Antiquarium (second right) fights out the finish with Seamour (right)
PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
By Lee Mottershead 4:20PM 25 JUN 2016
Report: Newcastle, Saturday
John Smith’s Northumberland Plate 2m handicap, 3yo+
A VISITOR from the other side of the world denied a local lad victory in the race he cherishes above all others when James McDonald, Godolphin’s retained rider in Australia, broke Brian Ellison’s heart by teaming up with Antiquarium to capture the first John Smith’s Northumberland Plate staged on sand.
For Ellison, born in Newcastle on the day of the 1952 Plate and brought up just ten minutes from the track, the 183-year-old handicap is the Derby, Grand National, Gold Cup and Royal Ascot all rolled into one.
It is the contest he yearns to win above all others. He came within moments of winning it.
Ellison may live in North Yorkshire but his accent makes clear he is a Geordie to his core.
Along with thousands of fellow Geordies in the packed Newcastle stands the trainer of 13-2 favourite Seamour became convinced an emotional success was heading his way when the stayer he had long since targeted at the £150,000 feature stormed into a clear lead halfway down the now Tapeta home straight.
Then a Kiwi, not this time an All Black but a jockey in all blue, came from nowhere aboard 16-1 shot Antiquarium to end what turned out to have been horribly premature celebrations.
Indeed, such was the strength of Antiquarium’s late surge, he came home a length and a quarter in front.
So close for Ellison
“Seamour was going too well,” rued Ellison, tears in his eyes. “He looked the winner a furlong out. He is a good horse and it’s a shame he got caught. At least he has run his race and there is a good race in him.”
That good race, however, may now never be the Plate, in which the five-year-old last year finished sixth when also sent off favourite.
On that occasion the marathon was run for the final time on grass. Only two weeks earlier confirmation had come that the 2016 Plate would mark a new chapter in the historic event’s story by becoming the first held on an all-weather surface. Ellison had been one of the trainers to heartily welcome that change. His positivity was so nearly rewarded with what would have been a popular success.
First for McDonald
Instead, though, the glory went to the Charlie Appleby-trained Antiquarium, who had showed his liking for racing on an artificial track by breaking his maiden tag at Wolverhampton last year. This, though, represented by far his biggest victory.
“It’s my first winner over here, so it’s a nice way to do it,” said McDonald, whose Newcastle success also gave him the opening winner of his latest British stint.
“He’s travelled very sweetly through the race, and though the runner-up got away I always thought I had a chance.”
Appleby’s assistant trainer James Ferguson said: “James has given him a fantastic ride. There was a moment of worry halfway up the straight, but with the benefit of hindsight we can say we weren’t panicking!
“There’s a £100,000 race for him at Goodwood, so we’ll look at that. He’ll be as effective back on turf.”
Nearly Caught and cruelly caught
Nearly Caught and Moscato filled third and fourth with the former’s rider George Baker saying: “He ran very well. It was a shame we were drawn so wide but after four furlongs I dictated on my own terms and he ran a solid race.”
As did Seamour, who was not nearly caught but cruelly caught. For the horse who did the catching, Antiquarium, the big target could now be the Melbourne Cup, a race Godolphin would so dearly love to win.
Their wish could conceivably come true on the first Tuesday in November. This time next year, on the fourth Saturday of June, Ellison will no doubt be back at Newcastle, hoping for his own dream to be realised.