British racing has more than its share of unique tests, from the Derby to the Grand National, races that draw out particular qualities that none of the races that those that run in them will have encountered, unless they had run in the race previously.
Very much one of that number is the Cesarewitch, staged at Newmarket on Saturday, two and a quarter miles with just one turn, and that approaching halfway; not the longest race run on the Flat, but one that tests fitness and stamina above all others.
Muldoon and Victory head Mullins' bid for Ces four-timer
Unsurprisingly, jumping trainers and jumping horses have had a good record in the race, Jimmy Fitzgerald and Martin Pipe back in the day, Philip Hobbs and Nicky Henderson both successful twice this century, Willie Mullins sending out the last three winners. Mullins, predictably, has the ante-post favourite this year, in the shape of the Ascot Stakes runner-up M C Muldoon.
M C Muldoon is clearly a runner that deserves close attention on the Ascot run, when he was a shade unlucky. The trouble is that was true when he was a late absentee from the Ebor; and the waters are further muddied by Mullins training ten more of the 57 that stand their ground for Saturday. Mullins ran seven in 2018, when he had the first two, but only one in 2020. Plenty of his entries merit respect, the 2020 Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory, whose Flat form is hard to weigh up, not least among them, but waiting until the final declarations to see which of the team are taking part from a yard that plays its cards close to its chest is surely the best policy.
Mullins isn't the only Irish yard with entries, probably the pick of the others the lightly-raced Coltor, trained by Dermot Weld. Coltor's fifth in the Fred Winter and his win in the big amateurs Flat race at Galway are enticing pieces of form. Weld, who won the Cesarewitch with the great Vintage Crop as long ago as 1992, also has the Irish version as an option for Colton, but he'll relish the extra distance if he takes his chance at Newmarket.
Buzz stamina concerns faced with marathon test
Nicky Henderson, who won the race with Landing Light (2003) and Caracciola (2008) has the current second favourite Buzz entered. Buzz developed into a smart hurdler last winter and ran well in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles on his final start. However, he has never given the impression he's an out-and-out stayer and the sort of test he'll face on Saturday, even on good ground, might well stretch him too far.
Henderson's main British rival Paul Nicholls has Scaramanga as a possible runner, though he is also entered in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow. He's of a similar standard to Buzz (and M C Muldoon) over hurdles, though again, like Buzz, there would be some doubt whether he will relish the sort of test he'd face in the Cesarewitch.
Live Your Dream form pick as stable aims for Autumn Double
Away from the jumping yards, probably the best handicapped horse in the field is Live Your Dream. He's got some strong handicap form to his name and ran a good second to the Irish-trained handicap blot Turnpike Trip, to whom he was conceding 22 lb, in the Trial for this race over course and distance last month. This will be much more competitive, but, off the same mark, Live Your Dream seems sure to run a big race. His stable landed the Cambridgeshire two weeks ago and is generally having one of its best campaigns for a while.
Calling The Wind's strong Goodwood form could be key
Calling The Wind is another major player. He's looked an improved performer on his last three starts, finishing second in the Queen Alexandra, winning the Goodwood Stakes and then a shade unlucky when again runner-up at Newbury. The last run, over as short as a mile and a half, was a fine effort and suggests Calling The Wind is still ahead of his mark. Like Live The Dream, he's a strong traveller, but he evidently has bundles of stamina too.
Calling The Wind's Goodwood Stakes is one of the key pieces of form, with the second, 2017 Cesarewitch winner Withhold, third Elysian Flame and fifth Platform Nineteen among quite a few who could take their chance again at the weekend. Elysian Flame, who came from further off the pace than the other principals at Goodwood, had been third in the Ascot Stakes the time before, closely matched with M C Muldoon on that running.
Platform Nineteen went on to finish a good third in a competitive two-mile handicap at the Ebor meeting. That's a race that has thrown up plenty of winners (and was another valuable handicap in Britain won by an Irish-trained runner backed off the boards), which makes Platform Nineteen look among the best treated runners, from a mark just 1 lb higher than at York. The extra emphasis on stamina will be right up his street as well.
Platform Nineteen just looks too big at 34.033/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, others with similar chances half the price, and is top of the shortlist. Given it's a 35-runner handicap, a second string is probably quite handy, with Live Your Dream at 15.014/1 making most appeal of the runners towards the head of the market.