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Great White Shark snaps up Cesarewitch prize

Great White Shark secured the most significant success of her career to provide trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Jason Watson with back-to-back victories in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket.

Having teamed up to take the race prestigious two-and-a-quarter-mile prize 12 months ago with Stratum, the pair combined to good effect once again as the well-supported 9-2 favourite made light work of testing conditions.

Buried among runners for much of the contest, the grey mare, who finished 10th in last year’s race, steadily worked her way between rivals before being produced by Watson to mount a challenge approaching the final quarter of a mile.

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As those around her toiled, Great White Shark galloped on in resolute fashion to defeat top-weight Summer Moon by three lengths and complete a hat-trick of wins in the race for Closutton handler Mullins.

Watson said: “I couldn’t go early on in the race. It’s always tough as everyone is trying to get in a position they want to be in and I was a bit worried I was a bit too far back. There was so many horses in front of me I wasn’t too sure where I was.

“I spoke to the boys back home in Ireland, Willie and Paul Townend, and they just said keep her travelling as she loves being pushed along into the bridle and passing horses. They said keep her where she is happy as she will stay all day, and you know coming from Willie Mullins they will be fit and go through this ground and I had the horse for it.”

Though Great White Shark had plenty on her plate with half a mile of the contest remaining, Watson was confident his mount was always doing enough.

He said: “I was off the bridle going into the four and it was quite a gruel and she hit a flat spot, but in the end I was the one going forward and though it was a long way from home I was confident I was going to get up and she finished off really impressively.

Great White Shark hits the front under Jason Watson and the race is over
Great White Shark hits the front under Jason Watson and the race is over (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She didn’t have the nicest of runs last year, but she still managed to finish 10th running on. They were very confident with the weight she had today. She had a big chance on paper, but it’s a 34-runner field and you never know what is going to happen – I was grateful I had the luck.”

Although Watson has ridden for Mullins on numerous occasions in the past, he still feels privileged to get the call up.

He added: “It is always nice to ride in these big races as they are tough to win. I’m lucky to get on one for a big stable and have a good chance on a good horse.

“Willie is a top-class trainer, you don’t need me to tell you that, and when you ride them you know they are not going to be short on the day and that is what every jockey wants.”

Great White Shark on the hunt in Cesarewitch

Great White Shark bids to provide Willie Mullins with a third straight victory in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch at Newmarket on Saturday.

Ireland’s perennial champion jumps trainer broke his duck in the prestigious staying handicap with Low Sun in 2018, and doubled his tally 12 months ago with Stratum.

Great White Shark finished only 10th in last year’s renewal, but returns to the Rowley Mile in excellent form, having landed a valuable handicap hurdle at the Galway Festival on her latest appearance.

Four days earlier, the Malcolm Denmark-owned mare had finished seventh on the Flat, beaten little over two lengths by the remarkable Princess Zoe, who last weekend grabbed Group One glory in Paris for Mullins’ brother, Tony.

Mullins said: “I’m very pleased with her heading over there.

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“She was good over hurdles the last day and her run behind Princess Zoe doesn’t look too bad now, does it?

“She stays well and handles soft ground, so that shouldn’t be any problem to her.”

Coltrane (left) on his way to winning at York
Coltrane (left) on his way to winning at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Great White Shark is joined at the head of the market by Andrew Balding’s three-year-old Coltrane, the David Pipe-trained Leoncavallo and Not So Sleepy from Hughie Morrison’s yard.

Coltrane has had this two-mile-two-furlong contest as his primary target ever since completing a hat-trick for the season in the Melrose Handicap at York in August.

Balding, who also saddles Diocletian and Cleonte, said: “The weight-for-age allowance for three-year-olds is obviously attractive for Coltrane and he won the Melrose well.

“This looked the most logical target after York. It’s obviously a tough race and he has a wide draw (34), I don’t know how that will play out, but the horse is in good form.

“Cleonte needed his comeback run after nearly a year off last month and seems in good form. Diocletian has solid handicap form and at his best would also have each-way claims.”

High-class dual-purpose performer Not So Sleepy carries a 4lb penalty for winning on his return to action at Pontefract last month – his first start since being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“We were very happy with his comeback run at Pontefract. We’ve just kept him ticking over since then and we are very much looking forward to the race,” said Morrison.

“He ran a very good race to finish fourth in it last year. He’ll have to raise his game to better that on Saturday, but he had a break during the summer, so he’s a fresh horse and we’re ever hopeful.

“It’s a long way – two miles and two furlongs. Fingers crossed for a bit of a luck.”

Other contenders in a huge field include William Muir’s Just Hubert, Mark Johnston’s pair of Mondain and Summer Moon and Rock Eagle from Ralph Beckett’s yard.

Verdana Blue ruled out of Cesarewitch

Leading Cesarewitch contender Verdana Blue will miss the big Newmarket handicap on Saturday.

The versatile Nicky Henderson-trained mare, who is owned by Michael Tabor’s wife, Doreen, was a general 10-1 chance for the two-mile-two-furlong feature, having most recently been seen finishing third in the Ebor at York.

