Big rise in weights no problem as progressive Quest For More lands Northumberland Plate

George Baker is an infrequent visitor to Newcastle but the rider left Tyneside on Saturday with the two biggest races of the track’s year in the bag, including the final John Smith’s Northumberland Plate to be run on turf with Quest For More.

Big rise in weights no problem as progressive Quest For More lands Northumberland Plate

Trainer Roger Charlton feared the handicapper had caught up with his five-year-old, who had risen a stone in the weights from just two runs this season.

Punters still fancied his chances, though, and sent him off the 15-2 second-favourite behind local hope Seamour.

Seamour was one of four runners for Brian Ellison, who gets more desperate to win the prize with each passing year as a north-east native, but having travelled strongly into the straight from his bad draw, the market leader faded into sixth.

Clever Cookie, heavily backed in the morning, was a late non-runner due to the ground quickening up under clear blue skies, probably conditions hated by Baker, who spends half his life in a sauna.

But he looked cool as a cucumber during the race, as Quest For More quickened to the lead and had a length and a quarter to spare over the Willie Mullins-trained Max Dynamite, with Nearly Caught third and last year’s winner Angel Gabrial fourth.

“I haven’t actually seen the race as I was involved with getting Huntsmans Close (who won) down to the start following his antics last week,” said Charlton, speaking from Windsor.

“The first I knew about it was when someone came and congratulated me.

“The surprising thing is he looked an exposed handicapper last year, creeping up the weights, but after today’s race it is not stretching it to suggest he has found another 20lb of improvement from somewhere – as to where from I have no idea.

“Handicaps are out now, so we’ll be looking at Listed and Group races as the prize money is in the bank. He’s in the Goodwood Cup, but races like that will be very hard to win.”

Baker said: “He travelled great, we needed a smooth run through and we got it.

“The key to him is his high cruising speed, and he has the ability to get out of trouble.

“It’s normally such a rough race, but I had such a smooth passage round. When he got there he was just playing with me a little bit.”

Baker had only ventured to Gosforth Park for three rides in the past five seasons, but he was seen to good effect on Aeolus in the Betfred Chipchase Stakes, as he brought the Ed Walker-trained four-year-old from last to first to win by half a length.

Tim Easterby’s three-year-old Mattmu ran a game race in second, with the favourite Danzeno third.

Walker said: “We brought him back to six furlongs today, but you can see why we tried him over Haydock’s easy seven as he was strongest at the finish there.

“He’s been a different horse since that run, his training has been very good.

“We haven’t been able to run him because of the ground, as he likes a bit of cut, but I had a runner here last night and he just about got away with it today.

“There’s no major plans, we just have to run him where the ground allows.”

Just 35 minutes after winning the Group Three Chipchase, Walker also claimed the Betfred “Six Best Odds Races Daily” Handicap with Bushcraft.

It was a fine piece of training given that following a 600 day lay-off Bushcraft was winning his third straight handicap of the season for owner Laurence Bellman.

Graham Lee timed his winning run right and pulled a length and a quarter clear of See The Sun.

“The conditions were spot on for him today, a stiff six furlongs on nice ground,” said Walker.

“His owner was very patient with him and is now getting his reward.

“He’s in the Bunbury Cup and I’m sure he’ll get seven furlongs, but we’ll take stock.”

Zarwaan (7-2), a late defector from the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last week, came from last to first to win the Betfred Membership “Play Your Way” Handicap.

Ed Dunlop’s four-year-old has run with credit in the Lincoln and Victoria Cup this season so was facing his easiest task for a while and Paul Hanagan had his mount switched off at the rear of the field before he pounced.

“With the weight he had to carry that was a good effort,” said Hanagan.

“We felt we’d change the tactics today as he’s always been handy in the past.

“The ground wasn’t anywhere near as fast here today as last week so we felt safe taking his chance.”

Mark Johnston’s sensational run of form continued when Plagiarism (8-1) made a winning debut in the Betfred TV/Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden

Johnston said: “She’s shown plenty at home and was going to be one of my early ones, but she had a little setback.

“I had a few by Lonhro (sire of winner). One won but unfortunately died, and the others, including her, have shown more speed than I expected, like Rah Rah, but they should stay further.”

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