Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap 2m2f Newmarket Saturday

First run in 1839, the race was named in honour of the Russian Crown Prince, The Tsesarevich, (reportedly after a donation by him of £300 to the Jockey Club). The unfortunate prince later became the Tsar, Alexander 11, and was assassinated in 1881. Punters, while not exactly suffering the ultimate fate of poor old Alexander, haven’t fared particularly well in recent renewals of the contest. Only two “Jollies” have come home in front since the great Vintage Crop prevailed as 5/1 fav in 1992, and in the past decade we have seen one winner returned at 66/1, two at 50/1, and a 25/1 shot collect the prize, so don’t be put off by a long price. The race, which uniquely starts in one county and finishes in another, (starts in Cambridgeshire and crosses the border into Suffolk) has only the one slight change of direction, at the 10 furlong marker, and this almost straight two miles two furlongs gallop, puts a unique premium on stamina. Jockeys struggle to get a breather into their mounts in this nonstop charge across the heath, so very rarely does an animal without winning form at a minimum of two miles on the flat or over hurdles prevail.

The 4yo, Withhold, was trained last term by Charlie Hills, and following some nondescript efforts, showed improved form when given a test of stamina. The son of Champs Elysee put up an excellent performance when getting the better of Saturday’s opponent, London Prize, over two miles at Haydock last October, winning by 3/4L and he now meets the runner up on 8lbs better terms on Saturday. Transferred to the Roger Charlton (pictured) yard, Withhold wasn’t seen again until reappearing in a mile and a half Newbury Handicap last month where he proved his well-being, finishing third over the inadequate trip. He was keeping on nicely in the final furlong off a mark of 87 and is bound to have benefited hugely from the run after such a long break. He races on Saturday off the same mark, and looks a well handicapped animal with a nice racing weight of 8-8 to carry. With Silvestre De Sousa doing the steering he has to be of interest.

Now six, London Prize didn’t see a racecourse until he was four. He made his debut in a two miles Worcester national hunt flat race in June 2015 which he duly won when trained by John Ferguson. Transferred to the Ian Williams yard the following May, progress was slow, until running Withhold close in that Haydock contest last October, racing off a mark of 72. Since then progress has been dramatic highlighted by a win in the prestigious Imperial Cup over hurdles at Sandown, off a mark of 137, and three further victories on the flat, culminating in a win in the valuable Northumberland Plate consolation race in July off a mark of 89. By Teofilo whose progeny stay well, and out of a mare who has produced the 3mile chaser Categorical and the stayer, Daghash on the flat this tough battler shouldn’t fail for want of stamina and looks reasonably treated on his new mark of 95.

Alan King won this with the 50/1 outsider Grumeti two years ago and considering the way his 5yo, Who Dares Wins, stayed on so resolutely to take The Cesarewitch Trial over course and distance three weeks ago, he must be more than a little hopeful of finding himself back in the winners enclosure on Saturday. Staying is the name of the game for Who Dares Wins as he also demonstrated when staying on strongly to finish a close fourth in the 2m2 1/2f Chester Cup. A winner of a Class1 Newbury Handicap Hurdle with 11-10 in the plate he should cope with a four pounds rise for his Trial victory and doesn’t look overburdened with 9-4 on Saturday.

The Willie Mullins trained, Laws Of Spin did well to win last year’s Irish Cesarewitch (2m good) as a three year old at the Curragh by 1 1/4L from the year older Cradle Mountain, staying on well off a mark of 89. Brought along slowly this term by master trainer Mullins, he came good again last time when winning a valuable 1m5f Leopardstown Handicap off a mark of 97 five weeks ago. He is up another four pounds on Saturday giving him a hefty looking 9-8 to carry but Aim To Prosper won with two pounds more five years ago and Sergeant Cecil carried 9-8 successfully in 2005.

The beautifully bred John Constable, who currently heads the market, hasn’t raced on the flat for over three years, when he was trained by Aidan O’Brien, for whom he had a pretty undistinguished career. This 6yo son of the brilliant Montjeu, is out of that highly talented mare, Dance Parade, who won both The Queen Mary, and Fred Darling Stakes, and is a full brother to the Ascot Gold Cup winner Leading Light. The only success he had for O’Brien was in a 13f Navan maiden, but his talented Welsh trainer, Evan Williams, seems to have found the key to him, and he has really blossomed over hurdles wearing a tongue tie. Having won his last two races he now has a very flattering rating of 156 in that discipline. If this improvement over hurdles, mirrors a commensurate improvement on the flat, he looks extremely well treated on a mark of 89 and would be a serious blot on the handicap.

Selection : Withhold

E.W. : London Prize

John Gray

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