HAVE punters ever been as excited for a 0-65 in their lives? No, and who can blame them.
The long-awaited return of racing is here as Newcastle gets the show back on the road with a ten-race card. Here's our race-by-race preview.
Race 1 – 1.00 Betway Welcome Back British Racing Handicap
This is far from the Derby, far from a Royal Ascot cavalry charge and no Breeders' Cup race, but who cares, we're back.
It looks at the mercy of the less exposed four-year-olds who are of particular interest if the money comes for them before the off.
Chief to that rule would be STONE MASON and Heavenly Tale who have both been bought out of big yards on the cheap.
Stone Mason has joined Mick Appleby and runs in the colours of the shrewd Horse Watchers, who know when the time is right to strike with a horse. Off a handicap mark of 63, a significant market move makes your job fairly straightforward.
He achieved very little for Roger Charlton, bar a third on debut when fancied at 5-2. A switch to this company combined with market support and you can bet he'll be bang there.
The same more or less applies to Heavenly Tale who has joined Tristan Davidson from Ralph Beckett.
The remainder of the field is mainly made up of all-weather regulars and course specialist Al Ozzdi probably tops those, with Ben Curtis booked to ride.
Curtis rides Newcastle well and this straight mile can become very tactical. He may be in the best position to swoop if the less experienced horses falter.
It's not a race to go wild in, as tempted as you may be. However, a market move for Stone Mason should make you sit up and take notice.
MARKET WATCH: Stone Mason
Race 2 – 1.35 Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap
The second heat is another handicap over the straight mile and the hot favourite is set to be Roger Varian's lightly-raced Mutasaamy.
Judged on his most recent win at Kempton, he is clearly the one they have to beat. But at skinny odds, there is plenty you can use against this horse to take him on.
He showed little to nothing in three starts in Novice company before being gelded. That did something to spark a bit of life into him as a second and that Kempton win suggest.
But he's been off since then and looked far from straightforward at Kempton. He took some getting going and Newcastle is not an easy track on the long straight.
He will probably prove better than this, but at this early stage he doesn't look one to jump on board with just yet.
I'd be prepared to take a small each-way chance on Marco Botti's GEIZY TEIZY who could kick on again as a four-year-old.
She goes well fresh and does have course form to her name under Ben Curtis, who is in the saddle again.
If you forgive her last run where she clearly didn't go a yard, she has a big chance on previous form, albeit if her best has seemingly come on a turning track.
At the prices she looks the play, there could still be some wiggle room in that mark and this is a drop in class.
Another one I wouldn't rule out is Brian Ellison's Little Jo who has a good each-way chance.
His losing run is growing, but the handicapper has given him a sniff again and a return to form at a track he likes is not ruled out. He could be a player at decent odds.
Amadeus Gay is another who looks on a good mark if fit enough to do himself justice.
Race 3 – 2.10 Betway Novice Stakes (Div I)
Things get even trickier here with the first Novice of the season. Twelve obviously go to post again, but with only a third of the field having any prior experience.
As always the betting can provide plenty of clues in races like this.
But on paper Richard Fahey's BOND'S BOY looks the one they have to pass. He won on debut at two before a good third in a big sales race at Newmarket, which was a step forwards.
Who knows if he has kicked on, but Fahey is a trainer you can rely on to have his horses fit and if he builds on that third it will take a good one to better him, especially from the newcomers.
There are some interesting entries from the bigger yards. James Tate runs Blazing Hot and a socially-distanced Simon and Ed Crisford saddle Freedom Flyer. Both make appeal on pedigrees and are worth a check in the preliminaries as well as a glance at the betting.
Karl Burke thinks he has a good one with debut winner Little Red Socks, and why this demands more, this filly wasn't really tested and will probably prove popular with punters.
Keep stakes small here, but get the notebook out.
TENTATIVE NOD: Bond's Boy
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Race 4 – 2.45 Betway Novice Stakes (Div II)
Much of the advice from the previous race stays true here, in the second division of the Novice over six furlongs.
