statutory pot and the rubbish made to take its chance with market forces. But it is only a suggestion and if the Coalition thinks it has problems with argumentative factions, then welcome to the sods of the Turf.

More immediately, though, the weekend's fare appeals from nearly all points of view, even ones that are neglected in apparent defiance of logic. There are opportunities to take the bookmakers on in big-field handicaps; there is class to be savoured, principally in the form of the last of the mainstream Derbys in Europe; there is future talent to be spotted, delightful settings to be savoured and history to be absorbed. Even the geographical spread of entertainment has a modicum of balance.

One of the moot anomalies in the programme is that absolute merit is not always the quality that is best rewarded. The Plate, which, as a handicap, can be won by one of the least talented in the field, has a prize fund of £150,000, which is not only considerably more than the Group Three and Listed contests at Newmarket today which have attracted intrinsically more gifted athletes, but more than any of the Group Two events at Royal Ascot last week.

Yet, the elite pinnacle being as narrow in this as in any other sport, perhaps the rank and file who keep the game afloat should have their chances for a decent payday and the Northumberland Plate is a challenge long held in affection and enthusiasm by both public and professionals.

Time was when its running provided a rare enough day out for local mining families and, though its consequent sobriquet "the Pitmen's Derby" is no longer appropriate it can remain a respectful nod to a heroic heritage. And a two-mile gallop round Gosforth Park does, after all, demand a stolid work ethic.

Of course, if the Northumberland Plate was antipodal, this day would be the one that stops a nation. The venerable contest bows in value among two-mile handicaps worldwide only to the Melbourne Cup. As an acknowledgement, a degree of twinning has occurred; the horses placed today will qualify automatically for the first ballot for the £4m Australian race. Whether they would be good enough to proceed further only time will reveal but English Summer (3.05), who is handily drawn and who may be still open to improvement, can take a step in the right direction.

From one "Derby" to a real one, with infinitely more riches at stake, and not just today. Tomorrow's Irish Derby offers a purse of €1.25m (£1.1m) but the real dividend may come later, for a well-bred colt at stud. The favourite for Ireland's premier contest, Carlton House, runs in the colours of the Queen and would be a fitting winner as a first royal runner in the race in the year of the monarch's first visit to the country.

The regal, gold-braided, purple and red silks have a chameleon quality, though. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt, who defied assorted pitfalls to finish a close third in the Derby at Epsom, was a gift to his present owner from Sheikh Mohammed and it seems inconceivable that, should the son of Street Cry take his place among the season's middle-distance elite, he will start his career as a stallion under any other banner but the sheikh's.

Ranged against him is the formidable armoury of the Maktoums' arch-rivals, the Coolmore Stud partners, in the form of four of the other seven runners. They include Treasure Beach and Memphis Tennessee, whom Carlton House split three weeks ago, with Seville and Roderic O'Connor as back-up.

Their trainer, Aidan O'Brien, has sent out the last five winners and eight in all and, though Seville, unsuited by Epsom's gradients, can emerge as best of his squad, his hegemony may be about to end. Carlton House (3.50), to judge by his homework, has progressed since Epsom and can throw down the gauntlet to the French-trained, Coolmore-owned Derby winner Pour Moi, currently on a summer break. There would, too, be a certain symmetry in victory for him; the last British-trained Irish Derby winner, Balanchine 17 years ago, carried a royal hue, the blue of the sheikh's Godolphin.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Regal Parade (2.00 Newcastle)

As the winner of two top-level contests he is the class act in this field and can get his head in front again on his favoured easy ground and over a stiff six furlongs.

Next Best

Loving Thought (6.50 Lingfield)

Ran better than her finishing position suggested last time – the pace was messy and she was keen – and may be on a lenient mark for her handicap debut.

One To Watch

Once a horse with innate ability starts to thrive, a sequence can follow. Ted's Brother (Richard Guest), off the mark at Newcastle on Thursday, may be an example.

Where The Money's Going

Midday is 8-11 favourite to see off Snow Fairy in today's mouthwatering meeting of the superfillies, the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?