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Monday Musings: Newmarket Rejuvenation

I had intended writing copiously 24 hours after my first wholly enjoyable, nay rejuvenating, visit to Newmarket racecourse for two years about a brief conversation of which I was the sole observer, writes Tony Stafford. The conversants were those two genial giants of our sport, Charlie Appleby and Aidan O’Brien, but I will leave that until later.

It was in the evening during a catch-up scan through the Saturday results that I noted the 7.30 p.m. race at Chelmsford was called the Tote.co.uk Now Never Beaten By SP Handicap (Division 1).

I’ve noticed that race title before, marvelling that the object of so much ridicule and indeed suspicion in its Betfred-owned days between 2011 and 2019 had been apparently transformed upon its acquisition and operation by the group formerly known as Alizeti Capital but now UK Tote Group.

Their intention, I remembered reading, was exactly that - to ensure the Tote returns were never to be bettered by SP and to help grow its new version to be of financial benefit to the sport.

In its rubric, Tote Group UK says it is “now owned by a group of racehorse owners and breeders who are passionate about the sport, backed by people who own and train over 1,000 horses worldwide.

“We’re united by a shared desire to secure British racing’s finances for generations to come through a revitalised Tote”. Glowing contributions in that notice in support of UK Tote Group have come from Sir Anthony McCoy, John Gosden, Richard Thompson of Cheveley Park Stud, and the Racehorse Owners Association.

I scrutinised all 36 races run in the UK on Saturday and in 24 of them, including the 7.30 at Chelmsford, SP was better than the returned Tote price about the winner. Course and betting shop punters would not have benefited, but I am reassured that online Tote odds backers will have been, according to the publicity (admittedly confusing) blurb to the tune of a maximum £500 per bet. [The race title referred to tote.co.uk, the online arm of the tote]

The three regular backers I know whom I thought might have been able to confirm this as correct all were unable to do so as they all three to coin a theme “had my account with the Tote closed years ago.” They all habitually try to get a few hundred quid on a horse. One big firm, asked for £500 each way on a horse the other day, offered to take £2.80 each way. Still theirs is a happy slogan and I wish anything that might correct the joke level of prize money in the lower reaches of the sport, a potential blessing. But as my three friends I’m sure would say: “Don’t hold your breath.”

I mentioned Charlie and Aidan’s very amicable chat earlier at Newmarket soon after the Darley Dewhurst Stakes victory of unbeaten Native Trail and the Irishman was glowing in his congratulations to his younger English counterpart.

Three wins on the day had already pushed Appleby past Andrew Balding at the top of the trainers’ championship standings for the first time and Aidan admired both Native Trail and the less exposed Coroebus, easy winner of the Group 2 Autumn Stakes.

Where Native Trail was a breeze-up buy for 210,000gns in the spring, able to make his debut in early July and now was making it a perfect four-for-four, there is no Godolphin blood in him, being by Oasis Dream out of an Observatory mare – Juddmonte all the way.

Coroebus meanwhile is Godolphin through and through: by Dubawi, their version of Coolmore’s great stallion Galileo, out of a mare by Galileo’s first superstar, the unbeaten Teofilo.

O’Brien remarked on both colts’ physicality, to which Appleby replied: “Coroebus is 540 kilos and Native Trail is 545, and that’s as heavy as Adayar who you know is a monster!”  Formidable for two-year-olds you would agree!

The wins brought Appleby some elbow room at the top of the table and with a dearth of major and valuable races to come save next Saturday’s Qatar Champions Day at Ascot and the Vertem Futurity (just over £100k)  at Doncaster the following weekend, opportunities are somewhat polarised.

Aidan told me he plans to run his top juvenile Luxembourg in the Vertem Futurity and expects that outstanding Camolot colt to go first in 2022 for the 2000 Guineas where he will almost certainly encounter Native Trail and Coroebus.

While Appleby has been inching his way up to and past Balding, who has had a season that must have surprised him with more than £4 million already in the satchel, he will be aware that John and Thady Gosden, who started slowly this year, are still in there pitching.

