Matt Brocklebank tackles the Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch in his latest long-range preview and recommends bets at 33/1 and 40/1.
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Le Don the one to get on early
LE DON DE VIE looks to possess all the requisite tools to win the bet365 Cambridgeshire at Newmarket.
Valuable Flat handicaps are more competitive than ever but the same old principles apply – find a rapidly-improving horse that can cope with a strong gallop, and ideally stay a bit further, and you’re definitely on the right track.
Overlooking the eyebrow-raising summer stable switch from Andrew Balding to Hughie Morrison for the time being, the three-year-old Le Don De Vie has a profile to die for when it comes to aiming at a huge, end-of-season handicap like the Cambridgeshire.
He ran three times in three very warm races at two – the Goodwood maiden in which he finished fifth to Line Of Duty has produced 16 subsequent winners – and this year has seen him win three of his four starts.
Balding plotted a path he knows well in winning an Epsom novice event at the end of April en route to the big, 10-furlong handicap back there on Derby day. And, after the plan came to fruition with a four-and-a-half length victory over The Trader, the owners cashed in to the tune of £460,000 at the Goffs horses-in-training sale.
So the LDDV baton was passed to Morrison, who got him back in action quite quickly in his new silks and opted to switch up in distance to test the water over a mile and a half at Glorious Goodwood.
He ran a belter, racing prominently, leading two furlongs from the finish and finishing fourth to Sir Ron Priestley, who has won at Group Three level since.
Le Don De Vie is a first foal and his dam Leaderene, a half-sister to Group One winner Lady Marian, stayed 12 furlongs well, so it was well worth a try but on reflection the Goodwood run was a fact-finding mission with a pretty clear conclusion: he doesn’t want that far.
The best part of a month off followed but progress was resumed stylishly back at Goodwood – back over a mile and a quarter – with victory on Sunday afternoon.
He was extremely well backed before the race, going off 2/1 favourite having been 9/2 earlier in the day, Oisin Murphy rode him with a real air of confidence and the eventual half-length winning margin looked to significantly underrate his overall superiority over Great Example, who was an eased-down winner at Nottingham on his previous start.
Murphy mentioned the Cambridgeshire in his post-race interview, a race that Morrison doesn’t just run them in for the fun of it – he’s only had three representatives in the race since winning with Supaseus in 2009 (Chil The Kite ran in two renewals, finishing sixth on one occasion).
There’s also a potentially significant element to the timing of Sunday’s success.
Any race won between Sunday and the Cambridgshire results in a penalty, rather than a full assessment from the official handicapper, so whereas Le Don De Vie picks up just the 4lb extra for his troubles, the likes of Forest Of Dean and Turgenev, who won at York and finished second at Goodwood respectively on Saturday, were arguably running a day too soon.
Forest Of Dean was promoted to general 10/1 favouritism following his impressive success on the Knavesmire, but he's been hit with a 10lb rise and would have to compete off 110 in the Cambridgeshire.
Turgenev has appealed for this race since right at the start of the season and bounced back from his below-par run at Newmarket to get within a length of Duke Of Hazzard in Goodwood's Group Two Ladbrokes Celebration Mile over the weekend.
But he’s gone up 4lb as a result to 112 so we’re talking pretty lofty marks the Princess Haya horses have to overcome if lining up – stablemate Wissahickon won from 107 last year but there are bound to be Group-race alternatives for horses of that calibre, and that’s got to be factored into your antepost position.
With the 4lb penalty effectively taking him to a mark of 100 and likely to ensure he definitely makes the cut, it’s surprising to see Le Don De Vie still as big as 33/1 with some firms (Ladbrokes and Coral go 16s) and although the Dubai Duty Free Handicap at Newbury on September 21 – the Saturday before the Cambridegshire – is an obvious option, the prestige and the prize-money of the Cambridgeshire is a significant draw and I'm happy to chance that being plan A.
Time to act in open Ces market
The Dubai Cesarewitch Stakes is a fantastic race to try and unpick at an early stage and while the Cambridgeshire is often a tightly-knit, compressed handicap, the Ces can often see a significant weight range from top to bottom.
Last year's edition, widely regarded as well up to scratch, was made up of horses ranging from top-weight Scotland with an official BHA rating of 105 to a bunch of horses rated just 86.
The first three home were rated 94 or higher and I wouldn't be put off those projected to be nearer the top of the handicap than the bottom.
One from the 2018 renewal who deserves a significant mention is Speedo Boy, who got loose beforehand and then suffered a troubled passage before finishing sixth to Low Sun.
He's had a quieter campaign this time around and we can presumably put a line through his Northumberland Plate run when last seen as he hung badly throughout after the bit reportedly slipped through his mouth.
The weights aren't published until next week (September 4) but he's going to be running off the same mark as last year (98) at this stage and looks capable of a bold bid if aimed here before having his attentions turned back to hurdling through the winter.
His trainer Ian Williams is a notable omission when it comes to quality dual-purpose handlers to have won this famous race, but it surely won't be long.
Williams has won a couple of Chester Cups and this summer registered his first success in Royal Ascot's major staying handicap - the Ascot Stakes over two and a half miles - and it's surely a matter of time before he hits the target in the Cesarewitch.
Sticking with Williams, then, and his TIME TO STUDY looks a potentially interesting candidate and at 40/1 (General) is worth getting into the ledger at this early juncture.
Plenty of big, back-end handicaps are won by horses with back-class that have been aimed towards this time of the season and Time To Study ticks both boxes.
A very good operator for Mark Johnston through 2016, 2017 and 2018, he has some enviable form in the book including a third to Defoe in the London Gold Cup at Newbury, fifth to Stradivarius in the Queen's Vase and a Group Three second to Torcedor in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.
That came just last May and although he's thoroughly exposed in the grand scheme of things, he's had an interesting first season in Williams' care.
The obvious highlight in the UK came when third to stablemate The Grand Visir at Ascot and while down the field in the Northumberland Plate and also when dropped back to a mile and six at Newmarket's July Festival, it was important to see him bounce back with a win last time.
That came in a minor race in France but it's easy to underestimate the magnitude of that effort which will have done his confidence the power of good having been without a win since the end of 2017.
Not only that but it seems to have been completely overlooked by the assessor so he's due to run at Newmarket from his lowest handicap mark (93) in over two years.
Having been rated as high as 108, there won't be many better-handicapped horses on course for the Cesarewitch and we shouldn't be put off by the trainer having plenty of possible contenders as he ended up running three last season.
Willie Mullins is obviously a trainer to respect hugely when it comes to staying, British Flat handicaps and at the time of writing he has no fewer than nine entries, including four of the top six in the antepost market.
It's impossible to know for sure how he'll judge things nearer the time but if there's rain around in early-October then that would suit Great White Shark who bolted up on the level at Galway before running a promising third back over hurdles later that week.
Malcolm Denmark's five-year-old mare is still unexposed as a Flat stayer, having looked quite promising for James Fanshawe previously. Whatever she does in this code she's one to monitor closely with the winter jumps campaign in mind as her NH rating of 134 could look an absolute gift in time.
Posted at 1600 BST on 28/08/19