McCain happy to uphold tradition with Overturn

The Northumberland Plate, one of the calendar's longest-established marathons, was first run in 1833, a year which was, topically enough, also a significant one for the nation's finances. It was then that the Treasury first became a ministerial department; the inaugural Chancellor of the Exchequer to deliver a budget under the new regime, Viscount Althorp, was a Whig, an early sort of Liberal.

One of the anomalies of the racing programme is indeed a fiscal one; absolute merit is not always the quality that is best rewarded. Saturday's venerable contest at Newcastle, a handicap that is often won by one of the lightweights, the least performers in the field, has a prize fund of £175,000, which is more than any of the Group Two races run at Royal Ascot last week and not that far adrift of the £250,000 for the Gold Cup, the premier stayers' prize, itself.

But then, the elite pinnacle being as narrow in this as any sport, it is the rank and file who keep the game afloat. And this particular race is one 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 soubriquet, "the Pitmen's Derby", is now anachronistic, perhaps a two-mile gallop round Gosforth Park demands a stolid enough work ethic.

A hurdler won the Gold Cup last week, jumps trainers have done well in the Northumberland Plate in recent seasons and three towards the top of the market for the latest renewal hail from yards most readily associated with the hard graft of obstacles. Overturn, for instance, is in the care of Donald McCain, and his victories this year have included the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

The six-year-old, runner-up in last month's Swinton Hurdle on his latest outing, won on the Flat before joining McCain last autumn. "It's a bit of a shot in the dark," said the trainer yesterday, "but it has been the plan for a while, and we swerved Ascot for a go at this. He's got the profile of a horse who could run well and I think the race will suit him; he races prominently and a strong-galloping two miles will be right up his street."

One who would dearly love to take the prize is Howard Johnson, whose Billy Row yard is just 20 miles from the track and whose principal patron, Graham Wylie, is from Newcastle. His representative Moon Indigo had a hurdles career planned when acquired as an Aidan O'Brien throw-out in October but has not raced since.

"He needed a bit of time off after we got him," said Johnson, "and then because of the bad weather we ran out of time to send him jumping. He's ready to run now, though, and stays well – that's all he does, he just keeps going and going – and we'd like to give him a couple of runs on the Flat. He wouldn't want the ground too fast but, all being well, he'll be there on Saturday."

Though steeped in tradition, neither the Northumberland Plate nor the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Sunday can hold a candle to today's Carlisle Bell, which has its roots in the 16th century and its eponymous original silver trophy in a local museum.

The Irish Derby, first run in 1866, attracted 11 declarations at the penultimate stage yesterday. Five are trained by O'Brien, going for his eighth victory and fifth in a row in a Classic that has become something of a Ballydoyle benefit.

The last four runnings have provided consolations for Dylan Thomas (third at Epsom), Soldier Of Fortune (fifth), Frozen Fire (11th) and Fame And Glory (second). This time the squad, seeking a first Classic of the year for the Co Tipperary operation, will be headed by the Epsom fourth and fifth Jan Vermeer, the early favourite for this weekend, and Midas Touch.

The last winner from these shores was the Godolphin filly Balanchine 16 years ago; Sheikh Mohammed's interests will be represented chiefly this time by the Mark Johnston-trained Monterosso, supplemented yesterday at a cost of €150,000 (£124,000) in the wake of his impressive King Edward VII Stakes win at Royal Ascot last Friday.

Turf account

* Sue Montgomery's Nap

Humidor (7.40 Bath) Came up against a sharply progressive type last time out after winning over six furlongs. Uphill finish here should suit.

* Next best

Huzzah (3.15 Salisbury) Has not won for more than two years but has come down in the weights and his last few performances have been solid enough.

* One to watch

Swinging Hawk (I Williams) Looks a worthwhile staying recruit from France, judging by his unlucky neck second in the Pontefract Cup on Sunday.

* Where the money's going

Sariska was installed 7-2 favourite for Saturday week's Eclipse Stakes by sponsors Coral after a trip to Ireland this weekend was ruled out yesterday.

* Chris Mcgrath's nap

Mataaleb (3.50 Salisbury)

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
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

1st line call logger/ User access administrator

£9 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Warrington a...

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star