Snow time like the present – As Meade launches Cesarewitch assault

I’d pondered over looking at the Dewhurst for this week’s Friday Preview piece, however I’m finding it impossible to flag-up a challenger to the odds-on shot Expert Eye. If the colt that romped to victory at Goodwood arrives here at Newmarket in that form, the result is a formality.

So instead I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and have a crack at the Cesarewitch. Just the 34 runners go to post, so finding the winner shouldn’t be that difficult. Having said that, it’s proved a tough summer for the handicap followers. The Cambridgeshire a couple of weeks back was the perfect example. A 50/1 shot landed the pot, followed home by a 100/1 outsider and another at 50s. The tricast paid a staggering £90,344.98.
Nevertheless, the winner is amongst the 34, so let’s try and find him or her.

As an avid follower of trends, my first port-of-call is the likely age of the prospective winner. Four and six-year-olds have the best recent record with five victories apiece from the past 20 renewals. A pair of three-year-olds have been successful, whilst a single five-year-old has won in that time. A trio aged seven, a pair at eight, one aged nine and one winner aged 11 have also landed the prestigious prize in the period. The conclusion to draw from this snapshot, is that a horse of any age can win the Cesarewitch. Great Start!

Maybe there’s more to glean from the price of previous winners? Perhaps fancied runners have a decent record? Perhaps not. Over the past 10 years, we’ve had a pair of winners priced at 50/1, two at 66/1, one at 25s and a winner at 16s. Only one favourite has obliged in that period. Goodness me!

Weight carrying is often a point of reference when attempting to find a winner in these ultra-competitive handicaps. Thankfully this is also the case in the Cesarewitch, with just four winners carrying 9-4 or more to victory in the past 20 renewals. Sadly, that stat only takes six contenders out of the reckoning on Saturday. Just the 28 runners left to choose from then.

National Hunt trainers have a decent record, having struck nine times from the past 20. In 2015 Alan King’s Grumeti took the prize at 50/1, following the success of Phillip Hobbs in 2014. Evan Williams, Willie Mullins and Alan King head the market for tomorrow’s renewal, with dual-purpose trainer Karen McLintock responsible for the horse currently fourth in the betting.

Mullins has three contenders, and has been joined on his trip across the Irish Sea by Noel Meade and Tony Martin. Dr Richard Newland, Nigel Twiston-Davies and David Pipe all have entrants loitering in the lower regions of the handicap. This truly is a clash of jump racings finest and the best from the flat.

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I’m not sure the above has got us any nearer finding the winner, though there’s a fair chance the first home may be carrying 9-4 or less and be trained by a National Hunt exponent. It’s now a case of finding the well-handicapped contender capable of maintaining a strong gallop for the full 2m2f. Most of this race is run in a straight line, with little chance of a jockey getting a breather into his mount. This is a thorough examination of both the horse’s stamina and attitude, hence the reason ‘tough-nuts’ from the Jumps do so well.

The Evan Williams trained John Constable heads the market and will be ably supported by the outstanding Jim Crowley. The six-year-old has not run on the flat since 2014, but has been in great form over the jumps, winning his last run at Market Rasen off a mark of 150. That came towards the end of July, so he ought to be as fit as a fiddle. He was rated 94 when last running on the flat at the Curragh, and gets in here off a mark of 88. He won the 17-runner Swinton Hurdle back in May by a country-mile, so has the ‘big field’ experience. It’s easy to see why he’s favourite, and he should go well.

The Willie Mullins trained Lagostovegas is next best in the betting, and is another with a progressive hurdles record. He has good recent form on the flat, but is somewhat inferior to John Constable in ratings over timber. Of course, the two codes are not necessarily compatible, nevertheless I’d certainly favour the favourite, despite Mullins having Ryan Moore booked for the ride.

Who Dares Wins is next best according to the bookies, and was last seen winning the trial at Newmarket. He’s trained by Alan King and should certainly appreciate both the trip and the decent ground. He’s gone up 4lbs for that last win, and that’s sure to prove a tough ask. He also needs to reverse form with Endless Acres from their run behind Thomas Hobson at Ascot in June. King’s fella is without doubt a contender, but he’s not for me.