Balding has ten entries for Ascot, but only a couple, both 8-1 shots – Invite in the Fillies and Mares race, and Alcohol Free in the QE II – have better than outside chances. Appleby’s hopes from six entries centre, should he run, on Derby winner Adayar, about whom 3-1 is probably a little tight after his Arc exertions.

But the Gosden ten, with six in the closing Balmoral Handicap - Gosden senior dearly wants to win that race – include four serious darts at the biggest prizes of the day.

Mishriff, saved from the Arc in favour of the Champion Stakes, is 6-4 favourite for the £680k Champion. Palace Pier vies for favouritism with improving Baeed in the £623,000 to the winner QE II. Additionally, Free Wind is 7-2 for the £283,000 Fillies and Mares, and Stradivarius, should he renew hostilities with Trueshan, is second favourite behind that horse in the similarly-endowed Stayers’ race.

The Gosdens lurk around £500,000 behind Appleby and, unless such as Snowfall and maybe something else can edge out Mishriff, or The Revenant, back with a near miss at Longchamp, could possibly again unseat Palace Pier with Baeed’s help. Otherwise it seems a dominant position for a hat-trick for Clarehaven. It looks theirs to lose.

While that stealthy challenge in the trainers’ race has suddenly crystallised, the jockeys’ battle between incumbent Oisin Murphy and his nearest challenger William Buick has been a constant side-show most of this year.

It’s easy to portray this tussle as between Mr Naughty and Mr Squeaky Clean and certainly Oisin Murphy’s second failed breath test, which for the moment merely cost him one day’s riding at Newmarket on Friday, has done nothing for his reputation.

The jockey stressed that the alcohol reading while exceeding the permitted limit for being allowed to ride a racehorse was below that excluding him from driving a car. Great! Only slightly pissed then!

He dominated talk at Newmarket on Saturday, most people saying that for a repeat offence the case should get a proper investigation and the inside story at Newmarket on Saturday was that an inquiry will be held at the BHA today.

A one-day slap on the wrist, if that is all that happens for the offence, seems inappropriate to me. Suppose he hadn’t been tested, thus was free to ride on Friday and had caused danger to other jockeys and their horses. That puts the six-month ban (now ended) for promising apprentice Benoit de la Sayette when he was found in breach of the drug rules back in the spring in some context.

In the end, of course, Murphy was free to ride Buzz in the Cesarewitch and he gave the one-time Hughie Morrison horse a peach of a ride, one befitting of a champion, to make it a third win in the race for Nicky Henderson.

Buzz came to deny Burning Victory and William Buick in the dying strides, maintaining his margin over his rival to eight, when had the result been turned around it would have been only six. Charlie isn’t giving up on his jockey though and plans to run plenty of talented maidens between now and D Day on Saturday. Burning Victory of course was only Mullins’ second string but it would have been a nice result for readers of this column who may have noticed my frequent mentions of the mare in recent weeks.

So we had a seven-year-old winner who hadn’t raced on the Flat for two years beating a mare who had never previously run in a Flat race either in England or Ireland outclassing 30 other stayers. Burning Victory’s defeat and the no show of favourite M C Muldoon stopped a Willie Mullins four-timer in this contest.

Why are jumps trainers so good at winning on the Flat? We’ve known about these two for decades, but another younger member of their profession, an Irishman based in Gloucestershire, is showing similar tendencies.

Until 16-year-old daughter Fern attained that age in the summer, her father Fergal O’Brien was so disinterested in Flat racing that he had only winner from 50 runners in sporadic seasons from 2013 to 2019.

Fern, mentored by Fergal’s assistant and partner Sally Randell, a former star military race rider, won at the first time of asking a couple of days after her birthday and now stands on four wins from eight rides for her father as a lady amateur. His other 16 runners have yielded another four victories, including smart hurdler Gumball making all in a decent staying handicap at York on Saturday and Polish getting home first in a jump jockeys’ Flat race at Goodwood yesterday.

That makes it eight from 24 and a strike rate of 33%, a figure the Gosdens, Balding, William Haggas and the rest would kill for. And none of them has 55 jump winners since the end of April either!

