Withhold: easy winner of the Cesarewitch under Silvestre de Sousa

Martin Lynch

Changes to the conditions of this year’s Cesarewitch have claimed a high-profile casualty after last year’s winner Withhold was ruled ineligible to run.

The Tony Bloom-owned stayer has the Melbourne Cup as his autumn target but were there to be a change of plan he could not run at Newmarket, a situation described as “ridiculous” by trainer Roger Charlton.

The historic prize, run as the £500,000 Dubai Cesarewitch, has had a revamp which has not only resulted in a prize-money boost but conditions changes designed to support the staying programme.

As well as introducing a ratings cap of 110, all runners must have run at least twice on the Flat since April in a race at 1m4f or further.

Withhold, who won the Northumberland Plate in June, has run only once this year, and under current rules would have been ineligible for last year’s race, in which he landed a famous gamble.

He was not the only non-qualifier for the handicap as the new conditions claimed eight other victims including two horses trained by Aidan O’Brien and one by Willie Mullins.

The 107-rated Withhold would have been one of the joint top weights if eligible for the October 13 handicap.

Charlton said: “Withhold goes to the Melbourne Cup and because of the ridiculous conditions he is not eligible to run in the Cesarewitch.”

Trainers were notified of the change in conditions in a letter from Newmarket issued before entries closed, as well as in the Racing Calendar.

A spokesperson for Newmarket said: “The changes to the conditions accompanied the significant increase in prize-money and were requested by the BHA Race Planning Committee. The amendments were highlighted to trainers in a letter from Michael Prosser circulated two weeks prior to the entries closing.

“That the amendment has ruled out last year’s winner is no doubt an unintended consequence, where the original objective was to ensure as level a playing field as possible for such a valuable race.”

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