Lagostovegas heads Willie Mullins' charge on Cesarewitch
Last Updated: 13/10/17 11:34am
Willie Mullins is triple-handed as he bids to win the Betfred Cesarewitch at Newmarket for the first time on Saturday.
Ireland's perennial champion jumps trainer is no stranger to big-race success on the Flat, but victory in the second leg of the autumn double at Headquarters has so far eluded him.
He sends a formidable trio to the Rowley Mile this weekend, with Ryan Moore booked to partner progressive mare Lagostovegas, who has won her last two starts over hurdles at Killarney and Listowel.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Lagostovegas won very well in Killarney during the summer under Pat Smullen and got a huge hike in the ratings.
"I rode her in Galway and possibly just got to the front a bit too soon. She's a mare with a lot of speed. We think there's more improvement in her. She's an improving mare over hurdles and we're hopeful she can translate that back to the Flat."
The Closutton handler also saddles two previous winners of the Irish Cesarewitch.
Andrea Atzeni takes the ride on last year's Curragh scorer Laws Of Spin, while Kevin Manning will get the leg up on Digeanta, who won the Irish Cesarewitch in 2015 and was beaten a shade over two lengths into fifth place in this event three years ago.
Mullins said: "Laws Of Spin won the Irish Cesarewitch last year and won a valuable handicap on Irish Champions Weekend in Leopardstown the last day. He only won by a head, which might suggest he's at the top of his handicap range. However, he's quite a lazy horse, so he might have a bit more up his sleeve.
"Digeanta is another Irish Cesarewitch winner and has run well in this race before. He was only a nose behind Lagostovegas in Galway, so on that form there's not much between them. It wouldn't surprise me if he ran into one of the places."
He added: "We've not won the English Cesarewitch before. Digeanta and Renneti (fourth in 2015) have both run well in it. It's a prestigious race and there's a lot of prize-money on offer, so it would be great if one of them could do it."
John Constable is the ante-post favourite for trainer Evan Williams and champion jockey Jim Crowley.
Formerly with Aidan O'Brien, the six-year-old won the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May and defied a hefty rise in the weights to land the Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen in July.
"There's no point asking me what you need to win Flat races as I have no experience, but it would be wrong not to try him given his profile over hurdles," Williams told Betfred TV.
"We just try to treat it like any other race, hopefully he's progressive and improving with a bit of age. He's come from the best hotel in the world so he's not improving for training, but we just hope he's on an upward curve.
"It would be a fantastic race to win. To be fair it's more of a jumping race than it ever is a Flat race and it's always nice to try to compete with the best in any division of the sport."
Dubawi Fifty is on a hat-trick for Northumberland-based trainer Karen McLintock.
Grand National-winning jockey Graham Lee takes the ride.
"He handles any ground really, but I wouldn't want it really fast as he's got a round action," said McLintock.
"We had been thinking of going hurdling with him, but look how much money he's racing for. To run for that sort of money over jumps you are talking about Cheltenham and look how hard it is to win there.
"I'm not saying this is easy, far from it, but there are more opportunities to run for good money on the Flat."
HP Racing, run by successful owner Henry Ponsonby, is doubly represented.
Who Dares Wins won over the course and distance in the Cesarewitch Trial three weeks ago, while First Mohican was second 12 months ago.
Ponsonby said: "Who Dares Wins is a wonderful horse and his victory in the Cesarewitch Trial proved he is still improving. We were aware that a win there would bring him a 4lb penalty for the big race itself, but reasoned that a bird in hand was better than two in the bush.
"He has been trained with this race as his main target for some time now. First Mohican has been there, done that and got the t-shirt. He will be running in this race for the third straight year and gets the trip really well.
"In hindsight he was rather unlucky last year as the only horse that beat him (Sweet Selection) was 12lb well in and went on to win a Group Three race."
The Charlie Fellows-trained Endless Acres has been off the track since chasing home Thomas Hobson at Royal Ascot in June, but has been well-backed during the week.
"His form stacks up whichever way you look," said Fellowes.
"We wanted to come here fresh as Ascot took a lot out of him, but he won first time out so I wasn't worried about a prep run and I'm delighted with his draw in 31."