Willie Mullins believes he has three live chances in the Emirates Cesarewitch on Saturday, with Buildmeupbuttercup, Stratum and Great White Shark all lining up at Newmarket.
Despite ruling the roost in the National Hunt sphere, Mullins in no stranger to plundering big prizes on the level and took this race 12 months ago with Low Sun.
He has booked Frankie Dettori for ante-post favourite Buildmeupbuttercup, who has had her form boosted recently by Dermot Weld’s Kastasa, who narrowly beat her in a valuable affair at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend.
“Her last run has worked out fantastically, you couldn’t have asked for it to work out better,” said Mullins.
“She was giving the winner a stone and the winner has come out and won a Group race – that’s very good form, I think.”
Stratum, ridden by Jason Watson, seems more at home on the Flat than over hurdles these days.
“The thing with Stratum is he likes really good ground, so when he runs over hurdles it can be a bit soft for him,” Mullins went on.
“He stays really well, he’s got no problem on that front, I’m just not sure if the ground will be as quick as he’d prefer.”
A second mare running for Mullins is Great White Shark, who won a big pot at the Galway Festival and will be ridden by William Buick.
“Great White Shark had a tremendous run at Galway, winning the big Connacht Hotel race, and then I ran her back again quickly over hurdles and she ran well again,” said Mullins.
“She disappointed for some reason next time over hurdles, but I think that was my fault, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
“This was the race I was preparing her for and I think she’ll relish the ground and the trip. It looks like I’ve got three live chances.”
He added: “I’m hoping to get to Newmarket on Saturday. I’ve a busy morning with owners, but if I can get a flight over in time, I’ll be there. I managed last year, so hopefully I can again.”
Sir Mark Prescott’s two runners, Timoshenko and Land Of Oz, have been prolific winners – but the handler feels he is fated never to win the big race.
“I’ve got Timoshenko who’s won his last six and Land Of Oz who’s won six of his last seven, so they’ve won an amazing number of races, but I won’t win the Cesarewitch with them because I never do!” he told Betfred TV.
“The other night I was watching all the old ones and I seemed to finish fourth in every one.
“They’ll run well. It’s a great race and Mr Mullins has the favourite so goodness knows how good that will be, while mine are probably pretty exposed.”
Eddystone Rock has won his last two for John Best having looked past his peak prior to his recent revival.
“We had a bit of a virus last year and he dropped a few pounds to a mark where he was capable of winning,” explained Best.
“Once he got his confidence back, he’s gone from strength to strength and stepping him up to two miles has helped as well.
“He’s in good form and we’re looking forward to it.”
Ian Williams has gone close the last two years with London Prize (second) and Speedo Boy (sixth) and runs Time To Study, the mount once more of Cieren Fallon.
He also runs Darksideoftarnside off a low weight.
“Time To Study showed a very willing attitude when winning the Old Borough Cup and should appreciate the likely soft ground on Saturday. The extra distance will not inconvenience him,” said Williams.
“Darksideoftarnside ran a very good race at Ascot and also loves slow ground. He is far from a total outsider.
“It would mean a great deal to me to win my first Cesarewitch. It’s always very competitive, as you would expect for such decent prize-money.
“It’s not the type of race you can ever expect to win and it is always hard to beat the likes of Willie Mullins. Sir Mark Prescott is another who looks to have a very strong hand this year – I just hope that conditions allow my pair to be competitive.”
Alan King sends Who Dares Wins out again quickly after he was fourth in a Group One in France last weekend, and runs Rainbow Dream and Coeur De Lion as well.
“Who Dares Wins has bounced back from France, and the handicapper was obviously impressed as he has put him up 5lb for that Cadran run,” King told his website.
“However, Who Dares Wins, while having to shoulder top-weight here, can run off his old mark. The ground will also suit both Rainbow Dreamer and Coeur De Lion.”
Karen McLintock’s Dubawi Fifty was second to Who Dares Wins in the Northumberland Plate, but needs to bounce back from two poor runs.
“I’ve put a line through his last two runs. Frankie (Dettori) said last time that when he eventually got the front he went too slow, he called it a stupid race, and at Goodwood he had excuses, too,” she said.
“He’s been placed in the race before and seems in good form at home, there’s no reason to think he won’t run well.”