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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.”

Nell Gwyn test in store for unbeaten Love Is You

Love Is You will put her Classic credentials to the test in next week’s Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket.

Roger Charlton’s unbeaten 1000 Guineas hope is on target to run in the Group Three seven-furlong trial en route to the Classic back at HQ at the start of May.

The Kingman filly followed up her winning Ascot debut over a mile with a tenacious second success when last seen six months ago in seven-furlong Listed action on heavy ground at Newbury, for her only other juvenile start.

She got the better of recent Grade Two Keeneland runner-up Gift List that day, and is prominent in the ante-post market for the Guineas as one of Britain’s best hopes behind Aidan O’Brien’s well-touted favourite Santa Barbara.

“Everyone seems happy with her at this stage,” said the Wiltshire trainer.

“Preparation has been so far without issues, and the plan is to run in the Nell Gwyn.

“It’s been a fair winter – luckily we didn’t have snow to hold us up. She’s been ticking along.

“It’s pretty miserable and cold for fillies right now, but that’s also what normally happens at this time of year. It’s never easy, or ideal, but it’s the same for everybody.”

Charlton is mindful of the strong opposition likely to be posted in the Guineas by Santa Barbara, among others, but is happy with Love Is You at this stage.

“I think she’s developed well,” he said.

“The main competition normally comes from the other side of the Irish Sea – and they’ve got quite a few reserves as well, I suspect.”

There was give in the ground for both Love Is You’s victories, but Charlton is not concerned about the current dry spell.

He added: “Her last race was run on pretty appalling ground –  I don’t think it’s what she needs, particularly, but she did it well.

“We’ll find out more when she runs at Newmarket, I guess.

“She dealt with the ground (at Newbury). I don’t think going is an issue for her.

“That was an extreme – nobody would choose to run on it, but there weren’t too many other choices.”

Charlton will be formulating plans soon for two of his older stayers – Monday’s Kempton winner Sleeping Lion and 2018 Northumberland Plate hero Withhold.

Sleeping Lion scored on stable debut, having previously been a consistent performer for James Fanshawe.

“That gave us a lot of pleasure,” said Charlton.

“He’s a sweet horse, but he is six – and he did as much as one could have possibly expected first time out, I thought.

“It wasn’t really (a surprise). We’ve had him since about November – he’s been working well.

“I didn’t know what to expect particularly at the races, but I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t won or been thereabouts.”

Sleeping Lion may try to emulate Withhold at Newcastle this summer – with a return to the turf possible first.

“I think he’s a horse that doesn’t want to be over-raced,” said Charlton.

“We’ll see what the handicapper does, but something like the Northumberland Plate is a possible target.

“He’s an owner-bred horse, and he would be keen to try some black type at some stage.

“He’s always looked like he needed every yard of two miles – but yesterday, I thought he showed enough zip to be running over slightly shorter distances if need be.

“I haven’t any plans yet where he’ll go next, but he’ll have that sort of programme.”

Withhold won the Stobart Rail & Civils Northumberland Plate Handicap at Newcastle in 2018
Withhold won the Stobart Rail & Civils Northumberland Plate Handicap at Newcastle in 2018 (Richard Sellers/PA)

Charlton will also be taking his time with Withhold, who is set to return for his sixth campaign at the age of eight – and may take in Sandown’s Group Three Henry II Stakes at the end of next month.

He added: “Withhold is still around, but he’s kind of a little the wrong end of the handicap these days – compared to how he was when he won (the Northumberland Plate).

“He held his own last year, and a mile and six to two miles plus is his sort of trip.

“I guess it’s kind of Listed races a bit more than handicaps at the moment for him.

“There isn’t really much for him actually at this stage. We’ll just have to hang about – maybe that two-mile race at Sandown (is) a possibility.”