TO elevate through the training ranks as Alan Swinbank has is a tribute to his training skills but, much as I admire him, I rarely get his horses right on the day even though the steady flow of winners from his yard is seemingly endless.
Consequently, I tend to stay clear of races in which he is represented. There are exceptions, however, and the Allied Irish Bank (GB) Beeswing Stakes at Newcastle today is one in which he is responsible for top weight Hartshead.
The eight-year-old is only a pound higher than when landing this prize last year and I suspect a recent run at Hamilton when dropped in distance will have primed him for another crack at this target. He was far from disgraced that day and it was his first run for over five months.
Hartshead finished third in a Listed race in Sweden on his final appearance last year before going farther afield to Dubai where he made a couple of appearances at the festival.
Opposition here includes Countdown who is in the form of his life and attempting a hat-trick. He bounced back to winning ways at Catterick on his return to seven furlongs on softish ground and, though he has struggled off higher marks in the past, he defied a 6lb rise when denying Imperial Echo close home at York. He’s up another 4lb but is still one of the leading contenders.
Sir Xaar was a very useful juvenile when scoring in Listed company and finishing runner-up in the Group Two Mill Reef Stakes. However, he has a bit to prove now after failing to build on his first season and is best watched after a 96-day absence.
Mick Channon has a good record with his Tyneside runners and Compton’s Eleven is well handicapped on the pick of his form. While he has been consistent recently, he hasn’t won in this country for three years and is passed over.
The interesting runner is Prince Namid who is 2lb lower than his last win at Haydock in May last year. He ran well enough when third to Tamagin at Redcar six days ago and has other pieces of respectable form this year. His connections have now decided to try him over seven furlongs and that could hold the key to future plans.
Elkhorn was progressive year and hinted this season there is some improvement left in the locker by adding to his tally at Hamilton. However, he has a subsequent disappointing effort at Ayr to put behind him if he is to figure in the finish of the Pimms Summer Handicap.
Every horse is entitled to have an off day and Elkhorn should be given the chance to atone, possibly at the main expense of The Nifty Fox who ran a sound race at Chester on ground softer than ideal following an Ayr success.
Low Flyer returns to the scene of his racecourse debut with every chance of improving on his third to Allahor last month when he finished with some purpose. He gets the nod over Hildegarde and Tuanku in the 123sport.com Maiden Auction Stakes.