Not a name associated with big Saturday afternoon contests, Deborah Faulkner is targeting an “absolutely huge” JenningsBet Northumberland Plate success with the heavily-supported Golden Rules.
Faulkner is responsible for less than a dozen horses at her Monmouthshire yard and is pinching herself at the fact that she houses the market leader for the £150,000 Newcastle showpiece.
Bought out of John and Thady Gosden’s yard for bargain-basement price of 6,000 guineas in October 2021, Golden Rules did not make his debut for his new connections until appearing at Kempton in March of this year, when he proceeded to make every yard of the running under Oisin Murphy.
With the three-time champion jockey again in the saddle, and owner Gareth Cheshire bullish about his chances in a recent interview, the six-year-old has been backed into favouritism for the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’, which is only heightening Faulkner’s nerves.
She said: “I don’t know who is gambling on him, it’s not me because I don’t bet!
“He’s in good order, Oisin sat on him on Wednesday and he was more than happy with him.
“It’s all in the lap of the gods now and I just hope we don’t end up with egg on our face, but you’ve got to be in it to win it.”
While Golden Rules was out of competitive action for the best part of two years prior to his Kempton comeback, Faulkner revealed he has not suffered any major setbacks.
“We didn’t even attempt to get him on the track last year. For whatever reason they sold him, he had a few issues and we’ve just given him time,” Faulkner added.
“He does a lot of swimming and hopefully that’s sorted out his impatience in a race – he seems to have settled a lot better.
“We’ve just ticked along with him and when we thought he was ready, we had a little pop with him.
“We were originally going to run him over jumps, that’s why we bought him, but the ground wasn’t in his favour at all and we didn’t want to risk him, so we went for the Kempton race.
“He’s worked very well at home, so going to Kempton it was just a case of whether he still had the enthusiasm to race and luckily for us he did.”
Faulkner will not be making the trip to the north east herself, instead electing to watch on from her home in Wales.
She said: “It would be absolutely huge if he could win. We’ve only got 10 horses and I’m not going on Saturday because somebody has to stay in the yard and as three-quarters of our workforce has gone to Newcastle, it’s left to me to do the honours with the remaining horses!
“I will be very nervous, I just hope he lives up to expectations.”
Prior to the Golden Rules gamble, the ante-post favourite was the William Haggas-trained Post Impressionist.
The four-year-old finished second to subsequent St Leger hero Eldar Eldarov on his only previous visit to Gosforth Park and while he has been off the track since winning a lucrative prize at York in October, hopes are high, despite the fact a high draw in stall 19 of 20 is hardly ideal.
“He got a lovely draw in stall 19, that’s helpful! But he’s been training well and should run well,” said Haggas.
“He wants a bit of cut in the ground – he doesn’t really want summer firm – so we thought this would be the right sort of place to start.
“He was very slow to come to hand in the spring, but he’s coming now and has had a good preparation.”
The Newmarket handler has an interesting second string to his bow in Nathanael Greene, who like Post Impressionist will be tackling the two-mile distance for the first time.
Nathanael Greene was fifth at Ascot and fourth at Goodwood in May, most recently finishing just over five lengths behind Gold Cup hero Courage Mon Ami, and Haggas feels he could outrun his odds.
He added: “I thought Nathanael Greene wouldn’t be miles away. He’s got the headgear back on and he clearly needs that, so hopefully he’ll run a good race.
“He’s run two solid races this season and I think he’ll appreciate going up in trip as well.”
Hugo Palmer is also double-handed, with Zoffee and Rajinsky both bringing strong course form to the table .
Rajinsky has finished third and fourth in the last two renewals, while Zoffee plundered last year’s Northumberland Vase – the consolation race for the Plate.
“He’s getting better all the time, Rajinsky. He’s produced two career-bests from three runs this year and we were praying to be able to run him in the Queen Alexandra at Ascot last weekend,” said Palmer.
“I think he’d have been the top-rated horse in the race and I think he’d stay that far, but we are where we are and he’ll have no ground concerns at Newcastle.
“Zoffee is such a consistent horse – if they were all like him it would be an easier game.
“He found the line really well at Ascot (sixth in Ascot Stakes), for all he found it possibly just a furlong too far.
“He’s very well versed at two miles, he copes with that trip and he obviously won the consolation last year, so it’s always been the hope that he could try to follow up in the big one this year.”
The Alan King-trained Rainbow Dreamer is another Newcastle regular and has been kept fresh for this race since winner the Marathon over the course on All-Weather Championships Finals Day in April.
King said: “He’s a much better horse on the all-weather and he seems well when he’s lovely and fresh, so it was always the plan to give him a break and train him for this.
“It’s all gone very well – he seems to love it. He’s a bit higher than he was last year and it won’t be easy off that sort of rating, but he seems very well and this was the obvious place to come.
“Let’s hope he runs well.”