Stratum lands Cesarewitch at Newmarket for Willie Mullins
25-1 winner comes after another impressive performance from the unbeaten Pinatubo
Pinatubo kept his unbeaten record up in fine fashion at Newmarket. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA
Stratum provided Willie Mullins with his second successive victory in the Emirates Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
Ireland’s perennial champion National Hunt trainer saddled the first two home in last year’s renewal of the £350,000 contest, with Low Sun getting the better of stable companion Uradel in a thrilling finish.
Mullins was again well represented, with the Frankie Dettori-ridden Buildmeupbuttercup and William Buick’s mount Great White Shark both prominent in the betting — but it was the outsider of the three Stratum who struck gold at 25-1 in the hands of Jason Watson.
Disappointing when well-fancied for this race a year ago, the Tony Bloom-owned six-year-old has largely failed to fire in valuable handicaps both on the Flat and over hurdles since.
He was a ready winner of a minor event on his most recent Flat start at Killarney, but was turned over as the 1-4 favourite on his latest appearance over hurdles at Listowel.
However, he was back on-song in this fiercely competitive two-and-a-quarter-mile contest, knuckling down in the closing stages to get the better of 50-1 shot Party Playboy — trained by Willie’s brother Tony Mullins — by half a length.
Earlier Pinatubo rounded off an unblemished juvenile campaign with an ultimately decisive victory in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes.
The Shamardal colt has carried all before him so far this season — progressing from a low-key debut win at Wolverhampton to landing the Woodcote at Epsom, the Chesham at Royal Ascot and the Vintage at Goodwood before a devastating nine-length romp in the National Stakes.
Charlie Appleby’s star juvenile was a prohibitively priced 1-3 favourite to make it six from six on the Rowley Mile — and while it was harder work than many expected, he was well on top at the line.
Ridden by William Buick, Pinatubo travelled strongly in the middle of pack before throwing down his challenge down the centre of the track.
Aidan O’Brien’s Arizona — a shade over nine lengths behind Pinatubo at the Curragh almost four weeks ago — certainly made more of a race of it on this occasion, and just for a moment threatened to spoil the party as he followed Pinatubo through.
However, Appleby’s charge asserted his authority after meeting the rising the ground and had two lengths in hand at the line.