Keep your notebook and tracker close, but your bets small as there's bound to be a couple of above average horses lurking.
The market will focus on the two form horses, with both Magical Journey and ART POWER holding obvious claims.
I prefer the later who looked well above average when winning at York on his second start. He looked a sprinter going places and despite having to give plenty of weight away, looks to be well capable of brushing his rivals away.
He looks an all out sprinter, while in my book Magical Journey may just thrive over further.
The only other horse with form to his name is Twist Of Hay who clearly needs to show plenty more to compete.
The rest all make their first trip to the racecourse proper.
Manumission should be blessed with some speed, being by crack sprinter Muharaar. He's worth a check in the betting.
Others that are worth a look beforehand are Continental in the John Dance colours for Jedd O'Keeffe and Karl Burke's Electric Mistress.
Race 5 – 3.20 Heed Your Hunch At Betway Handicap
The next is really competitive and a number of consistent sprinters make this six furlong dash far from straightforward.
The two at the top of the betting – at the time of writing – both look to be better over five furlongs. And that's important, not just for the obvious, but because the track is likely to prove quite slow in the heat and the straight six can become a bit more of a test than a similar race at Lingfield or Wolverhampton for example.
Because of that, Newcastle regular Tathmeen can be opposed. Heath Charnock is more likely to enjoy the trip, but has been a beaten favourite in five of his last six runs.
Top of the shortlist is therefore Roger Fell's much improved TRICKY DICKY. He won from a mark of 59 last May and is now rated 84.
He has had close to a year off the track too, but has won fresh before and he looked to have plenty more in the locker when winning at York last time out.
This race is no tougher than that, and there's no reason to think he won't act here with Ben Curtis booked. He looks as genuine as they come and looks the bet in an open race.
Towards the bottom of the market, Brian Ellison's Northgate Lad should not be discounted, especially if there is any amount of support for him in the betting.
He made his comeback after two-and-a-half-years here in March, and has clearly taken that well enough to have another crack.
Prior to that you only have to go back three starts to a course win off a mark of 90. He now races off 84 with the same jockey on board.
This is a marked drop in class from races he found himself in earlier in his career, and if fit enough and over his issues looks a player at big odds. Watch the market.
SELECTION: Tricky Dicky
EACH-WAY POKE: Northgate Lad
Race 6 – 3.55 Betway Casino Handicap
Three-year-old handicaps can prove a real puzzle so early in the season and this looks no different.
Weighing up how much a horse has improved from two to three is impossible on paper and will prove hard in the early stages of a resumption with limited coverage of the parade ring, ensuring any physical clues are well hidden too.
But there look two obvious candidates in this field to show us an improved racehorse this season, and both hail from significant trainers.
Kevin Ryan's Oakenshield is far from exposed after two starts in soft ground. The £200,000 purchase should kick on this season and has had a wind-op.
You'd like the market to sing strongly in his favour though as he failed to build on his debut when beaten at 5-4f in a weak race next time out. A mark of 75 is hardly prohibitive though.
Off a pound lower, the preference for the two twice-raced horses is for the Crisford's Rock Of Diamonds.
He only made his debut in February and showed a bit each time to suggest he has a future. And wise connections have made use of the new ruling meaning twice-raced novices can enter handicap company. The drop back to six should suit him.
But the market will likely cotton on to these types and preference is for new Jedd O'Keeffe recruit WRITTEN BROADCAST.
He was busy enough at two for Richard Hannon, and was consistent up until the end of the season when he'd clearly had enough.
Now gelded and off a break, with a trainer who can bring horses forward, he should figure here at each-way odds. He showed enough at two to suggest he's capable off a mark of 74.
A market move for Macho Touch – who was fifth in a Listed race on her second start – would also be of interest from the Karl Burke team.
EACH-WAY SELECTION: Written Broadcast
Race 7 – 4.30 #betyourway At Betway Handicap
It will be small stakes again in the seventh. It's a trappy heat and low on quality.
That said, I'm keen to take on the early favourite Indian Sounds who has possibly been put in at the top of the betting as Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy is on board.
