Oriental Fox leads Mark Johnston trio in pursuit of Cesarewitch Trial triumph

Fri 22 Sep 2017

By staff

Dual Royal Ascot hero Oriental Fox leads three Mark Johnston-trained runners into battle in Saturday's Betfred Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket.

The nine-year-old's heart-on-sleeve style of running is typical of representatives of the Middleham yard and while he is now in the twilight of his career, he proved he is no back number when regaining his crown in the Queen Alexandra Stakes in June.

He has failed to get competitive in the Coral Marathon at Sandown, the Goodwood Cup or the Ebor at York since, but has less on his plate this weekend as connections look to tee him up for the Betfred Cesarewitch itself on October 14, a race in which he was beaten just a short head by Grumeti in 2015.

Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: "It has sort of been his target for the last six weeks or so to run in this race and then the Cesarewitch itself. He was only beaten a short head in the big one a couple of years ago, so we're keen to let him have another crack at it.

"He's been running in some Group-class staying races in the second half of the summer and he's come down a couple of pounds in the weights because of that.

"The trip and the ground won't be a problem for him and although he's getting on a bit, it's all systems go. He might just improve a touch for the run, with the Cesarewitch itself his main target."

Johnston also saddles Time To Study, who is turning out for the the third week running having finished third at Haydock a fortnight ago and won the Mallard Handicap at Doncaster last Friday.

The apparent third string is Mister Manduro, who is on a recovery mission after finishing last of six runners at Goodwood.

"We would have been perfectly happy to let Time To Study go straight to the Cesarewitch, but he came out of last week in very good form," Johnston jnr continued.

"He didn't run for nearly three months after Royal Ascot, so he missed the bulk of the summer and because of that he comes into the autumn a relatively fresh horse.

"I think he'll improve for the step up in trip. He's probably at his best when there's cut in the ground, so it will be interesting to see what it's like on Saturday. Hopefully he'll run a big race and we'll head to the Cesarewitch with him, too."

Of Mister Manduro, he added: "He's been disappointing, to be honest. He was only just over a length behind Time To Study in the Edinburgh Cup at the start of June and he wasn't beaten far in the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot.

"On that form he should only be a pound or two behind Time To Study, but whereas he has improved a stone, this horse has gone backwards, if anything.

"His last run at Goodwood was a real head-scratcher. The only thing I can think of is he's quite a big horse and maybe he didn't handle that turning, undulating track.

"He won't have that excuse on Saturday and it would be nice to think we can get him back on track, but I'm going there more hoping than expecting with him."

Alan King, who won the Cesarewitch with the aforementioned Grumeti, is also triple-handed with Who Dares Wins, Oceane and Coeur De Lion.

King's fellow leading National Hunt trainer Philip Hobbs saddles Sternrubin, while Irish hopes rest on the Tony Martin-trained The Graduate.

The latter won four times on the level for former trainer Andrew Balding before changing hands for 100,000 guineas at Tattersalls last October.

He has not lived up his price tag so far, finishing down the field in hurdle races at Cork and Kilbeggan, and reverts to the Flat.

Martin said: "Our horses just weren't 100 per cent on his first couple of runs for us, but we're quite happy with him at the moment. I'm hoping he'll give a good account of himself."

Rod Millman's admirable mare Taws steps up in class having won over hurdles at Worcester and twice on the level at Chepstow this summer.

"She's won three of her last four races and she's in really good form," said Millman.

"It's quite a competitive renewal of the race, I thought, more competitive than in recent years.

"But we're very happy with her going into the race and the lad who rides her (David Egan) knows her well, so fingers crossed she runs a good race."

Other contenders in a 21-strong field include Agent Murphy (Brian Meehan), Shrewd (Iain Jardine) and Arthur Mc Bride (Nigel Twiston-Davies).

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