How did he get there? The Cesarewitch market mover into 5-1 from 25s
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At some point, while I was thinking about other races, Adagio became a 5-1 shot for the Cesarewitch. It's a bit like that playground game where you turn around and someone's already managed to sneak right up behind you. How did he get there?
At the end of August, Paddy Power/Betfair chalked him up at 25-1 and it's hardly as though Adagio has put his name in the frame with his racecourse performances. He hasn't been seen since April, when he was a very respectable nine lengths behind Honeysuckle in Punchestown's Champion Hurdle. He was one of two Pricewise tips in the middle of last week but he'd already shortened to 12-1 by then.
Anyway, the Newmarket handicap is where he's going and victory would naturally mean quite a bit to his trainer, David Pipe. His father, Martin, sent out two Cesarewitch winners from their Pond House stables, the most recent of which was 20 years ago when Miss Fara prevailed.
"It'd be a lovely one to have on the CV," Pipe told the Front Runner yesterday. "Obviously, us jumps trainers like having a go at these staying races and we haven't got a bad record. We'll give it a good crack."
He's got a point about jumps trainers. In the past eight years, just one Ces has fallen to an unequivocal Flat trainer, Roger Charlton, who struck with Withhold. There was also Hughie Morrison but jump racing has always been a part of his operation and he did win at the last Festival, after all. Beyond them, the winners were trained by P Hobbs, A King, W Mullins and N Henderson.
Henderson and Hobbs had won it before, while Tony Martin, Mary Reveley and Jimmy Fitzgerald also feature on the roll of honour. It's a race that's at the intersection of the two seasons, you might say; sometimes it leans one way, sometimes the other.
Jumps trainers are in pole position this time. The other 5-1 shot as things stand is Nicky Henderson's Ahorsewithnoname, while Charles Byrnes, Willie Mullins and Emmet Mullins also have fancied contenders. Aidan O'Brien is sticking up for the summer game with Waterville.
"He's in good form," Pipe confirms of Adagio. "He still needs a few to come out but we should hopefully get in. We also need to make sure the ground's safe for him."
Adagio is currently 39th on the list for a race in which the maximum number of runners is 34. As Pipe says, it would be quite a surprise if we didn't get five drop-outs, perhaps as soon as today's entry stage. Once the trainer has a rough idea what sort of weight Adagio will be carrying, he will turn his mind to the question of jockeys.
The ground might be more of a concern. It's currently described as good at Newmarket and the forecast shows a potential for drying conditions.
But it's easy to see why Pipe would be interested. Adagio is rated 87 on the Flat, an assessment that dates from his days in France. Since his most recent Flat run, more than two years ago, he has shown masses of improvement over hurdles and now merits a mark of 152 in that sphere.
"You'd have to think so," the trainer says when asked if the Flat rating might prove lenient. "He'd be very competitive."
Beyond Saturday's race, what might the jump season hold for the horse? "We'll give him a pop over a fence and see what he jumps like. He could go down the chase route.
"Otherwise, he's probably a difficult horse to place, really. We might try stepping him up in trip. He'll be going for good races and hopefully picking up plenty of prize money but he's a bit hard to place, now that he's in the Champion Hurdle league.
"He looks quite versatile, ground-wise, and he's only five, so hopefully there's still a lot more to come."
This weekend also brings the two-day meeting at Chepstow which, for many, is the real start of the jumps season. Pipe does not expect to be heavily involved.
"We don't get going until a bit later, normally, and the ground's still plenty quick enough in most places. We won't be very busy.
"If The Cap Fits may go in the veterans' chase," Pipe adds in reference to a ten-year-old, bought at the sales in May for £45,000. He was a highflying staying hurdler at one time, beating Roksana, Apple's Jade and William Henry to the Liverpool Hurdle in 2019.
"He's eligible for these veteran races, which I think makes him attractive, and he was in earlier than some of the others. He's probably not always been the best jumper of fences but his rating has dropped, so we'll try to take advantage of that."
The in-form Roger Teal has an interesting couple of runners in the last at Windsor and I'm not sure the market is getting excited about the right one. My Mate Ted shortened to 5s last night from the opening 12s (only available in one place and surely not for long).
But his improved form has come on the all-weather and a switch to soggy turf is a risk. In fairness, Micks Dream (5.32) hasn't yet proved himself on the ground, as his July win came on a much quicker surface. But the additional test of stamina looks like good news and he should be a deal sharper for his recent Newbury defeat, following a seven-week absence.
He was partnered that day by a claimer who hasn't had a winner for Teal, suggesting that nothing big was expected. Today, Tom Marquand gets the leg-up; he's 3/7 for Teal this year and their only two runners together in the past fortnight won at 16-1 and 6-1. Micks Dream looks tempting at 12s.
Obviously, the ideal time to back Teruntum Star (5.25) was last time out, when a change of stables sparked a sudden revival and he scored at 22-1. The veteran is much shorter today at 7-1.
But he's still off a very beatable rating, half a stone below the one from which he won in May last year, and I feel like giving him a chance to follow up. He'll be fresher than most rivals and Pontefract's stiff nature ought to suit him, for all that he ran poorly on his only previous visit.
Graeme Rodway is in red-hot form and has Monday picks
Three things to look out for today . . .
1.Benoit de la Sayette seems to have pinched a winning lead in the apprentice title race with his treble at Wolverhampton on Saturday night (including Kenilworth King, overlooked by the Front Runner on this occasion, tsk). De La Sayette is now five wins clear of Harry Davies, the pair having been level on 52 winners as recently as Wednesday morning. Both are at Windsor today and Davies will surely be feeling the pressure to get something out of his five rides.
2. On the Monday after Arc weekend, you would look in vain for any rides booked for William Buick, who is about to be crowned champion, or indeed for Frankie Dettori, even though his fortnight-long ban ended just two days ago. Well, it's a pretty slow day after all and a trip to Paris can leave you pretty tired, if you do it right. So hats off to Luke Morris, who enjoyed the crowning moment of his career yesterday but has plainly not let that disturb his usual way of doing things. Having ridden in the 8.30pm at Wolverhampton on Saturday night, he's back there for six mounts this evening, all of which could start at double-figure odds, and he won't be back on the M6 until about 9pm. He's had more than 1,000 rides each year in Britain since 2010.
3. The Front Runner keeps an eye on trainer form, as regular readers will be aware. While these things can change quickly, it's interesting to see a couple of big-name trainers have crept onto the cold list in recent days. Richard Hannon is on a losing run of 38, although that doesn't take very long with his output - he had a winner within the last fortnight. He sends four to Windsor, of which Tellateller and Starnberg ought to be among the market-leaders. Meanwhile, over jumps, the fates have kept Dr Richard Newland waiting for 74 days, during which time he's had 47 runners without success. His only runner today is a likely favourite in Shetland Bus at Stratford; can the chestnut do his yard a good turn against just four rivals?
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The Front Runner is our latest email newsletter available exclusively to Members' Club Ultimate subscribers. Chris Cook, a four-time Racing Reporter of the Year award winner, provides his take on the day's biggest stories and tips for the upcoming racing every morning from Monday to Friday. Not a Members' Club Ultimate subscriber? Click here to join today and also receive our Ultimate Daily emails plus our full range of fantastic website and newspaper content