Prior to that the eight-year-old had been second in the Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting, beaten a length by Coeur De Lion.

Verdana Blue (black and white colours) went down fighting at Royal Ascot
Verdana Blue (black and white colours) went down fighting at Royal Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Henderson told the PA news agency: “She has got an abscess in her foot and is not going to make the Cesarewitch, I’m afraid. We’ve had to give her something to relieve it and unfortunately she can’t run. She had worked at the weekend and everything was fine.

“She’s one of the shorter-priced runners and we wanted to say something.”

He added: “I’m hopeful there are races for her next weekend – she’s in the two-mile race at Ascot (Long Distance Cup on Saturday), but very possibly if Ascot is soft she could go to Kempton (on Sunday) for the Listed hurdle there, where she’d get her ground with a bit of luck.”

Andrew Mullen booked for Leoncavallo Cesarewitch ride

Andrew Mullen has picked up the ride on David Pipe’s Leoncavallo in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch at Newmarket on Saturday.

The versatile eight-year-old, who is also a winner over hurdles and fences, is due to carry just 8st 2lb in the second leg of the autumn double.

Last seen winning by almost five lengths at Haydock, Pipe had been concerned whether Leoncavallo would make the cut, but the field thinned out considerably at the confirmation stage.

“We actually weren’t sure if we were going to get in, but the race cut up a lot at the five-day stage,” said Pipe.

“We’re in there off a nice weight, I don’t think he’ll mind the ground and he’s had a good preparation.

“Last year he would have got in, but the year before he wouldn’t have. I discussed it with James Couldwell (racing manager of owners, Value Racing Club) and we decided to take a chance in not running again and it’s worked out.

“We’ve just booked Andrew Mullen to ride him. He’s only got 8st 2lb so it’s a feather weight.

“He was impressive at Haydock, obviously this is a lot harder, but he ticks a lot of the boxes.

“He’s a fantastic horse for a syndicate. We haven’t had him that long at Pond House, but he’s one of the yard favourites already. He’s not over-big, but he’s tough, hardy and obviously has a lot of ability as well.”

Pipe is dual-purpose trainer and for many the jumps season begins this weekend at Chepstow, but the Pond House handler is not expecting to be that busy in Wales.

“I don’t think we’ll have that many, we usually kick off a bit later. We’ll probably have one or two runners. Main Fact and Poker Play are in the Silver Trophy, but I haven’t decided if they’ll run yet,” he said.

Leoncavallo is joint 8-1 favourite with most firms along with Andrew Balding’s Coltrane for the Cesarewitch – a race Pipe’s father, Martin, won twice with Heroes Fatal and Miss Fara in 2000 and 2002.

Cesarewitch aim for Not So Sleepy

Hughie Morrison is eyeing a second tilt at the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch with Not So Sleepy following his successful return at Pontefract last week.

The eight-year-old was having his first outing since being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but Morrison feels that effort can be excused as it came at the end of a long season.

Prior to that he had shown himself to be very versatile, winning a big handicap hurdle at Ascot by nine lengths, but lost all chance in the Betfair Hurdle following a false start.

Making his first appearance on the level since finishing fourth in last year’s Cesarewitch, he beat a good yardstick in Dark Jedi over a mile and a half in West Yorkshire.

“All being well, it will be the Cesarewitch next, as long as the ground isn’t too quick,” said Morrison.

“He has actually won over a mile and a quarter on the Flat – albeit three years ago!

“Given the way we’ve campaigned him recently, you’d have to say we think he’s a hurdler, but we’ll take in a Cesarewitch any day – plenty of dual-purpose horses have won it.

“Winning seems to have done his mind good. I’m not sure he really stays two-mile-two, but if he relaxes, you don’t know what you’d get with this horse – you don’t know what’s going to turn up on the day.

“We intended to give him a rest last autumn but didn’t, he then had a couple of serious bites at the cherry before Christmas and come Cheltenham, I think it was just at the end of a long season and he’d had enough.

“He’s tricky, but we know how to deal with him now. With a hurdles mark of 142 there might be another handicap in him, but we might be brave and go for big races with small fields.”

Cesarewitch enters equation for Awesomedude

James Ferguson is weighing up a crack at the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch with his prolific winner Awesomedude.

Ferguson paid a modest fee of 8,000 guineas for the four-year-old gelding in January, when he was rated just 61.

Since finishing seventh on his first start of the year, he has won each of his next five races, shooting up to a rating of 88 – leaving him 35th on the list for the Cesarewitch, which has a maximum field of 34.

“There are a few options around that date. It would be a massive ask, but I’d like to keep all options open,” said Ferguson.

“If he squeezed in off bottom weight we’d have to think about it.

“As for the trip, he wants it so badly when you watch his races, he relaxes so well that if we were going to do it I think he’s got the mental attitude to go with it.

“He has won plenty already, and it’s a tremendous thrill to have a horse like him in the yard.”