Dubawi Fifty looks a progressive four-year-old who should be suited by the step-up in trip. He finished strongly to win at Nottingham last time over an inadequate 1m6f. He’s up 5lbs for that success, but at four the improvement may be there. He’s trained in the north by Karen McLintock and owned by the Rooney’s. You could argue that he lacks experience, especially in a field of this size, but with Graham Lee on top, I fancy he’ll run well.

Time To Study is an interesting three-year-old trained in Yorkshire by Mark Johnston. He won a decent handicap at Doncaster last time, but was then ‘pulled’ from the trial at Newmarket, with the ground (good) given as the reason. It’s a puzzler, because he ran well on good to firm in the Queen’s Vase at Ascot behind Stradivarius. He had Shrewd behind him at Doncaster and that form stacks up quite nicely. He’s unproven at this trip, which is clearly a concern. Add to that, the slight worry over the ground, and he’s possibly one to overlook. Though I’m slightly nervous to do so.

Withhold is a hugely consistent four-year-old trained by Roger Charlton. He’s won or been placed in six of his eight career starts, though has only run the once so far this season. That came at Newbury, when third at an inadequate 1m4f trip. He should improve for the outing, and his proximity to Weekender gives the form a solid look. I’m not wholly convinced that he’ll see out this trip, though he has won at two-miles. He does have an attractive race weight of 8-8, and is hard to dismiss.

Endless Acres is another four-year-old with a serious chance. Runner-up in the Ascot Stakes to Thomas Hobson, he was also second to Flymetothestars back in May, which again looks strong form. He’s had a light campaign and there’s no doubts over him seeing out the trip. He looks a leading contender, though creeps over the desired weight at 9-5.

One that I am interested in, is Jim Goldie’s Euchen Glen. Third at York in a valuable two-mile handicap when getting no sort of run, he’d previously beaten Byron Flyer at Ascot, again at two-miles. He looks to be on a fair mark judging by the York performance and should run well.

London Prize keeps performing well on the flat, but is on much worse terms with Withhold on their 2016 meeting. He also has a mountain to climb if his jumps form with John Constable translates to the flat.

Another that I very much like is Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon. He’s a high-class staying hurdler, good enough to come within two-lengths of Yanworth at Aintree on good ground in April. He’s run well on the flat over the summer, including a comfortable win at Killarney in August. He’s right on my 9-4 limit and I’m convinced he’ll run a huge race.

Byron Flyer is another that certainly has a clear chance on the form book. Handicapped to at least be on terms with Time To Study and Euchen Glen, he’s a consistent performer at around two miles, though has a habit of finishing second in tight finishes. Ryan Moore was aboard last time at Doncaster, and having travelled beautifully throughout, he would have been left scratching his head as to how he was beaten. He may well be in the vicinity late on, but you’d have to anticipate him finding one or two ‘wanting it’ a little more in the final furlong.

In a year when handicap winners have gone in at huge odds, I’d give a squeak to Star Rider. Trained by Hughie Morrison, the five-year-old ran a shocker at York last time and didn’t run particularly well the time before at Goodwood. However, she was a decent sixth in the Ascot Stakes when suffering interference, and was eighth in this race last year. In three visits to the Rowley Mile, she’s won twice. Morrison took last year’s race with the mare Sweet Selection, and on decent ground Star Rider is interesting.

For those having a punt it has to be worth spreading the cash across a few entrants. John Constable may well be ‘thrown-in’, and at 8s, even in a race this competitive, is probably fair value. However, I’ll avoid the temptation of tipping-up the favourite and look elsewhere.

Euchen Glen was an eye-catcher last time at York, and looks to have a great chance. He’s one to have at 16s. I can’t resist a few quid on Snow Falcon at 20/1. I’m convinced that Noel Meade’s classy stayer will love the trip and put in a huge performance. Finally, I’ll have a little each-way on Morrison’s mare Star Rider. Can lightning strike twice? Best of luck to all those having a punt in this hugely competitive race.

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