It has not paid to look beyond Willie Mullins in the Cesarewitch in recent years. Low Sun, Stratum and Great White Shark have taken it in turns to scoop the past three renewals for the maestro, and he also enjoyed a 1-2 in 2018.
No trainer has previously won the race three times in succession in its 184-year history and he requires one more success to join record holders William Day (1853-1881) and Matthew Dawson (1863-1886) as a four-time victor.
However, it’s not been straightforward when trying to cash in on his recent domination of the stamina-sapping feature. For instance, he muddied the waters by fielding seven runners in 2018, while his two short-priced contenders failed figure 12 months later when he won with a 25-1 chance. Last year was more elementary as he relied solely on Great White Shark, and the grey justified heavy support under Jason Watson, who also guided home his 2019 winner.
Mullins has left himself 11 to juggle after Monday’s declarations and it looks like he is going to be mob-handed because MC Muldoon (Ryan Moore), Great White Shark (Jason Watson), Burning Victory (William Buick) and Foveros (David Egan) are already jocked up.
Long-time ante-post favourite MC Muldoon is the one who stands out among his squad as he was most unlucky not to win the Ascot Stakes in June, on his first Flat start for Mullins, before getting back to winning ways over hurdles at the Galway Festival last time.
He’s 4lb higher than at Royal Ascot but the way moved through that 2m 4f race suggests he’s still well ahead of his mark. It was one that got away because he was left with quite a bit to do in the straight, although that would not have mattered had he not had to switch to get a clear run after running into traffic approaching the final furlong.
He stayed on well, but the line came a yard or so too soon and he was beaten a short head. The six-year-old evidently stays well but is no sluggard.
The ground was fast at Ascot but M C Muldoon has also shown himself to be effective in the mud and he will be fresh after a ten-week break. Great White Shark also won at Galway last year before being given a similar breather.
I cannot have an ante-post punt on the race without having a saver on MC Muldoon but my main bet is Calling The Wind, who looks to have even more going for him.
The Richard Hughes-trained five-year-old was also in action at Royal Ascot, when he ran a screamer to split Stratum (rated 112) and The Grand Visor (rated 105) in the Queen Alexandra Stakes given he met that pair on level weights and went into the race rated 91. For good measure, Stag Horn (rated 108) was fourth, with Morando (107) sixth.
The handicapper was entitled to raise Calling The Wind a good chunk but more or less turned a blind eye, nudging him up only 3lb. The gelding took full advantage in the extended 2m4f handicap run at Glorious Goodwood the following month, when he tanked through a competitive race and was not fully extended to keep Withhold and Elysian Flame at bay after hitting the front on the bridle.
A 6lb rise was the least that could have been expected, and Calling The Wind had the perfect tune-up when beaten a head by Makram in a 1m4f handicap at Newbury last month. Despite dropping a mile in trip, he again motored through the race and he would have won had Pat Dobbs got up after him just a little earlier.
The blessing is that Calling The Wild did not pick up a penalty and is able to race off the same rating. He will be obliged to race off a 3lb higher mark in future, with the only other “well-in” runners in the field being Live Your Dream and Alright Sunshine.
My one niggle is that he didn’t shine on the Rowley Mile in May but, in his defence, he got no cover that day and that slowly-run six-runner affair over 1m 4f was never going to show him in the best light. He’s since looked a different horse and remains engaged in the Group Two Long Distance Cup at Ascot, which tells you something.
The 8-1 on offer looks fair, not least because we know ground with some dig in it, or worse, clearly suits him. That seems assured as the going was on the slow side at Headquarters on Saturday and there is rain forecast tonight (Monday) into much of tomorrow.
I’m also going to have a second saver on Elysian Flame because, having been with him all summer, I’ll kick myself if he happens to come good and I don’t have a penny on him.
You can upgrade his fine efforts at Ascot and Goodwood because the ground was probably on the lively side for him on the first occasion, while he given a bit too much to do on the Sussex Downs.
Elysian Flame stays all day, likes to get his toe in and has form that ties in with the principals. Others perhaps have greater scope for improvement but he seems sure to be in the thick of things when it matters most.
How To Bet £20 ante-post on the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch Handicap
£10 win and £2.50 each-way on Calling The Wind at a general 8-1
MC Muldoon £3 win at a general 6-1
£1 each-way on Elysian Flame at a general 16-1
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