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The Cesarewitch

Winter weather has arrived and the flat season is drawing to a close. Tomorrow is billed as 'Future Champions Day' at Newmarket, but to most, the highlight is still the Cesarewitch, the monster staying handicap which will test any punter or racecaller. @five2tenracing specialise in all-aged handicaps and here, chief analyst Billy Blakeman breezes through the capacity field. Billy writes for a number of sites and his work can be found at BetRacingNation and his OLBG blog.

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3.50 NEWMARKET - BETFRED CESAREWITCH 2M2F

This famous old race is most notable for the fact that it crosses the county line, as they might say in the States. I believe also that with a modern day maximum of 36-runners, it is the largest single assembly of flat handicappers.

Were this a sprint down some abnormally wide straight, the field would doubtless split into groups but here we have a bend. Not a series of bends, not a course where laps are in order (as one visiting American owner once ventured) but a single bend. Any conversations between jockeys are best completed before loading as the chap in stall 36 will be about half a furlong sideways to the chap (or lass) drawn 1.

So, we might consider a high draw damned inconvenient in this race, although anyone drawn low making a mess of the start will see traffic in front of them akin to Bombay in rush hour for the next 2 ¼ miles.

Enough, on to the horses and I am going to give prominence to what would be my top five, with summary notes below for the remainder (where the winner no doubt is lurking).

Top of my list is PALLASATOR, trained by the rather unique Sir Mark Prescott. For anyone not familiar with how Sir Mark handles a handicapper, then look it up but few trainers are so masterful at having one ready for the big day. Many a notable gamble has been landed but in this race, Lady Luck has denied the trainer and his supporters their prize.

It would be a fair concern that this horse beat only a meagre total of 13-rivals in winning all three of his races in 2012 but then as a respected judge once told me, a horse can do no more than win.

Perhaps this gelded son of Motivator’s imposing frame dissuaded the opposition but like many who grow a little more than they should, he has not been without the odd issue physically. Importantly though, having missed the Ebor, a run has been gotten into him and a very respectable third up at Haydock was the result. That should have set him up nicely for this and although his trainer has publicly pondered the question of stamina, one detects a metaphorical ‘twinkle in the eye’ perhaps…..

Next, the Irish-trained Domination jumps out from my double-sided A3 page of notes. I well remember last year’s Cesarewitch Trial, in which this likeable horse put 4 ½ lengths between himself and…whoever came second. Didn’t line up for the big one but he has improved again since, winning at The Curragh off a mark of 85 before finishing second of 20 at Galway in a £34k handicap off 92. Since those efforts in the summer, the 6-y-o has managed to squeeze in a couple of hurdles, winning both unchallenged and earning RPRs of 149 & 154.

Reverting back to the flat, he races off 95 and whilst to avoid paranoia I tend to believe Charles Byrnes (of Solwhit fame) when he references the handicap mark demanding more, I still think this horse holds a massive chance.

Two down, 30-odd to go and for those still with me, Earth Amber is next on possibly the longest shortlist I will draw up all year. Now I don’t know much about this filly so I am guessing a little but that has got me out of a hole before!

Nicky Henderson is the key phrase as he has rather made a name for himself on the level by snatching these staying handicaps from under the flat yards’ noses. My Henderson (Sprinter Sacre fame as well as a few others) has kept this filly back for today and it may just be she is on a good mark. I don’t know, maybe not but she has a good draw and there seems an amount of positive vibe in the Lambourn area.

Maybe I am clouded as my daughter is called Amber. Incidentally, her latest chosen school project on the clashes between Kauto Star and Long Run is going to earn me another visit to see the headmistress.

Moving swiftly on and few would not like to see the top weighted Tiger Cry win for Lady Cecil. This 4-y-o colt is better than a handicapper and he has improved each time he has seen a racecourse. No hint of temperament and stays as well as his pedigree suggests. Class will out but perhaps not from stall 30 and there lies the doubt.

For anyone looking for a huge outsider, I did briefly ponder Scatter Dice. Slightly concerning to read Mark Johnston’s press comment referring to the filly as a ‘he’ but I suspect that is sloppy journalism, rather than a long season taking a toll on the master trainer. Scatter Dice has run some shockers along the way but mostly gives her running and in a first time visor, she could just surpass her odds.

There we go, bookies offering 5-places, 5 horses given, job done. However, if you don’t believe me and I wouldn’t blame you, the remaining 29 are summarised below;

2. ORIENTAL FOX - Went agonisingly close in the Northumberland Plate, placed at Ascot, 5th in the Ebor. Sudden burst of improvement last time, 4 lb rise very fair and the man for the big occasion, Johnny Murtagh on board.

3. THECORNISHCOCKNEY - Not a turf horse. 50/1 terrible value, needs more 0’s.

4. CHIBERTA KING - Excellent stayer but whist he won the Queen Alexandra at Royal Ascot, that form isn’t up to this and may just be a few pounds high.

8. BROXBOURNE - Had an amazing 2013 with 7-wins, including at Glorious Goodwood in the 2m5f race, which she looked to find sharp enough. Poor run last time but couldn’t rule her out.

9. PLATINUM - Progressive and the manner of his recent hat-trick is more impressive than the bare form. Wouldn’t be without a chance of another win on this bigger stage.

10. CLOWANCE ESTATE - Only had 6-runs, stays well and jockey’s Grand National winning exploits will help in this marathon. One of the better outsiders for Roger Charlton.

11. SMOKY HILL - French raider so help! Nice pedigree, by Galileo out of a Danehill mare but French trainer only 1/22 when visiting the UK.

12. LIEUTENANT MILLER - Nicky Handerson, Ryan Moore, proven form in these races and all good, despite mark creeping up. Stall 32? Less good.

13. BROCKWELL - Probably needs 3-miles and behind Oriental Fox in the trial. First time hood interesting and sure to be staying on well.

14. MOIDORE - Hurdling will be on his agenda and whilst I had a long look, I couldn’t decide he is well handicapped.

15. BIG EASY - Philip Hobbs a man to fear in these races. Stall 36 nothing less than scary though.

16. SEASIDE SIZZLER - Third at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood off similar marks and will find this a mere sprint. Lots to like if the ground stays decent but stall 35 upsetting.

18. WATER CLOCK - Potential to improve but his pedigree does not suggest he wants this far.

19. COSIMO DE MEDICI - You need to have a brave heart and not sure this fellow quite has the requisite courage.

20. ALBERT BRIDGE - Seventh last year a fair effort. Ran twice in 2-days at Ayr last month after a summer break and so should be fit. Needs to find something though.

21. COUSIN KHEE - Stays well, poor draw, doesn’t stand out.

22. NANTON - Legendary 11-y-o but surely this can’t be a fairytale end to a brave career?

23. POYLE THOMAS - Not certain on pedigree to appreciate quite this far

24. EAGLE ROCK - Stamina his forte but beaten 48-lengths in the trial & drawn 33.

25. RECESSION PROOF - No show on comeback after 18-month break.

26. TAGLIETELLE - Disappointing last 3-runs and does not appear to be up to winning this.

27. SOHAR - Well beaten last time.

28. LOS NADIS - Do well to be winning this as a 9-y-o.

29. FLASHMAN - Looks short of this class on racecourse evidence.

30. SIGN MANUAL - Royal runner who should win more races but probably not this one.

31. SWINGING HAWK - Out of depth 7-y-o

32. HIGH OFFICE - 4/41 career record.

33. MERCHANT OF DUBAI - Last 3-races read ‘666’. Devil at work if this 8-y-o wins.

34. JONNY DELTA - Out of the handicap, 32-races, not good enough.

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