The Pitmens Derby

The 'House Full' signs will be up at Gosforth Park next Saturday when Europe's richest two mile handicap, the John Smith's Northumberland Plate, will be up for grabs.

The 'House Full' signs will be up at Gosforth Park next Saturday when Europe's richest two mile handicap, the John Smith's Northumberland Plate, will be up for grabs.

First run in 1833, the £200,000 prize is the target for Nostferatu, trained in Sussex by Amanda Perrett who took the Pitmens Derby in 2002 with Bangalore.

The fast improving four-year-old has won his last three starts, the latest a highly competitive handicap over a mile-and-a-half at Epsom on Derby day.

He steps up to two miles for the first time at Gosforth Park and connections believe the extra half-mile will see further improvement from him.

Nicky Henderson, former champion jumps trainer, does well with his handful of flat horses and he sends his decisive Newbury winner, Sentry Duty, who could shoulder top-weight.

Attivo, in 1974, was the last horse to complete the Chester Cup-Plate double in the same year. Richard Fahey, who has a second string to his bow in Halla Sam, is hoping Greenwich Meantime can do likewise.

He finished third last year, beaten a neck and a short

head by Toldo and River Alhaarth.

Toldo has been sidelined since, and his trainer George Moore relies on mud-loving Macorville.

Derby-winning trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam intends saddling River Alhaarth again and he showed he is in top form with a second at Haydock two weeks ago.

Marcus Tregoning, who saddled Sir Percy to take last year's Epsom Derby, withdrew Newmarket winner Rayhani from Royal Ascot. The injury prone four-year-old needs fast ground and, unless the Hopping men's prayers are answered soon, that seems unlikely.

All we need now is for summer to finally arrive for the start of Wimbledon fortnight - but don't hold your breath!

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