And while Murphy operated at a profit to level stakes for trainer Paul Midgley and a 20% strike rate last season, it would take more than that to convince me this horse will win.
He has never run over five furlongs and little has suggested he would want this minimum trip.
It makes much more sense to side with Jim Goldie's BE PROUD who enjoys Newcastle and enjoys this fast five.
The handicapper left him alone for a good second to a horse now rated in the 90s in January. The run prior to that he won off 5lbs lower under Danny Tudhope.
Tudhope jumps back on board today and the last time out second was still a step forward. This four-year-old still looks well-handicapped off of 67.
Bhangra is interesting for Robert Cowell. She is completely unexposed, but tread carefully. She has clearly had issues and the race she won at Windsor was as windy as they come.
Watch her in the market in tandem with stablemate Tomshalfbrother who won last time out.
Puchita is consistent enough at this level but goes best at Southwell and the same applies to Queen Of Kalahari.
SELECTION: Be Proud
Race 8 – 5.05 Betway Handicap
The feature race of the day is by far the most intriguing. There are some smart types in here.
The market will rightly focus on Sir Michael Stoute's Alginak and John Gosden's GOOD TIDINGS.
Both will probably make up into animals above this grade, but it is Gosden's runner that looks the one to side with from a punters perspective.
A gelding operation should help him kick on again. He raced freely a lot of the time and if he has learnt to race better, should be capable of winning this.
A novice win at the track does nothing to dampen spirits and this looks a good race to start him off in.
He has had obvious excuses for recent defeats and a mark of 89 looks more than fair on what he has achieved. Gosden has a well-publicised great record at Newcastle and he looks the one to beat.
Alginak has only four runs to his name and looks exactly the kind of horse Stoute will bring forward this season. His novice form was only okay though and lacked consistency.
There's no doubt he improved at Kempton on his last start, but you'd like to see more before chancing him in this stronger company.
Phil Kirby runs two and his Ice Pyramid looks very interesting. I'd have him down as the threat to the selection.
This is a tougher race than he's used to, but he thrives at Newcastle and remains unexposed. His latest win was very pleasing on the eye and on the clock.
Cosmelli is another that likes the track, but he probably needs further to be seen at his best.
SELECTION: Good Tidings
DANGER: Ice Pyramid
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Race 9 – 5.40 Betway Maiden Stakes (Div I)
The first division of the Maiden is not much of a betting heat.
FRANKLY DARLING will be very short – especially if John Gosden has already had a winner – and it's hard to oppose her.
She is well-bred and finished an encouraging second on debut. She wasn't mucked around that day and this is a good opportunity to get her head in front.
Dream With Me is also-well bred and also by Frankel. He should be fit enough hailing from Mark Johnston and market support should be noted.
Sir Michael Stoute's Thibaan has a run under his belt and can't be discounted.
Flames Of York hasn't been seen since his debut last July. Karl Burke's runner looks up against it in here, but again, market support could prove critical.
NO-BET SELECTION: Frankly Darling
Race 10 – 6.15 Betway Maiden Stakes (Div II)
Again it is hard to find a concrete bet in the second division of the Maiden. Although the race makes more appeal on paper in terms of horses in the long run.
There are some nice types on paper, and plenty of them are making their first start.
Luck On Sunday cost a cool two-million euros and is a sister to the high-class Alice Springs. She will need to be forward enough and strong enough to win this on debut though.
WISE GLORY is the one I lean towards gently. He has been gelded since his debut at Beverley, where he was clearly expected to go close having been backed into the 13-8f.
The trip is an unknown being by sprint king Muharaar, but there is stamina in the family and he should be well forwards compared to some of the more inexperienced runners in here.
Valyrian Steel makes her debut and looks smart on paper for Roger Varian. Hatheem makes his debut, but for Mark Johnston.
Two other runners with a spin under their belts are Byzantine Empire and Richard Fahey's Assayer. I prefer the latter, but it'll be a watch only finale.
TENTATIVE NOD: Wise Glory
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