The Cesarewitch is always an intriguing puzzle for punters. This year 36 horses line up with the hope of winning Europe’s joint richest handicap (3.50pm Newmarket, Saturday).
Ultra consistent four-year-old, Tiger Cliff (9/1) has never been out of the first three in his seven runs. He has proven stamina, coming second in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot over two miles four furlongs. He was beaten by two and a half lengths by Jonjo O’Neill’s Well Sharp and has posted wins on both soft and good to firm ground so connections will not be worrying about the weather forecast.
He was last seen winning the Ebor at York on 24 August, beating Ian Williams’ Genzy by half a length. He has been raised 6lb in the handicap as a result. Four year olds have a decent record in this race but none has succeeded since 1974 when carrying topweight.
Jump trainers have often been successful in this race. Nicky Henderson has triumphed twice in the last decade with Caracciola in 2008 and Landing Light in 2003. This year he saddles two. Lieutenant Miller (12/1) a seven-year-old son of Beat All last ran in the Goodwood Stakes on 31 July over two miles five furlongs. He started as favourite but yielded in the last 100 yards to Mark Johnston’s Broxbourne, losing by half a length. He previously finished third, a length behind Tiger Cliff, in the Ascot Stakes when carrying 6lb less than him.
On Saturday he will be carrying almost a stone less than Tiger Cliff. He will have the expert assistance of Ryan Moore but his chances will not be helped if the forecast rain arrives and the ground is on the soft side.
Henderson believes that his other runner, Earth Amber (25/1) will appreciate some give in the ground. This four-year-old daughter of Hurricane Run is a recent recruit to Seven Barrows, having started her career in France with Alain De Royer-Dupre. She came second by three and a quarter lengths to another French import, Ed Dunlop’s Testosterone, on her debut for Henderson in a Listed race at Nottingham over a mile and six furlongs in April.
She was last seen finishing seventh of ten in the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in May which was won by the Queen’s Gold Cup victor, Estimate. The trip was two miles and Earth Amber weakened rapidly in the last two furlongs having been ridden rather too close to the excessive early pace. Richard Hughes has been given the task of settling her. He may have quite a job on his hands as she tends to take a hold early. This is her first attempt beyond two miles.
Mikel Delzangles’ Smoky Hill (8/1) has a live chance of being the first French Cesarewitch winner for over 60 years. In his latest run he finished a creditable fourth in a Group 3 over two miles at Longchamp on 15 September. Fortunately that was after the weights came out.
Delzangles understandably believes he is very well handicapped here, racing off a mark of just 90. He also thinks that the extra distance will suit him, even though this four-year-old son of Galileo is out of a sprinter. Connections have chosen to target this race rather than the Group 1 Prix du Cadran because for once there is a greater prize fund on offer on the other side of the Channel. Some give in the ground would help his cause even though he triumphed on good ground in his penultimate run. He has to be one for the shortlist and, as a grey, will at least be easy to spot in running.
There is strong ammunition coming from Ireland too in the shape of Charles Byrnes’ Domination (8/1). This six-year-old son of Motivator has won his last two starts in hurdle races over two and a quarter and three miles in August at Cork. He is rated at a lifetime high of 143 over obstacles but runs off a mark of 95 here. That’s 18lb higher than when he won the Cesarewitch Trial last year and 5lb higher than when he came second in a two mile handicap on the flat at Galway on 29 July. His last four wins have been on good or faster ground. Byrnes will be praying that the rain swerves Newmarket.
Recent form suggests it is unwise to ignore anything ridden by Johnny Murtagh in big handicaps. He has a very capable and willing partner here in Mark Johnston’s Oriental Fox (12/1). The partnership had a successful debut, taking the Cesarewitch Trial in convincing style on 21 September, beating Ian Williams’ Body Language by three and a quarter lengths.
Murtagh held up this five-year-old son of Lomitas, adopting a more audacious form of the same tactics that were used to good effect by Joe Fanning in the Northumberland Plate when Oriental Fox was beaten by the shortest of margins by Jonjo O’Neill’s Tominator. Oriental Fox did not appear to be compromised by carrying topweight last time out and will have to do so again here. It seems a big ask to produce that form over course and distance so soon but, if the rain stays away, they have to be considered.
Johnston also saddles Broxbourne, a 33/1 outsider, who finished a disappointing twelfth of sixteen in the Cesarewitch trial. If she could rekindle the form that enabled her beat to Lieutenant Miller in the Goodwood Stakes in July she would be in with a decent chance.
Her last two runs have been distinctly underwhelming for no obvious reason. After an extremely busy season this four-year-old daughter of Refuse To Bend owned by the Ready To Run Partnership may well be ready for a break instead.
Cesarewitch Betting Tips
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to finding the winner of the Cesarewitch. Favourites and outsiders, young horses and veterans have all triumphed recently. A low draw definitely helps but being drawn widest of all did not stop Jamie Osborne’s Never Can Tell winning in 2011. It would be no surprise to see any of the horses mentioned making the frame.
Being well handicapped has to help. Smoky Hill fits the bill but he offers little value at 8/1. We have to go with the trainer who has an outstanding record in this race, Nicky Henderson. LIEUTENANT MILLER has been trained with this race in mind for months and he has to be our pick each-way, best priced at 12/1 with Betfred, William Hill or Skybet.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.