Robert Winston eyeing another big handicap strike with Ebor hotpot Stratum
Robert Winston is itching to get back on board last month's impressive Newbury winner Stratum in the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap a week on Saturday and hopes Willie Mullins's five-year-old has as strong a chance as the betting suggests.
Stratum, whose win in the inaugural running of the £100,000 JLT Cup is starting to work out well, is 9-2 clear favourite with the Ebor sponsor, for whom the Roger Charlton-trained 9-1 chance Blakeney Point is the only other runner at single figure odds.
Winston also won the Northumberland Plate on Tony Bloom's Withhold and so will be bidding for a third valuable staying handicap of the year in Bloom's silks. He said: "I'm really looking forward to it and think he should have a good chance.
"I couldn't have asked for any more from him at Newbury, where he was very good, and the form is working out, with Sir Chauvelin winning at Goodwood and Cleonte winning at the Shergar Cup.
"I can't see the drop to a mile and six being a problem as he's not short of pace and can be a bit keen, as he was at Royal Ascot where there was no pace and he had a bad trip yet still ran a very good race. He's gone up 8lb for Newbury, but I think that's fair enough."
Winston will be unable to ride Withhold in the Melbourne Cup, for which he is clear favourite across the board and a top-priced 14-1 with bet365.
He said: "It's a shame the weight prevents me from riding, but I'm really looking forward to seeing Withhold run there and I'll be shouting him home. However he does, I'm sure there's more to come from him when he comes back to the UK."
The connection with Bloom, who is chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion, has given Winston's career a huge shot in the arm, highlighted by last year's Group 1 success on Librisa Breeze in the British Champions Sprint.
It's a partnership which is working really well and Winston has high praise for Bloom and his management team, and also for his trainers.
"Mr Bloom's team have done a really good job placing him, and Dean is a fantastic trainer who has a knack with horses like Librisa Breeze. The Ascot sprint is the priority again, but he has options before that, including the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury on Saturday."
Withhold's trainer Roger Charlton has the bookmakers' main danger to Stratum, Blakeney Point, and was encouraged by the money around for the five-year-old over the weekend.
Charlton, who is resigned to last year's Royal Ascot winner Atty Persse missing the cut, said: "The Ebor is the plan for Blakeney Point and he's well. He's been running on quick ground and any more rain would help. He's very consistent and ran right up to his mark in the Group 3 at Goodwood last time – in fact, the handicapper put him up a pound. A mile and four or a mile and six are ideal for him."
He added: "At this point there's no plan to race Withhold again before the Melbourne Cup."
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