The Flat is back! Not less than two weeks from the Cheltenham Festival we shall see multiple runner fields hurtling down Town Moor for the Lincoln, on a day that signifies the rumbling return of our sister code.
The Lincoln (3.35) is as typically competitive as ever and there are a whole host of horses with serious claims, and several do make appeal, but no matter how many times one checks the shortlist it is impossible to remove Ballard Down. William Knight’s five-year-old is lightly raced for his age, having had just 10 starts, and it’s even more interesting to note that he’s had just three starts on turf, two of them on soft ground.
The last of them was by far the most impressive, when he was a very taking winner of a quality Newmarket handicap last July. Racing just off the speed, he showed a turn of foot that nothing else in the field could handle and eventually ended up winning by nearly four lengths. On a decent card, he posted an impressive closing sections – the fastest of the day – and the form has more than backed up the clock’s impression.
In second was Master The World, who would then go onto win the Betfred Mile and is now rated 103 having plied his trade in Group company since, whilst third-placed Zwayyan landed a well contested handicap at Ascot, and further behind Raising Sand was a taking winner on Shergar Cup day.
The three favourites at the top of the market all have serious claims for the race. Fire Brigade showed his liking for soft ground twice last season before he didn’t get the clearest of runs in the Silver Cambridge when he was third behind Addeybb, who is also a leading market contender for this race who handles soft ground.
Lord Glitters has to be given a major chance, having taken the Balmoral Handicap when atoning for a close and unlucky defeat in another Heritage Handicap at Ascot, and David O’Meara’s charge – who revelled in soft ground when winning with a very impressive late charge at Ascot – probably makes just about the most appeal of those three.
However, they are all short enough for a race of this nature and there are plenty of each/way places to shoot at here. Leader Writer, the winner of a good soft ground handicap at Ascot who shaped well on his return at Lingfield with the cheekpieces off, was seriously tempting as an option but it was very tough to get away from the prices of Bravery and Grey Britain.
Last year’s winner, Bravery comes here 5lbs lower for David O’Meara and was highly tried afterwards in many races where things didn’t go his way. He deserves a lot of respect here given that we know a big field straight mile handicap suits him perfectly but if the ground had been a bit better there would be added shine to his claims and Grey Britain’s soft ground form gives him the edge.
John Ryan’s four-year-old was highly tried last year but was second in the Royal Mile Handicap off 97 at Musselburgh and then won the Fairway Novice Stakes in the middle of last year and ended it finishing fourth in a classy three-year-old handicap towards the end of last season at Goodwood. That day he beat Addeybb by a short head giving him 6lb and is now 6lbs better off whilst being over double the price here, and the runner up in his listed race is now rated 112.
He’s had two runs in Meydan where he’s been nowhere, but those weren’t half as a suitable as this will be based on the evidence of his Musselburgh run and having had early season runs, especially in Dubai, has been a huge benefit in recent editions. Sweet Lightning, Ocean Tempest and Secret Brief have all won after campaigns in Dubai in the last seven years and of course Oh This Is Us – one of just two to have such a prep – was beaten a short head last year here, whilst Ocean Tempest got the same preparation as Grey Britain (nearly) when he took this in 2014.
Our favoured code – which is jumps on this page I suspect – is lauded for bringing back the same horses’ year after year and Lac Du Lancelot looked as good as ever when landing a 0-105 handicap at Wolverhampton when last seen. The eight-year-old came through the soft ground to take the Stewards’ Cup last year and is twice placed over this C&D; he ought to take the beating.
The only times in the last 10 years that the Spring Mile (2.25) hasn’t been won by a four-year-old is when Richard Fahey has trained the winner in 2010 and 2014 and his five-year-old Dark Devil catches the eye on that basis as well as having a lot of strong soft ground form. A winner of an Amateur Handicap on heavy ground at Chester last September before finishing runner up afterwards and he was probably unlucky not to win his final start at Windsor to end last season. This is a lot harder but we might not have seen the best of him and this big field might bring out the best in him.
The Doncaster Mile (3.00) is more competitive than the betting suggests although Zabeel Prince is the most unexposed and Tabarrak sets the standard.
1.50 Doncaster – 2 pts win Lancelot Du Lac (10/3 general)
2.25 Doncaster – 1 pt each/way Dark Devil (20/1 general)
3.35 Doncaster – 1 pt each/way Ballard Down (14/1 general)
3.35 Doncaster – 1 pt each/way Grey Britain (22/1 Coral, Ladbrokes)