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Irish Cesarewitch Preview: Another for Mullins?

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We preview the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh on Sunday and expect leading jumps trainer Willie Mullins to make another successful raid on the Flat.

Willie Mullins won back-to-back renewals of the Irish Cesearwitch in 2015 and 2016, and he again looks the trainer to focus on in this year’s renewal, responsible for four runners in the 18-strong field.

It is Nessun Dorma who tops Timeform weight-adjusted ratings, and made an encouraging return from 10 months off when two and a half lengths fifth to a progressive Dermot Weld filly (Katasa, who has since won a Group 3) in a competitive handicap at Leopardstown in September. Nessun Dorma was fairly strong in the market that day (8/1), but wasn’t given too much of a hard time, ridden over two furlongs out but never in a position to threaten the principals. He remains with relatively few miles on the clock for a six-year-old, especially on the Flat, and he has to be high on the shortlist racing from the same mark.

Stablemate Saglawy will carry top weight following his impressive reappearance win in a minor event at Listowel in September. That was his first start on the Flat since 2017, and first in this sphere for these connections, but the manner of his success suggests he could have even more to offer on the level. That win came over a mile and three quarters, but the way he stretched clear in the closing stages on that occasion suggests that he will have no problem staying this longer trip, and the booking of Colin Keane is a plus. An opening mark of 97 looks fair (he was beaten one and a quarter lengths in third from a mark of 144 on his sole handicap start over hurdles) and Saglawy rates the type that can land a big pot on the Flat from this sort of mark.

Legal Spin and Royal Illusion make up the Mullins quartet, and it is the latter than makes the most appeal of the two. She won a couple of times in the summer, and has looked solid in handicaps since, running into a stronger stayer at this trip when runner-up in soft ground at Listowel last time. The useful 7 lb claimer Joe Sheridan takes over in the saddle now, which will help her be more competitive, and she hasn’t much to find on these terms.

Golden Spear and Newcross, both trained by Tony Martin, are a couple of interesting runners. The former has fallen to an attractive mark, and shaped well returned to the Flat when three and a half lengths third to Davids Charm at Killarney in August. He has since just run respectably back over hurdles, but he is now 7 lb better off with Davids Charm and is likely to finish much closer to that rival now. Newcross was well beaten by Saglawy in a minor event last time, but should be more competitive back in a handicap now, and is well worth another try at this two-mile trip.

Davids Charm looked better than ever with the hood back on to win his latest Flat start, finally landing the big pot that he had been threatening for a while, and has since won back-to-back races over hurdles. He looked much improved in that sphere also when taking a Grade 3 event at Tipperary last Sunday, scoring by 12 lengths from a good yardstick in Plinth. That race did fall apart a little, but Davids Charm is clearly an improving horse, and is potentially well treated back on the Flat.

Dalton Highway finished a length behind Davids Charm on that Flat start, running up to his best on his second start in cheekpieces. He is proving more consistent this year, and can’t be ruled out given connections, especially with the return to two miles in his favour. He is only 4 lb better off with Davids Charm, though, and given that rival’s exploits since, he isn’t sure to reverse that form.

Joseph O’Brien is set to saddle a couple of interesting three-year-olds in the shape of Eminent Authority and Royal Aide. The former is seemingly held in some regard, pitched into the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot on just his third start, and asked to contest the St Leger Trial at this course after. It is probably best not to judge him too harshly on his handicap debut run last time over a trip short of his optimum. Eminent Authority looks an out-and-out stayer and much better is expected now tackling two miles for the first time.

Royal Aide arrives in pursuit of a hat-trick, having followed up his Killarney win and Bellewstown last time. He has looked progressive since entering handicaps, and his pedigree suggests he can keep rising up the ranks. The question mark with him is the trip, yet to race beyond a mile and a half, but he is by Galileo and out of a mare that stayed a mile and a half, so there is some hope on pedigree. Royal Aide looks one of the most progressive horses in the field and, if he does stay this much longer, he seems sure to be in the mix.

The John Kiely-trained Rock de Baune is another horse open to further improvement on the Flat. A fairly useful hurdler, it hasn’t taken him long to better than form on the level, winning two of his three starts, appreciating the step back up in trip when resuming his progress at Listowel last time. Rock de Baune was very strong at the finish that day, and for one that stays three miles over hurdles, this step up to two miles will be very much in his favour. He is another who appeals as being ahead of his mark and commands maximum respect.

In summary, this looks another competitive renewal, but at the prices preference is for the top-weight Saglawy. He remains unexposed on the Flat, and given Willie Mullins’ past exploits with similar types, an opening mark of 97 is very workable. Rock de Baune looks an obvious danger, while it wouldn’t be a surprise were Eminent Authority to prove much more competitive now tackling two miles for the first time.

Recommendation:

Back Saglawy at 8/1 in the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh on Sunday

 

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