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Last Updated: 13/10/13 8:51am
Sir Mark Prescott: Chasing first win in the Cesarewitch
Sir Mark Prescott can recall a few renewals of the Betfred Cesarewitch to have slipped out of his grasp but he returns once again with another viable contender in Newmarket's marathon handicap.
Renowned for the astute placing of his horses, the charismatic Newmarket trainer maintains Pallasator's light campaign before this weekend is not part of some Machiavellian scheme.
"The trainer's record in the Cesarewitch is lamentable - I've had five beaten favourites including two near certainties," said Prescott.
"I thought that it would take an Act of Parliament to stop Alleluia from winning in 2001 after she had won the Doncaster Cup, but she fractured her pelvis with two furlongs to run. Thankfully we were able to save her as a broodmare.
"The other horse I remember well which should have won was Hasten To Add (1993), who was very much a talking horse and was owned by an American lady called Abercrombie.
"American racing is all on dirt tracks, a mile more or less round, and I told her she'd better come over and watch the horse run as he was favourite for the Cesarewitch.
"She said tell me about the race, and the first thing I said was it's two and a quarter miles. She said 'right, how many runners?' The largest field in the States is 14, so I told her just the 36. I did think she thought I was taking the mickey, and she said 'how many laps do they go round'.
"She couldn't believe it. Anyway the horse ran well but just got beaten. The press came around and asked her what she thought of Newmarket. She said 'Gee, all these dukes and duchesses standing in the rain looking at nothing'."
Pallasator won three times last season but did not run this term until last month's Old Borough Cup at Haydock, when he was third.
"We wanted to start him off in the Northumberland Plate, but we had a hold-up and we were eight weeks behind with him," he said.
"Pallasator has a very, very good chance if he stays. He does get himself into quite a stew before the race so he will go down to the start with a pony.
"You have to go the full two and a quarter miles down to the start, so for a horse who gets on edge, it's long way to go. He always works well and is not a slow stayer but he would be vulnerable to those who really stay and grind it out."Nicky Henderson has collected the Cesarewitch twice so far with Landing Light and Caracciola and he is back with another hurdler, Lieutenant Miller, and French recruit Earth Amber.
The former was placed in the Ascot and Goodwood Stakes, and Henderson said: "He had a couple of hard races there but he is a toughened performer and we have given him a little freshen up.
"He has gone up in the weights without winning a race but that is just a fact of life in racing and fast ground definitely suits him.
"Earth Amber might prefer the ground a bit easier, a drop of rain would help her. She was quite fit when she came over from France where she had just finished second to a horse called Les Beaufs, who went on to win a Group One, and we then decided to shelve plans to run her over hurdles last winter.
"I'd like to stick them both in Earth Amber's stall if we were allowed."
Lieutenant Miller's owner Henry Ponsonby also has the Ebor winner and top-weight Tiger Cliff running in his silks.
"I'm happy with him coming into the race," said trainer Lady Cecil.
"He had a bit of a break after York and he did a nice piece of work last week. He stayed well when he was second in the Ascot Stakes, and any rain will be appreciated.
Another leading contender is still trained in France, the Mikel Delzangles-trained Smoky Hill.
Fourth in a Group Three last time, he carries the colours of the Marquesa de Moratalla. Delzangles was an assistant to Jimmy Fizgerald when Trainglot won the race in 1990 in those famous red colours.
"We nearly ran him in the Prix du Cadran but this race is worth more and we can always go for the Cadran next year. With over 30 runners he is going to need some luck, but it is always great to race in England," he said.
"The distance will suit him as, rather surprisingly given that his dam, Danasakya, was placed in the Cheveley Park Stakes, he is a very strong stayer."
"He's going there in good form," said Byrnes.
"They've had a bit of rain, but the ground shouldn't be too bad hopefully, so we'll see what happens.
"The one concern I have is he's gone up a lot in the weights and the races that have pushed him up in the weights haven't worked out particularly well, but we can't do anything about that. He's rated 95 now, but he likes the track and if he gets his ground hopefully he'll run well."
Oriental Fox, who picked up this year's trial, over the course and distance, has the help of man-of-the-moment Johnny Murtagh and is one of three starters for Mark Johnston.
"Oriental Fox's chance is there for everyone to see - he won the trial and is 2lb 'well-in' on the ratings," said Johnston.
"Apart from her run in the trial, Broxbourne was running with the right profile for the race and has a chance if she can come back to form. Scatter Dice has been very consistent in these sorts of races this season."
Philip Hobbs and owner Terry Warner combined to effect with Detroit City here in 2006 and return with Big Easy.
Warner said: "I think he'll be in the first five. He'll stay the trip - he's got three miles before at Cheltenham - and has got a sporting chance.
"His French form is not too bad at all on the Flat, but when we bought him from France he was very jarred up for two seasons, so we've had to go careful. He's OK now and was very unlucky in the Ascot Stakes, when nothing went right for him."
Platinum, drawn 21, is seeking a four-timer for the upwardly mobile Phil Kirby, who said: "We're in the middle. Some are drawn better and some are drawn worse, so we'll settle for what we've got.
"He goes on any ground really and everything has gone well since Haydock, we've had no hiccups.
"It's exciting to be going into a race like this with a big chance. That's all you can ask for, so let's hope he runs a big race."