Trainer Hughie Morrison has three live chances –Sweet Selection, Star Rider and Fun Mac – among the 76 horses remaining following Tuesday’s acceptance stage for the £250,000 Betfred Cesarewitch at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse on Saturday, 8th October.
It is not surprising that this historic two and a quarter mile heritage handicap has proved so popular given its gigantic prize money, and those involved with some of the horses at the top of the ante post betting market will be sweating on gaining a place in the 34-strong field, not least connections of the favourite, St Michel.
A fine third in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup three weeks ago, the Sir Mark Prescott-trained St Michel is currently in joint 52nd place in the weights on the 7st 13lbs mark, alongside last year’s winner, Grumeti.
Coincidentally, last year there were exactly the same number of entries remaining at this stage (76). And the horse who eventually gained the 34th and final place in the field, Bayan, was at this point 52nd in the weights list – precisely the same position as St Michel holds.
On the evidence of last year, all three of the Morrison trainees should make the starting line-up.
Sweet Selection is the lightest weighted of the trio, on 8st 1lb. She notched three straight handicap successes during the summer and was far from disgraced when making her Pattern Race debut last time in the Doncaster Cup, finishing fifth, less than eight lengths behind the winner, Sheikhzayedroad.
Victorious on the Rowley Mile 11 months ago and over the extreme trip of two miles five furlongs at the Qatar Goodwood Festival in July, Star Rider (8st 5lbs) also made her Group Race bow at Doncaster when down the field in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes.
Fun Mac (9st 0lb), by contrast, had solid Pattern Race form last autumn, particularly when third in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran in France. He has returned to something approaching his best on his last two starts, winning at Salisbury before finishing a close third to Justice Belle in the Listed Jockey Club Rose Bowl on the Rowley Mile in September.
Hughie Morrison, trainer of Fun Mac, Star Rider and Sweet Selection, said: “I am planning to run Sweet Selection, Fun Mac and Star Rider in the Betfred Cesarewitch and all three would prefer ‘good’ ground.”
“If asked to pick the best handicapped of the trio the only answer would be Sweet Selection but she will still need to be in the form of her life is she is going to win a handicap of this magnitude.”
“Her Doncaster Cup fifth was an excellent run, proving that she could compete at a high level over an extended two miles but she is far from certain to be able to translate that form into handicaps. She has also had a busy summer and it is not easy to keep fillies like her going right through the autumn.”
“The same comment applies to Star Rider. She proved her staying power at Goodwood but was taken out of her comfort zone in the Park Hill, though thankfully Jimmy Fortune looked after her and did not give her a hard race.”
“I was very happy with Fun Mac’s run at Newmarket last week and hope that he will have recovered in time for the Cesarewitch, although it might come too quick for him.”