One of the highlights of Saturday’s Newmarket race-card is the latest renewal of the big-field handicap, the Cesarewitch, which takes place over a marathon distance of 2m 2f.
The competitive contest goes to post at 16.10pm (BST) on the Saturday racecard, and with a first prize in excess of £150,000 on offer, this year’s renewal is sure to be another exciting affair and looks likely to draw a typically large field of runners for the contest.
Most of the talk thus far on the lead up to the big race of the weekend is whether ante-post favourite St Michel, trained by the shrewd Sir Mark Prescott will even get a run in the race where a maximum of 34 runners will face the starter.
The horse is a handicap blot, rated officially as being 15lbs well-in at the weights, having finished third on his last outing in a Group Two contest behind Sheikhzayedroad in the Doncaster Cup, beaten just over two lengths; but the Sea The Stars colt will need a few of these to drop out in order to allow him a run in the race.
Rated 93 when posting that third placed finish at Doncaster, he would be burdened with a 4lbs penalty; but his official rating jumps to 112 following this race so racing off a mark of 97 on Saturday gives him solid claims.
Sir Mark Prescott will be hoping his St Michel gets into Saturday's big race, but he has other options with Sea Of Heaven also in the entry list.
That Doncaster race also brings SWEET SELECTION into the picture, with Hughie Morrison’s charge having finished fifth behind subsequent Prix du Cadran winner Quest For More, beaten around eight lengths at the line and around five behind St Michel.
That was a better effort from the Stimulation filly, who is guaranteed to get into the race, and who racked up a hat-trick of wins at Nottingham, Musselburgh and Newbury – beating another Sir Mark Prescott-trained runner in Sea Of Heaven – prior to posting an excellent fourth to Oceane at York.
Hughie Morrison’s charge finds himself even more of a handicap blot, being 17lbs well-in and racing from a mark of just 87 on Saturday compared to her official rating of 104.
However, if Sir Mark Prescott’s St Michel does miss out on a place in the race, then his SEA OF HEAVEN could still give the trainer solid claims of landing this contest.
Another by Sea The Stars, he has been good heart this term since disappointing in the Northumberland Plate, finishing twelfth behind Dannyday. Since that down-the-field effort, he has finished runner-up behind Sweet Selection at Newbury and posted the third win of his career when scoring at Ascot in July, beating Nakeeta.
Runner-up back at Ascot when contesting the Shergar Cup Stayers’ race, finishing a neck-second behind Arch Villain, he arguably found the trip too short in the Listed Chester Stakes, finishing fifth behind Muntahaa where he stumbled early but finished well to go down by around five lengths behind the winner.
He was racing from 1lbs out of the handicap on that occasion, but can race from his proper mark in this contest, and while he does have some improvement to find, he could be a typical improver for this yard with the extra quarter-mile possibly bringing out more from him.
Although worse off with Sweet Selection on their run at Newbury it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see him getting competitive.
Jumps trainers have a good record in this event, with several of the leading National Hunt yards using this contest as an early pipe-opener. Indeed, the likes of Martin Pipe, Nicky Henderson and Philip Hobbs have won this contest in recent years; while Hobbs and Alan King have won the last two renewals.
Grumeti will bid to defend the Cesarewitch crown he won twelve months ago.
A similar waiting game which faces St Michel also faces 2015 Cesarewitch winner, Grumeti, who has been disappointing since that surprise success and was last seen finishing down the field in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle, and as such he needs a few to come out of the race.
Trained by Alan King, he could be joined in the field by stablemate First Mohican, while entries from the likes of Willie Mullins, Tony Martin and Jarlath Fahey – who could saddle Royal Ascot winner Jennies Jewel – all feature in the entry list.
However, David Pipe’s STARCHITECT is one to take interest in hailing from a top jumps yard, and the classy hurdler has proven himself to be a high-class performer on the level.
The Sea The Stars gelding is a dual-winner over timber, scoring at Bangor and Aintree prior to taking in Graded races behind the likes of Peace And Co and Qualando, and he was in the process of running a huge race in a Grade One hurdle at Aintree when falling.
The Betfair Hurdle runner-up has since posted excellent finished at Cheltenham and Aintree, before winning at Newton Abbot in May; and he ran out an impressive winner on the flat at Salisbury in May, beating Icebuster.
He hasn’t been seen since, but he showed in his Betfair Hurdle run that he can go fresh; while he won at Bangor on his seasonal debut a couple of seasons ago, so lack of a run isn’t a huge concern. He’s only been raised 7lbs for that win, which could well prove lenient given his top-class hurdles form, and if he can translate some of the ability he showed over obstacles back onto the flat then he can post a bold bid.
And with Jamie Spencer an eye-catching booking for the David Pipe-trained runner, a big run looks assured ahead of another hurdles campaign for the smart performer.
2016 CESAREWITCH SELECTIONS