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Charlton cautious over expectations on Withhold’s return

Withhold ridden by Silvestre De Sousa leads the field home to win The Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap Stakes Race in 2017.
Withhold ridden by Silvestre De Sousa leads the field home to win The Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap Stakes Race in 2017.
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Roger Charlton attempted to dampen the hype ahead of Withhold’s return to action in Saturday’s Stobart Rail & Civils Northumberland Plate.

The five-year-old landed a monster gamble in in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last October, but has not been seen in competitive action since.

Bookmakers have taken no chances, pricing him up as a hot favourite for the £150,000 feature at Gosforth Park, but Charlton warns his charge will improve for the run.

“I think he’s well, but you have to remember this is his first run of the year,” said the Beckhampton handler.

“We were planning to give him a prep race three weeks ago, but he wasn’t quite right at the time. Some of our horses have been slow to come to hand and we just had to hold him back.”

Charlton added: “I think he’ll improve. The draw (11) looks OK to me. This is his first run of what we hope will be a long season.

“This race has been one of the targets, but I don’t think people should get carried away just because he was an easy winner of the Cesarewitch.

“There are some good horses in this race.”

Lagostovegas was successful at Royal Ascot last week for Willie Mullins and his son and assistant Patrick says her well-being is the main reason she is out again quickly.

“It was a fantastic performance at Ascot, the first-time hood helped and Andrea Atzeni gave her a fantastic ride,” Mullins jnr said of the Ascot Stakes winner.

“It will be her first time on the all-weather, which is a bit of an unknown, but she’s at the bottom of the weights and will stay.”

Mark Johnston’s Time To Study has been running in Listed and Group races this season and joins Higher Power at the head of the weights.

The stable also run Watersmeet, third last year, and Soldier In Action.

“Time To Study has a lot of weight, but he’s earned it,” said Johnston.

“He’s the class horse in the race. He’s dropping down out of Pattern company back into a handicap and he’s proven over the trip.

“He’s going to take quite a lot of beating, but at the same time we’ve got Watersmeet in there, who is another very consistent horse, particularly on the all-weather. This race is tailor-made for him as well.”

Johnston can be forgiven for having his attention across the Irish Sea as his Dee Ex Bee goes for glory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh, where he again takes on Aidan O’Brien’s 2000 Guineas hero Saxon Warrior.

Dee Ex Bee finished two places ahead of Saxon Warrior when runner-up at Epsom and his trainer Johnston has no qualms about his colt coping with the quicker conditions.

“There was cut in the ground at Epsom and we know he does handle cut in the ground, as he’s won on soft ground before and it may inconvenience others,” said Johnston.

“At the same time, I would be pretty confident that he would handle fast ground.

“I’ve got the utmost respect, as everyone has, for Aidan. We are the one who finished in front (of Saxon Warrior) and we are the one who is guaranteed to stay. We are coming there more than hopeful.”

Johnston feels that the Curragh’s more conventional track could bring out more in his colt, rather than the undulations of Epsom.

He said: “He’s absolutely fine since Epsom, no issues at all. It’s always a nervous time when you are making a significant supplementary entry.

“Epsom was certainly not a surprise, but realistically if someone had said before the race that you could finish in the first three then I’d probably have settled for that.

“Coming into the final furlong I thought he might finish fourth, so we were delighted with second place. He’s a really big horse and physically he should enjoy the Curragh a lot more.”