Koukash duo clash again
Suegioo and Angel Gabrial gave Dr Marwan Koukash a memorable one-two in the Chester Cup at his beloved Roodee and the two stayers again do battle in the John Smith's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on Saturday.
Angel Gabrial is 1lb better off with his old adversary for a half-length defeat and this time has the services of 3lb claimer George Chaloner, who showed the value of his allowance by winning the Wokingham on Baccarat at Royal Ascot last Saturday.
Trainer Richard Fahey said: "We're happy with him and we'll have to see what happens.
"There shouldn't be much between him and Suegioo. We're pleased with the draw (one), everything's good and we're taking 3lb off with George."
Suegioo is trained in Newmarket by Marco Botti, who could not have his charge in better shape.
"He's in good form and has been training well. All's gone well since he won at Chester," he said.
"We've had the chance to freshen him up and give him a short break. I'm looking forward to it.
"The track should suit him, the ground shouldn't be an issue. It's a tough race. He's gone up a few pounds for winning the Chester Cup, but he's in good order.
"He's progressing and we always thought this year could be his best year. The horse has been gelded, so, in a way, he is a little more straightforward than he was as a three-year-old.
"He stays and he's versatile with the ground. He's doesn't mind good ground and he handles soft ground."
Van Percy is a progressive young stayer who steps up to two miles for the first time.
His future lies in Australia after a half-share in him was sold to OTI Racing, based Down Under.
However, the four-year-old will continue to race in this country with Kingsclere trainer Andrew Balding.
"Everything's right. I couldn't be happier with him except for the draw (stall 22). It makes it very tough," said Balding.
"If he gets a bit of luck and get in not too wide he should run a big race.
"The owners have sold a half share to OTI. He's got a long way to go to in contention for a Melbourne Cup but the smaller cup races they have over there he's ideal for. He'll go off to Australia at the end of the year.
"He goes on any ground. This is his first try at two miles, but the way he stayed on at Newmarket over one mile six suggests it won't be a problem."
Newcastle-born Brian Ellison would love to celebrate his 62nd birthday in style with victory from either Buthelezi and Totalize.
Ellison was born on June 28, 1952, the day Souepi justified favouritism in the Plate, and it has been his ambition to get on the roll of honour for the Pitmen's Derby.
Totalize booked his place in the Gosforth Park feature with a convincing victory at York two weeks ago.
Buthelezi is a new addition to the team, having been bought by Ellison out of John Ferguson's stable.
"Totalize was impressive at York," said the Malton trainer.
"He's always been a good horse and ran good races at Cheltenham and in Ireland in the past.
"The difference now is he's learned to settle. Megan (Carberry) gave him a great ride last time and he was impressive so I'm hopeful.
"Buthelezi was bought at the sales to run in this. He's been a good horse and has been placed in some big races.
"He's got a big engine, but we've got to get him back. He's doing everything right at home."
"I was impressed with Totalize at York, though, and he's flying at home."
Sir Mark Prescott believes the current fast conditions could help Big Thunder in his quest to take the big prize on his seasonal debut.
"Big Thunder will love the quick ground. I don't think his wor k has been as impressive this spring as it was last autumn but he loves the firm and he could run completely differently on the track," the Newmarket trainer told At The Races.
"He's not particularly been catching my eye at home in his work. It has been perfectly adequate but he hasn't been giving me the 'wow' factor.
"I think it's true some horses get lazy at home as they get older and I hope it's true of him."
Hughie Morrison will make a late call on the participation of Nearly Caught as he wants to ensure there will be enough ease in the ground for the four-year-old.
"I'm sending the horse up and will take a view in the morning," said the East Ilsley trainer.
"He's been primed for this race since he ran so well at Haydock (second to Noble Silk).
"Maybe we'll have a wasted trip, but it's worth too much money not to take a decision late. I didn't particularly want to stop someone else from running but I've been led astray before."
Nearly Caught was beaten two lengths by Noble Silk at Haydock and the latter's jockey Paul Mulrennan is hoping Noble Silk can overcome a difficult draw in stall 15.
"He likes it at Newcastle, I rode him in a maiden here and finished second and we should have won, really, as I went too early," he said.
"Lucy Wadham's horses are running really well, but we are drawn 15 which is not ideal. I'll need to get across the best we can.
"Obviously you hope for a good break because that first bend comes up pretty quickly and you don't want to be stuck out four or five wide, as then you'll end up using too much gas.
"You also need to get some cover, so even though it's a two-mile race, you are better drawn low."