Stratum heads Mullins Cesarewitch onslaught
STRATUM is reported to be firing on all cylinders as he prepares to lead a seven-strong team for Willie Mullins into battle in the Dubai £500,000 Cesarewitch Stakes at Newmarket today.
Stratum looked more than a step ahead of the handicapper when dominating his rivals in the inaugural JLT Cup at Newbury in July, a performance which ensured he was a hot favourite for the following month’s Ebor at York.
However, he encountered traffic problems up the Knavesmire straight and finished in midfield without emptying the tank.
The five-year-old again heads the betting for his latest big-race assignment and Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, is expecting him to make his presence felt.
He said: “Stratum was very unlucky in the Ebor. From a poor draw he got no luck in running. He was very impressive in Newbury the time before that and he’s working as well as he’s ever worked.
“Granted normal luck in running we’d be expecting him to bring home some sterling.”
Cheltenham Festival heroine Limini and her stablemate Law Girl were separated by just a head in a valuable handicap at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend last month. The Closutton army is completed by Uradel, Low Sun, Whiskey Sour and Meri Devie.
Mullins added: “It was great to see Limini pick up a big handicap after hitting the crossbar twice in Galway, but I was slightly disappointed that she could only beat Law Girl by a small margin.
“That performance would suggest she doesn’t have much in hand over the handicapper, but the extra couple of furlongs could bring about a bit more improvement. Law Girl has a nice racing weight with less than 9st and has an each-way chance.”
He went on: “Uradel is intriguing. He got a fantastic ride from Aubrey (McMahon) to win in Galway and a mile and a half on quick ground at Bellewstown was much too sharp for him last time. Stepping back up in trip will help him.
“Low Sun ran in the same race as Uradel at Bellewstown and again the trip and track on fast ground was too sharp. He’s really improved over hurdles and he’s a laid-back horse, which will suit him in a race like this.
“Whiskey Sour has been running well in similar races but probably isn’t that well handicapped, while Meri Devie has been hugely disappointing on the Flat.
“Her work at home is far superior to what she’s been showing on the track and her hurdles form is far superior to her Flat form. It wouldn’t surprise me if she ran well.”
Aidan O’Brien saddles the three-year-old Southern France in a bid to win the Cesarewitch for the first time. The Galileo colt was last seen finishing third behind stable companion Kew Gardens in the St Leger at Doncaster.
O’Brien said: “It’s a competitive handicap for a three-year-old, but he is running off a nice mark.”
Stars Over The Sea won the Cesarewitch Trial over course and distance three weeks ago and is one of three runners for Ian Williams along with Speedo Boy and Blue Rambler.
Williams said: “Stars Over The Sea is an out-andout galloper and it will take a good horse to take him on in the early stages.
“I’m not entirely sure that this step up in distance will be ideal for Speedo Boy, but for the prize-money on offer it’s worth taking the chance.
“I am very happy with the way Blue Rambler comes into this race – he finished sixth in it two years ago and is now 9lb lower in the handicap, so that gives him a squeak.”
Vis A Vis is a fascinating contender for Neil Mulholland, having won each of his two starts since arriving from France.
Dominant: Stratum ridden by Robert Winston (centre) leads the field home to win The JLT Cup