Trainer Roger Varian happy with favourite Australis’s form ahead of Northumberland Plate bid

ROGER Varian reports Australis to be in fine shape as the lightly-raced gelding bids to justify his place at the head of the betting for the prestigious Betfair Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.

Trainer Roger Varian's Australis is favourite for the Northumberland Plate.

ROGER Varian reports Australis to be in fine shape as the lightly-raced gelding bids to justify his place at the head of the betting for the prestigious Betfair Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.

The four-year-old made a winning reappearance at Wolverhampton earlier this month on what was his first outing for 241 days.

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He had looked progressive before his absence and the manner of his victory offered the promise of more yet to come under David Egan, a former champion conditional, in a race affectionately known as the Pitmen’s Derby.

Middleham trainer Mark Johnson is double-handed in today's Northumberland Plate.

“He’s a lovely horse. He didn’t race at two, he’s a late-maturing type. He had a good winter and looks to have strengthened up nicely as a four-year-old,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“He won a tidy little race at Wolverhampton a couple of weeks ago and we’ve been very happy with him since.

“Whether he can win on Saturday, I don’t know, but I do know he’s in good form and he’s probably at the right end of the weights. I’m confident he’d get the two miles.”

Charlie Fellowes feels the race is tailor-made for Carnwennan as the five-year-old bids to take the main event 12 months on from success in the consolation race.

Carnwennan showed the extended two miles on the artificial surface at Gosforth Park was right up his street when winning the Northumberland Vase decisively last summer.

Meanwhile Middleham trainer Mark Johnston – fresh from being this week’s castaway on Radio Four’s iconic programme Desert Island Discs – is double-handed with King’s Advice and Anyonecanhaveitall as he aims for a second win in the historic contest after Quick Ransom in 1996.

King’s Advice was sixth 12 months ago and reverts to handicap company after running in better class races.

“He finished sixth in it last year. He’s found it a bit tough up in Group company, but he ran respectably in the Sagaro behind Nayef Road over the course and distance,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“He’s just struggled to make that transition from top handicaps into Group company so far this year. Trip, track and conditions are all fine for him and I’m sure he’ll acquit himself well, as he always does.”

PJ McDonald rides King’s Advice as Joe Fanning can do the required 8st on Anyonecanhaveitall. “Joe is one of the very few jockeys now that can do 8st,” said Johnston.

Aidan O’Brien’s top-class stayer Kew Gardens has been retired to stud.

Winner of the 2018 St Leger at Doncaster, the Galileo five-year-old memorably got the better of Stradivarius in a thrilling finish to the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on British Champions Day last season, his final outing.

Ridden by Ryan Moore, Kew Gardens came out on top by a nose, but unfortunately never got to run again.

He retires having won six of 17 races and approaching £1.5m in prize-money.