COUNT ON CLOWANCE TO SOLVE CESAREWITCH CONUNDRUM
The cat was thrown amongst the pigeons where many ante-post punters are concerned when the final declarations for this weekend’s Betfred Cesarewitch were made on Thursday, with the lion’s share of the leading fancies dealt a bad hand by the draw, not least Tiger Cliff who will be emerging from stall 30.
You wouldn’t think that the draw would be significant in a 2¼m contest, but with a sweeping right-hand turn to negotiate soon after the start it can be a real hindrance. Never Can Tell scored from trap 36 in 2011, but the fact that nine of the last dozen winners of this handicap were drawn in stall 12 or lower underlines the impact of the draw.
Hold-up types pitched out wide often get caught up in scrimmaging as jockeys jostle for positions, which can cause them to get shuffled further back than is ideal. Conversely, prominent racers can expend too much energy in the early stages as they attempt to get over towards the rail before the 90-degree turn. Tactical nous on the part of the rider is crucial, and intervention from Lady Luck is required.
Leading fancies Domination, Lieutenant Miller, Oriental Fox and Tiger Cliff are all partnered by top jockeys, so if the ante-post voucher you’re clutching bears one of those names there is still cause for optimism, despite the wide berth. Of that quartet, Oriental Fox, who won the trial for this race three weeks ago, is particularly appealing with the brilliant Johnny Murtagh doing the steering.
However, I’m not convinced that those protagonists harbour any secrets that they haven’t already shared with the handicapper, and I’d recommend taking two against the field in CLOWANCE ESTATE and EARTH AMBER, as they both strike me as ideal Cesarewitch candidates – and both can be backed at 20/1 at the time of writing. Fill your boots, each-way thieves.
The rationale behind backing Clowance Estate is simple: he’s lightly-raced, well-drawn in box two and left the impression that he’d be suited by a stiff stamina test when runner-up to Platinum in the 1¾m Old Borough Cup at Haydock last time. Roger Charlton’s charge enjoys a 4lb pull with the latter for a 1¼-length beating and I reckon he will appreciate the faster ground at Newmarket on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson clearly enjoys having a crack at the Cesarewitch and was successful in the 2003 renewal with Landing Light and Caracciola five years later. Lieutenant Miller appears to be the Lambourn handler’s first-string this time, but French import Earth Amber, who has a good berth in stall five and Richard Hughes aboard, could be the one to strike for the champion jumps trainer.
Like Clowance Estate, she hasn’t got many miles on the clock for a four-year-old, and she ran a fine race when runner-up in a Listed contest at Nottingham in April on her debut on this side of the Channel. She was well beaten in a Group 3 at Ascot the following month, but she’s evidently been trained with this race in mind subsequently and her current mark may turn out to be a lenient one.
In addition to the Cesarewitch, Channel 4 will be broadcasting three group races from HQ on Saturday, including the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes, which is widely regarded as the leading race for juvenile colts in Europe.
It’s disappointing that only six runners have stood their ground and, unless Anjaal has improved a chunk since landing a Group 2 on the July Course here during the summer, it should boil down to a straight fight between Godolphin’s OUTSTRIP and the Aidan O’Brien-trained War Command.
The last-named is likely to go off a short-priced favourite, but I’m confident that Outstrip will provide the boys in blue with their first winner in this prestigious contest. He landed the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in good style last month despite still looking green, and chances are there is plenty more to come from the son of Exceed And Excel.
The Vision.ae Middle Park Stakes is a meatier race, with 13 set to go to post. O’Brien fields the likely favourite in this race, too, via the unbeaten Great White Eagle. He is the unknown quantity, while Sudirman, who represents David Wachman, arguably brings the strongest form to the table. The Irish will fancy their chances.
However, HOT STREAK was very impressive when bolting up in the 5f Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot last weekend and, if he can perform to a similar level just seven days later, he will prove a very tough nut to crack. I have no doubt whatsoever that he will prove equally effective back at 6f, particularly on what is forecast to be fairly quick ground on the Rowley Mile this weekend.
Conditions were probably too testing for Hot Steak when he was third behind Supplicant in the Mill Reef over 6f at Newbury last month, so it would be unwise to interpret that form too literally. Meanwhile Shamshon, who was fifth in the Mill Reef, may also benefit from the return to a faster surface. He is worth a second look.
The Dubai Challenge Stakes kicks off C4’s coverage from Newmarket at 2.05. To be candid, it’s not the strongest of renewals of this Group 2 event, but it’s competitive nonetheless, with Lockwood, Darwin and Fiesolana all credible contenders, while there’s an intriguing sub-plot with Ayr Gold Cup hero Highland Colori aiming to make a successful transition to Pattern company.
However, this race looks ripe for a bit of a turn-up, and it could be worth chancing ANSGAR who may well benefit from an uncontested lead. The five-year-old was a place ahead of likely favourite Darwin at The Curragh last month and a bold bid is on the cards with conditions very much in the gelding’s favour here.
In the Coral Sprint Trophy over at York the one that stands out for me is SEEKING MAGIC. He has performed with great credit in each of his five starts since returning from a break in April, the highlight being victory in the 24-runner Stewards’ Sprint at Glorious Goodwood at the beginning of August.
The Clive Cox-trained sprinter didn’t get the rub of the green when third behind Doc Hay at Ripon subsequently and can gain compensation off the same mark on Saturday. Baccarat and Hallelujah are the obvious dangers, but the one I fear most is Khubala who won’t be far away if able to put his disappointing run in the Ayr Gold Cup behind him.
1.50 Seek Again
2.20 Excellent Result
3.30 Seeking Magic
2.35 Hot Streak
3.50 Clowance Estate & Earth Amber