GBI RACING

Stratum looking to reach new heights for Willie Mullins in JLT Cup

Stratum (in blue) finished behind stablemate Lagostovegas at Royal Ascot

Stratum is aiming to win another major staying handicap prize for owner Tony Bloom in the inaugural JLT Cup at Newbury on Saturday.

After the Roger Charlton-trained Withhold’s victories in the Cesarewitch and Northumberland Plate, the Brighton chairman turns to Willie Mullins on this occasion with Stratum.

Mullins has trained Penhill to win at the last two Cheltenham Festivals for Bloom and this weekend’s runner was last seen finishing third to stablemate Lagostovegas at Royal Ascot.

“We’ve put the hood on him as he was keen enough at Ascot, so we’re hoping it will help him settle,” said assistant trainer Patrick Mullins.

“He ran on really well at Ascot, he was probably the horse to take out of the race.

“There’s huge prize-money for this race, JLT are to be commended, and hopefully he can bring back some sterling. If he produces his run from Ascot, he should be bang there again.

“I don’t see the ground being an issue. He’s versatile, he handled fast ground well at Ascot and came out of that really well.

“He’s still only had 12 runs in his life, so he’s definitely open to more improvement.”

Heading the weights is Iain Jardine’s stalwart Nakeeta, winner of the Ebor at York last season.

This campaign would not appear to be going as well given he has been unplaced in the Chester Cup and Northumberland Plate, but Jardine is happy with his progress.

“The horse is well. He ran in the Northumberland Plate, but he didn’t get much of a run in that,” he said.

“He’s improving quietly now and we’ll be aiming for the Ebor later on in the season.”

Mark Johnston’s Hochfeld is another who has been lightly raced to date this term, with just one run under his belt.

He is racing over two miles for the first time.

Johnston said: “I had quite a good hand for this at the five-day stage, but unfortunately they were all down low in the weights and Hochfeld was the only one that could get in.

“He is coming back from a long break and he probably needed that run at Newmarket last week.

“This might come a bit soon for a horse that had previously come back off a long lay off.

“It was a good performance off a long lay off. We were thinking of waiting for Goodwood after that, but this is a good prize.”

Owner Hamdan Al Maktoum has two solid chances with Quloob and Almoghared and racing manager Angus Gold gives them both a chance.

“Owen (Burrows) has put some cheekpieces on Quloob just to help him concentrate,” said Gold.

“He was still a weak horse last season and was always going to be stronger this year.

“He ran well first time back this year and will surely stay an extra two furlongs. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t run well.

“John Gosden’s horse (Almoghared) ran a smashing race at Royal Ascot (fourth in Queen’s Vase) to say it was just the third run of his life.

“He’s still a big baby, he’s come a long way in three months, but I’m very fond of this horse.

“He’s a half-brother to Taghrooda and there should be plenty more to come, he’s a nice sort of horse.”

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