  • TS   

Buzz registers third Cesarewitch for Henderson

Buzz provided Nicky Henderson with his third victory in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch, and a welcome success too for champion jockey Oisin Murphy at Newmarket.

It is 18 years since Henderson first claimed this prestigious staying handicap with top-class hurdler Landing Light, while popular veteran Caracciola added his name to the roll of honour in 2008.

Willie Mullins, who has taken over from Henderson as the most successful trainer at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years, fielded six runners in his bid for a joint-record fourth straight Cesarewitch success.

It looked as though Ireland’s perennial champion National Hunt trainer would triumph once again when his 2020 Triumph Hurdle heroine Burning Victory moved to the front under William Buick, but Buzz and Murphy followed her through to set up a grandstand finish.

Burning Victory looked to be getting the better of the argument racing inside the final furlong, but 8-1 shot Buzz – making his first appearance since finishing second in the Aintree Hurdle in April – reeled her in to prevail by a length and a half.

Calling The Wind was best of the rest in third, with Goobinator finishing fourth.

It was a notable victory for Murphy, who was forced to sit out Friday’s card at Newmarket after failing a breath test.

“I’m not faultless, but I’ve got to do better,” said Murphy, as he reflected on the past two days.

“I shouldn’t be making mistakes like that. It shouldn’t happen, and I’m just sorry to everyone. It’s great to get some confidence back, but I should know better.”

On the success of Buzz, he added: “Nicky told me to try and be in the first half because he stays well, but there was a massive rush on, as you might expect.

“I was drawn low, and he was a little bit hesitant, so I had to take back – and I got on the back of Andrea (Atzeni on Reshoun), who is very good tactically and he knew what was going to happen.

“I followed him until I peeled out, and I thought Will’s horse might hit a brick wall. I couldn’t make my horse go any faster, so when I put my hands back I might have looked confident, but it wasn’t until late that I thought I was going to win.

“It takes some planning, for the horse not to miss a beat over that length of time, but fair play to Nicky.”

Jess Stafford, spokesperson for the winning owners Thurloe Thoroughbreds, said: “It’s so exciting – the horse has improved so much.

“We can look at all the nice races over hurdles now. He’s turned a corner this summer and is more relaxed now.

“I was confident earlier in the week because of the ground, but then it started drying out. We just got away with it.

“He’s got all the big targets now – he’s a proper Grade Two/Grade One horse over hurdles. The race at Aintree is for him – he’s got a huge future.

“Most importantly, 25 per cent of the prize-money goes to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.”

Henderson banks on Buzz to outdo Mullins’ Cesarewitch battalion

Nicky Henderson must once again face the might of Willie Mullins as he bids to win the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch for a third time at Newmarket.

It is 13 years since the master of Seven Barrows last claimed Saturday’s prestigious staying handicap, with the popular veteran Caracciola, having previously struck gold with Landing Light in 2003.

Since then Mullins has not only overtaken Henderson as the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, but he has also landed the last three runnings of the Cesarewitch – and he fires a six-pronged assault this time as he seeks to make it four in a row.

“Willie runs six, does he? Tell him he ought to work out which one (he wants to run)!,” Henderson quipped.

Nicky Henderson saddles Buzz in the Cesarewitch
Nicky Henderson saddles Buzz in the Cesarewitch (David Davies/PA)

While Mullins possesses a formidable hand, Henderson is happy with his sole contender.

Buzz has not run on the Flat since his days with Hughie Morrison more than two years ago, but he has since won three times over hurdles and was last seen filling the runner-up spot behind Abacadabras in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle in April.

Henderson said: “He’s got the right profile for the race and he’s in good form.

“He proved he stays very well over hurdles. This is a lot further than he’s ever been before on the Flat, but we upped him to two-and-a-half at Aintree, and he stayed that very well.

“He’s had a summer break, and this is his first run back. But he is quite a busy horse, so I hope he’s ready.”

Henderson’s one concern is the drying ground at Headquarters, adding: “I would very much like some juice in the ground.

