Perhaps the most popular betting race of the autumn comes this Saturday at Newmarket, as the Rowley Mile course plays host to the unique, stamina-sapping Cesarewitch Handicap.
With almost 180 years of history, the Cesarewitch puts the heritage in heritage handicap, and with 34 runners set to do battle, it is a minefield for bookmakers, and a veritable wonderland for punters.
The Cesarewitch 2018 betting is wide open, with Stratum favourite at no bigger than 6/1 with all the leading horse racing betting sites, but this is a race of chance, that has thrice been won by horses priced 50/1 or bigger since 2012.
The Cesarewitch Handicap is a 2m2f cavalry charge, run on Newmarket's Rowley Mile course. It's worth £500,000 in prize money and has the oddity of crossing a county border during the race, with runners starting in Cambridgeshire, but finishing in Suffolk.
It is also considered the second leg of an autumn double, the first leg being the Cambridgeshire, which this year was won by the John Gosden-trained Wissahickon.
If you fancy John Gosden and Frankie Dettori to complete the autumn double, good news: They team up again in the Cesarewitch with the 103-rated Precious Ramotswe. It will be one hell of a feat to pull off, but if you were to miss the 33/1 available now with William Hill then you might end up seriously kicking yourself for not following up with the hottest trainer and jockey combination of the moment.
Run over one of the longest distances in Flat racing, it will come as no surprise that the race often attracts trainers better known for their jumps horses. A total of 7 of the last 15 winners have come from such yards, with Nicky Henderson and Philip Hobbs being the most successful dual-purpose trainers.
Hobbs took the spoils in 2006 and 2014, while Henderson was successful in 2003 and 2008. Alan King won the race in 2015 with Grumeti at a whopping price of 50/1 and often targets the race. Irish jumps training maestro Willie Mullins has also had horses knocking on the door in recent years and he returns once again with a strong team.
The jumps trainers are always well represented in the Cesarewitch and none more so this year than Ireland’s Willie Mullins, who originally had a crack squad of 7 entered up in the contest.
Mullins' talented gelding Stratum certainly deserves the early support in the Cesarewitch betting, after winning the JLT Cup at Newbury in the summer, hammering the runner-up Kloud Gate by three lengths with Coeur de Lion beaten a further neck into third.
On the back of that run, Stratum went off the well-fancied favourite for the Ebor Handicap at York a few weeks later, but failed to live up to the hype, finishing back in 12th place under Robert Winston - though admittedly the duo did encounter plenty of traffic problems.
The 2016 Cheltenham Festival winner Limini, also trained by Mullins, has had the likes of Apple’s Jade in her rear view mirror over hurdles and will be a popular choice among punters in the famous pink Susannah Ricci colours. The 12/1 quoted by Paddy Power about the mare is unlikely to be around for too long, especially if a gamble begins to gain momentum on Saturday morning.
Also lurking in the betting is Mullins’ Whiskey Sour. The five-year-old hasn’t put his head in front since December 2017, but has run creditably this year in the County Hurdle, the Ascot Stakes, the Galway Hurdle and The Ebor. It is really quite surprising that the likes of William Hill still have him chalked up at 20/1.
Trainer Ian Williams is no stranger to landing a staying flat race in Britain and his London Prize finished second to runaway winner Withhold in last year’s Cesarewitch.
He has a trio of contenders this time, his main one without doubt Stars Over The Sea, who won the Cesarewitch Trial over the course and distance three weeks ago, by a wide margin.
Whether the seven-year-old, who carries an extra 4lbs for that victory, can adopt the same front-running tactics again and hold off another big field remains to be seen, but 20/120/1 with Ladbrokes says he does.
Joining Stars Over The Sea down at the start will be Williams’ Speedo Boy, who was somewhat unlucky in the Mallard Handicap at Doncaster, but if you’re looking for a big each-way play in a race that often throws up a surprise then his Blue Rambler (66/1 at Bet365) looks a decent choice.
Off 18 months due to an injury, Blue Rambler has been in need of his two runs so far this season. The Goodwood run showed some of his old spark had been retained and he is definitely over-priced for this marathon.
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