Sky Sports Racing presenter Alex Hammond will be on Town Moor as the Flat season kicks off at Doncaster this Saturday and offers a detailed guide to a wide-open Lincoln Handicap.
The Cheltenham Festival has been and gone and flat racing fans are gearing up for the new turf season, which kicks off in Doncaster on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing.
It’s always a joyful and hopeful time of year and this time around, spring has well and truly arrived.
I had to drag myself inside a sunny garden as I tried to make the most of the glorious weather and there are positive reports from weather centers that Doncaster is going to live up to its nickname from “Sunny Donny”.
I say good news, this is for me as I head to Town Moor to cover Sky Sports Racing action on an afternoon where we also incorporate Meydan’s premier class card into our coverage. We are therefore ready for a cracker on more than one level.
Searching for value every way in the season opener
the Handicap SBK Lincoln is Saturday’s national highlight and although the race is high as usual, there are only four horses trading at single-digit prices. With 22 horses declared for the mile handicap, Sky Bet is paying seven places instead of four, giving us a little leeway to find something at a higher price away from the main protagonists.
Trainer William Haggas has a superb record in this highly competitive contest having won it four times (with Jack Robinson between 1896-1910).
His first came courtesy of High Low in 1992 (a horse I rode to be a finalist in the 1997 Ladies’ Derby in Ripon!) and his most recent came with Addeybb, another band 1 artist , in 2018.
He is therefore well placed to identify a leading competitor to Lincoln and short Mujtaba, ametist and Irish Admiral with the first mentioned 7/2 favorite.
Mujtaba is reasonably difficult to assess after winning all three of his starts, including a Redcar handicap on his last start in October. He shares favoritism with Modern News which represents Charlie Appleby, Lincoln’s two-time winning trainer.
This time last year we talked about apprentice Benoit de la Sayette making his first grass outing on Haqeeqy, the Gosdens’ subsequent winner. This time it’s the turn of another rising star, Harry Davies, to be in a similar position.
By the way, De la Sayette returns for two rides at Wolverhampton on Saturday night, having served his suspension for failing a drug test after that Lincoln win, and hopefully his career can pick up where it left off. stopped with this incident behind him.
Back to Davies, who was booked by Appleby to ride Modern News, for what will be his first ride on the grass.
What a pressure for the 17-year-old, but he has been identified as a future star for a few years now and is ideally placed at the academy Andrew Balding, responsible for the education of David Probert, Oisin Murphy and William Buick. He also has experience on the pony racing circuit.
Modern News goes a mile for the first time, but his trainer thinks it will suit him. He is the half-brother of one mile Breeders Cup winner Modern Games, has more experience than Mujtaba and has the advantage of a recent race (at Meydan).
It’s hard to separate the top two in the market and obviously the bookmakers feel the same way. Simon and Ed Crisford also execute a likely unexposed enhancer in 9/2 Saleymm who won his last two starts on the All-Weather in the fall and then underwent wind surgery. He’s the type to stick by his side and comes here naturally well-liked for his in-form team.
Speaking of Balding and Probert, they team up with the recent Lincoln Trial winner Our Beautiful Beast (15/2 with Sky Bet). He faced a difficult task or two while training in Ireland and has thrived since joining the Kingsclere side earlier this year.
He carries a 5-pound penalty thanks to this recent victory for Wolverhampton. However, a word of warning, the lawsuit was not a good guide for future Lincoln winners, although it does indicate his well-being.
Darkness (10/1) is another horse that could have more to offer and has an interesting form when trained in France. He has his first start for David O’Meara, and it would be a feather in his cap if that horse were to earn that heritage handicap on his first start for the yard.
He hasn’t raced since June, though, and has worn cheekbones (earned) and blinkers in France (left here), so one of two red flags and it may be worth watching until until we learn more about him. He has capability, however, and has a win listed on his resume for Jean-Claude Rouget.
ametist has the necessary experience and could offer some value each way at 14/1 for Haggas.
He was last seen finishing third in Cambridgeshire and dropping the trip here won’t be a downside as his four wins have come across seven furlongs. His trainer says he is fine, so another positive.
Of the Haggas trio, Mujtaba will end up being the best horse, but this lad might just have the savvy to win on Saturday.
Brunch goes again for Michael Dods, after finishing second last year out of 100; he is 4 pounds heavier now. It’s the type of racing he thrives in, though, and can’t be ruled out once again (16/1).
Fame and acclaim isn’t badly handicapped on the best of his Irish form for Joseph O’Brien but as his rating has slipped, so has his form. Mind you, he does well in the big handicaps and that mile well done will suit Coach Les Eyre.
rogue bear is one to watch for coach Tom Clover. He’s talented and little run and although he wasn’t the easiest to deal with in terms of temperament, he settled in with experience last season and signed off in 2021 with a brace at Nottingham.
If he doesn’t end up above his current rating of 87, I’ll be amazed and at 22/1 he’s quite attractive to end up in the hands of David Egan.
Interestingly, the top three in the market are all drawn relatively low, and we have the draw debate every year to try to determine where the favorable pit position is. Who knows? I’m quite happy with ametist in 13 and rogue bear in 19 and these are the two I will be with on Saturday.