“We discussed it (running in the Cesarewitch) through the summer, and we were just praying the ground came to rescue us – which it did a bit – but I don’t like the way it’s drying out.”

The shortest-priced Mullins-trained runner is M C Muldoon, who was touched off by Reshoun in the Ascot Stakes earlier in the year and has since won over hurdles at Galway.

“M C Muldoon ran a great race at Royal Ascot. He has been coming along all the time,” said Mullins.

“I think he is getting stronger all the time and getting better at racing. It has taken a while for the penny to drop, but I think it will hopefully reflect well in the Cesarewitch.”

Burning Victory after winning the 2020 Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham
Burning Victory after winning the 2020 Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham (Simon Cooper/PA)

Also in the Mullins team, Burning Victory has won her last two starts on the Flat in France – while last year’s Cesarewitch heroine Great White Shark is back to defend her crown.

Whiskey Sour, Foveros and Micro Manage complete the Closutton sextet.

Mullins added: “It has been a nice preparation for Burning Victory, taking in the races in France. I think a bit of rain would help her. It is good to soft at the moment, which is fine. As long as it is safe ground it will be fine.

“Great White Shark is up against it off her new rating, and not having run since Cheltenham. We thought she had a good chance last year, but it is very hard to predict you are going to win a race like the Cesarewitch in the manner that she did.

“Whiskey Sour is a lighter-framed horse and is easier to get ready than some. He is not as big a unit as Great White Shark so he is easier to get in shape from a lay-off, and that is the plus side to him.

“I’ve not used (jockey) Ray (Dawson) much before. He can do the weight on Foveros and he is riding well at the moment, so hopefully things can go well for him.

“I’m hoping that Micro Manage has still got plenty of improvement in him, because he does some tremendous work at home. I just need to get him to do that on the racetrack.”

Live Your Dream firmly on course for Cesarewitch

A resurgent Saeed bin Suroor has his eyes on claiming the second leg of the ‘Autumn Double’ this weekend with Live Your Dream in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket.

The Godolphin trainer won the Cambridgeshire with 40-1 outsider Bedouin’s Story, landed the Group Two Joel Stakes with the evergreen Benbatl and saw his rising star Real World continue his progression in France at the weekend when claiming the Prix Daniel Wildenstein.

Now attention switches closer to home for the Newmarket handler with Live Your Dream, who finished second to Turnpike Trip in the trial for this race last month.

“He worked nicely two days ago and that meant we were happy to run on Saturday,” said Bin Suroor.

“He’s in good form, I’m happy with him and he came out of his last race well so he’s doing good so far.

“The trip is no problem, we know he stays it and he’s shown he’s doing well.

“I think he goes on any ground really, but good ground would be what he would like best of all. I think he’s still improving.”

Looking back on a profitable last few weeks, Bin Suroor added: “The horses are running well – and we’re looking for that to continue for the rest of the season.

“They are doing good, they are in good form, they all still look well and we’ve got some nice races to look forward to.

“It would be nice to do the (autumn) double. We’re looking for another good result this weekend.”

Cesarewitch repeat bid on radar for Withhold

Withhold is on course to try to repeat his 2017 Cesarewitch triumph following his fine effort at Goodwood.

The eight-year-old showed he was no back number in his length-and-three-quarter defeat by Calling The Wind in the long-distance handicap on Friday.

Under Oisin Murphy, the Tony Bloom-owned gelding delighted trainer Roger Charlton – who feels he has shown in three successive outings that he is starting to peak, with the second leg of the autumn double an obvious target down the line.

Charlton said: “He ran a super race, arguably one of his best ever giving 11lb to the horse that beat him.

“He battled as well, something that has been a question mark in the past.”

The Beckhampton handler is, however, aware that Withhold is a lot higher in the weights than when scoring at 5-1 under Silvestre de Sousa four years ago at Newmarket.

He added: “He only just got into the race the year he won it, and has not been easy to place.

“But he’s pleased me the last three times he’s raced – and even though we don’t get much respite from the handicapper, we might as well aim him at it again.”

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.

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.

“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.”