Oceane clinches Cesarewitch place – now we look to York and Chester on Saturday

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Thursday August 18

On the day that the entries were released for the £250,000 Betfred Cesarewitch, Oceane advertised his claims when gaining just compensation for an unlucky third in last month’s Goodwood Stakes with a gutsy success in the big two-mile handicap at York yesterday.

Alan gatecrashed the Flat boys annual party at Royal Ascot when winning with Primitivo in June, having already put their noses out of joint when capturing last year’s Newmarket marathon with Grumeti, and he can’t wait until next Tuesday to find out how the official handicapper has reassessed Oceane, who was given a lovely patient ride by Fergus Sweeney on day one of the prestigious Ebor meeting.

Grumeti only just crept get into the handicap proper at Newmarket last year off a mark of 84, and, though he is now only a pound higher, Oceane won off 87 on the Knavesmire and looks sure to  get a new rating which ensures his place in the field at HQ on October 8.

Owner Max McNeill, delighted how well Oceane battled to beat off Nakeeta in the final furlong, said:”He was never quite in the right position at Goodwood, but at York Fergus always had him clear of trouble and rode a super race.

“The aim of going to York was to get Oceane high enough in the ratings to get in the Cesarewitch, but, while we might have achieved that aim now, he is very much ground dependent. He ran no race on soft ground in the Queen Mother Cup at York in May and loves the going to be fast. We know he stays well enough – now we just have to hope we have a dry autumn.”

Alan said:”Oceane is a progressive gelding who is on the up and he would be my number one of our four entries for Newmarket, but as Max says he must have fast ground. Grumeti has just come back from a break and the plan is to get him ready for the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket on September 17.

“It was marvellous winning the race for Max with Grumeti last year even though I wasn’t there (Alan was at Chepstow with his jumpers), and, though it came as a big of shock when he won at 50-1, it was a magical day and one which we will never forget. You don’t get many races worth 250 grand, and they need taking seriously.

“We also have First Mohican entered, and he runs in the Listed race at Chester on Saturday. He is a law unto himself, but he’s a grand old horse who has given us a lot of fun and on his day he is very capable. He ran well to finish fourth at Glorious Goodwood and seems in good form just now, so he could also take his chance, though Who Dares Wins won’t run there.”

Casting his eyes on our other Saturday Flat runners, Alan, who has yet to confirm our two jumping entries for Newton Abbot, added:”Chocala will also be in the box en route to Chester. It will be good to get him rolling again. It’s more than 27 months since his last run, a victory under Richard Hughes at Ascot, and, though he runs off the same mark here, he has had his problems and after such a long absence he will obviously improve on whatever he does here.

“We have Top Tug going for the Ebor at York for which First Mohican was only second reserve. Top Tug has had a nice break since finishing third there six weeks ago, and the winner (Yorkidding) won again at Ascot next time, so the form is solid. He is well drawn in stall four and, though he is going up in trip, we don’t think that will be a problem.

Master Blueyes also runs up there is the £85,000 Melrose Handicap. He has enjoyed a great season, winning twice, once on this track, and he hasn’t been beaten more than three lengths in any of his other three races. He was unlucky at Goodwood, being badly squeezed out when still in contention in the last 100 yards, yet still being beaten only a couple of lengths into sixth place.”