The weights have been announced for the Dubai £500,000 Cesarewitch and Irish trainer Willie Mullins has responded to the doubling of the prize money on offer by making no less than 11 of the 84 entries for this two and a quarter mile event, run at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse on Saturday, 13th October.
This 179-year-old heritage handicap is being sponsored by Dubai for the first time this year and is now the joint most valuable Flat handicap in Europe.
The increase in prize money is part of a wider stakeholder-backed strategy to enhance the entire Flat staying programme in Great Britain. In line with the wishes of the BHA Race Planning Committee, it is accompanied by a rating cap of 110 - horses rated above that mark at the time of weights publication are not eligible.
With its field of 34 runners, the Dubai £500,000 Cesarewitch provides the chance to win a race of this value to a diverse band of connections - in recent years it has become renowned for attracting quality performers from both codes, Flat and Jump.
Best known for his exploits under National Hunt rules, Mullins has a fine recent record in Britain’s top staying events on the Flat but has yet to plunder the Dubai Cesarewitch, only bettering the fourth place he achieved with his initial runner (Tryphaena back in 2000) when Lagostovegas finished third in last year’s renewal.
Lagostovegas led home a Mullins 1-3-4-5 in the Ascot Stakes back in June and, along with the three stablemates that chased her home (Stratum, Chelkar and Whiskey Sour) in that Royal Ascot contest, heads his entries here.
Whiskey Sour and Stratum have since run in the Ebor Handicap at York, finishing sixth and twelfth respectively, although Stratum, the heavily-backed favourite, was unable to show his best in the closing stages after suffering severe interference.
Other leading hopes from the yard are Low Sun, winner of two of his last three starts; the 2016 Cheltenham National Hunt Festival scorer, Limini; and Uradel, who beat Limini in a flat race at the Galway Festival prior to being brought down in a valuable hurdle at the same venue that was won by Low Sun.
The Mullins team is completed by Laws Of Spin, Meri Devie, Gustavus Vassa, and Law Girl. They are part of a 21-strong Irish entry which also features five trained by Aidan O’Brien and one, Light Pillar, trained by Aidan’s son, Joseph.
The weights are headed by the Group 2 winner, Nearly Caught, trained by Hughie Morrison, and another member of the huge Irish contingent, Jim Bolger’s Twilight Payment, runner-up in a Group 3 at The Curragh ten days ago.
The addition of the Dubai £500,000 Cesarewitch to the Dubai sponsorship portfolio is part of a new deal that secures the partnership between Newmarket Racecourses and Dubai for a further five years until 2022.
It is Newmarket’s aim that the Cesarewitch is eventually worth £1 million and that it becomes one of the most anticipated and competitive races in the racing calendar. These ambitions for the race are supported by the BHA Race Planning Committee, and step one towards achieving this target is the Dubai £500,000 Cesarewitch in 2018.
The Cesarewitch is one of the highlights of the Dubai Future Champions Festival, which takes place on the Rowley Mile racecourse on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th October 2018, and also features the Group 1 championship two-year-old race, the Darley Dewhurst Stakes.
Willie Mullins, trainer of Laws Of Spin, Meri Devie, Whiskey Sour, Lagostovegas, Gustavus Vassa, Low Sun, Stratum, Uradel, Chelkar, Law Girl and Limini, said:
“The horses are well at the moment and, although there is still a long time to go, I am keen to get as many of them to the Dubai £500,000 Cesarewitch as possible.”
“Stratum has bounced back well from the Ebor, where things did not go to plan, and I would imagine the Cesarewitch will be something that we will target with him.”
“I will try to get Lagostovegas there again. We will play it day by day with her and it will depend on the ground as to where she goes next – she needs nice ground.”
“Low Sun looks an ideal Cesarewitch candidate and the good thing about him is that he handles any ground. Although neither he nor Uradel made the first three at Bellewstown last week [finishing sixth and fourth] I was happy with how they ran.”
“We took a chance running Limini twice at Galway but she has come out of those races well. We will look at Irish Champions Weekend for her and the Cesarewich is still very much a possibility.”