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Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

Cesarewitch insight: the lowdown on the famous handicap

John Constable: running on the Flat for the first time for Evan Williams
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3.40 Newmarket
Betfred Cesarewitch | 2m2f | 3yo+ | ITV/RUK

Jumping yards look likely to have a strong say in the last big staying handicap prize of the Flat season on a day when the winter code is just getting into its stride at Chepstow.

Evan Williams, Willie Mullins and Alan King are responsible for three of the first four horses in the betting, and it's Williams' charge John Constable that has caught the imagination of punters.

The ex-Aidan O'Brien inmate won the Swinton and Summer Hurdles during the summer and now has his first start on the Flat for Williams off a mark of 88. That looks very generous for a horse rated 156 over hurdles.

The booking of champion jockey Jim Crowley is another positive but, despite the market encouragement, self-deprecating Williams claims he has no idea what to expect from John Constable at a discipline the trainer has less experience of than Mullins and King.

"I don't know anything about this job but we'll just run him and see how we get on," he said. "I don't have enough horses doing both codes so there's no point me saying that I know what his rating is on the Flat. It's not as if he hasn't been tried. He's been tried by the best trainer in the world.

"Somebody might be in the know and somebody might not be, but the only way to find out is by running him and we'll see whether he's in front of the handicapper or badly handicapped."

Williams also runs Cape Caster, who is nearly 40lb inferior to his stablemate over jumps but runs off the same mark on the Flat.

"He's rated exactly the same and can't win a handicap chase off 118, so is John Constable a better or worse horse? I don't know, I haven't got a clue."

Draw factor

The draw has proved a significant factor in previous runnings of the Cesarewitch, though Sweet Selection bucked recent trends to win from stall 23 after 13 of the other 16 winners this century had come from draws of 18 or lower.

Withhold faces a similar challenge as he is set to break from 24 but, with only one start since last October, he will be one of the freshest in the field having been laid out for the race by Roger Charlton since he was bought by Tony Bloom for 170,000gns.

Charlton said: "He's a very big horse and he's bred to improve – horses by Champs Elysees get better with age. He didn't come into training until late spring, but the idea was to have one run and then give this a go.

"He ran over two miles last year and we'll take it on trust he'll get another two furlongs. He's bred to."

Age factor

Only two three-year-olds have won the Cesarewitch in the last 20 years. The last to do so was Darley Sun in 2009 and the other was Spirit Of Love, whose trainer Mark Johnston saddles the only horse of that age to get in to this field – Mallard Handicap winner Time To Study.

Time To Study (yellow): just holding off Byron Flyer in the Mallard Handicap

Johnston said: "We've won it before with a three-year-old so we know it can be done. Time To Study stays this trip very well and he ran a great race on his last start. It's such a cavalry charge with so many variables but, if he gets the run of the race, he'll take a fair amount of beating."

Johnston's other runner, Watersmeet, has not been seen since the Chester Cup, in which he was sixth. "He's well proven at this level so I have two very strong hands," the trainer added.

Fun Mac (third), Who Dares Wins (fourth), Magic Circle (fifth) also ran in the Chester marathon, but horses from that race are 0-54 in the last ten years.

What they say

Hughie Morrison, trainer of Fun Mac, Star Rider and Aurora Grey
We had the right profile horse last year. I don't think we have this year, but Aurora Grey could go well off a low weight if she got a bit of juice in the ground.

Willie Mullins, trainer of Laws Of Spin, Digeanta and Lagostovegas
Laws Of Spin won three in a row last year, including the Irish Cesarewitch, and got off the mark for the season at Leopardstown last month. Hopefully, he can progress from it and show that he's a late season horse. Lagostovegas has had a good year. The good ground will suit and I'm very happy with her. Digeanta hasn't won since landing the Irish Cesarewitch two years ago, but he was fifth in this race in 2014 and we thought he deserved another shot at it.

Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Endless Acres
We decided to aim at the Cesarewitch after he was second to Thomas Hobson at Royal Ascot. He came up against a bit of a good thing that day. I think he’s better than the bare form. He's had an uninterrupted preparation so there will be no excuses.

Henry Ponsonby, owner of Who Dares Wins and First Mohican
Who Dares Wins is a wonderful horse and his victory in the Betfred Cesarewitch Trial proved that he's still improving. He might well have won the Ascot Stakes had that been two and a quarter miles. He has been trained with this race as his main target for some time now. First Mohican will be running in this race for the third straight year and gets the trip really well. In hindsight he was rather unlucky last year as the only horse that beat him [Sweet Selection] was 12lb well in and went on to win a Group 3 race.

Noel Meade, trainer of Snow Falcon
He travelled over well and is actually a bit heavier than he was before finishing second in the Irish version at Navan on Sunday, so that race can't have taken much out of him. Good ground should be okay for him and the trip shouldn't be a problem.

Iain Jardine, trainer of Shrewd
He put up a really good performance in the Cesarewitch Trial, although it would've been ideal if his jockey had been a little more patient. This time he will be ridden by Jamie Gormley, who I have great faith in. On top of Jamie’s claim, Shrewd is on a 7lb lower handicap mark than in this race last year. Shrewd is a horse who tries hard and has a big engine. He likes the hustle and bustle of these big fields and the more trouble he meets the better he goes.

Ian Williams, trainer of Byron Flyer and London Prize
Byron Flyer has not managed to get his head in front but has progressed all season, running some frustrating races in defeat. He's in great form and I'm sure the step up in the trip will suit. London Prize has had this as his target since he won at Newcastle and I'm sure Newmarket will suit him far better. Although he has suffered at the hands of the handicapper, he's a powerful, strong horse who hopefully is still progressing.

Joe Murphy, trainer of Swamp Fox
He's very well but I'd like to see some rain for him and I certainly don't want it to get any quicker than good.

Karen McLintock, trainer of Dubawi Fifty
Hopefully he'll have a good chance. I would've loved a lower draw but 19 is not as bad as it could've been. He's done nothing wrong but he would prefer the ground on the easier side.

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He didn't come into training until late spring. This was the idea, to have one run before and then give this a go
E.W. Terms
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