Sun. May 22nd, 2022

Sky Sports Racing presenter Alex Hammond will be on Town Moor as the Flat season kicks off at Doncaster this Saturday and offers up an in-depth 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 at Doncaster on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing.

It’s always a cheery and hopeful time of year and this time round spring has well and truly sprung.

I’ve had to drag myself inside from a sun-drenched garden as I was trying to make the most of this glorious weather and there are positive reports from the weather centres that Doncaster is going to live up to its ‘Sunny Donny’ moniker.

I say good news, it is for me as I’m heading up to Town Moor to cover the action for Sky Sports Racing on an afternoon where we also dovetail the top-class card from Meydan into our coverage. So we’re set for a cracker on more than one level.

Searching for each-way value in season opener

The SBK Lincoln Handicap is Saturday’s domestic highlight and whilst the race is high on numbers as usual, there are just four horses trading at single-figure prices. With 22 horses declared for the mile handicap, Sky Bet are paying seven places instead of four, so that gives us a little scope to find something at a bigger price away from the main protagonists.

Trainer William Haggas has a superb record in this fiercely-competitive contest having won it a record-equalling four times (along with Jack Robinson between 1896-1910).

William Haggas
William Haggas sends out three in the Lincoln as he looks for a record fifth win in the race

His first came courtesy of High Low in 1992 (a horse I rode to be runner-up in the 1997 Ladies’ Derby at Ripon!) and his most recent came with subsequent Group One performer Addeybb in 2018.

So, he’s well-placed to identify a leading Lincoln contender and runs Mujtaba, Ametist and Irish Admiral with the first mentioned 7/2 joint-favourite.

Mujtaba is reasonably hard to assess having won all three of his starts, including a Redcar handicap on his final start back in October. He shares favouritism with Modern News who represents dual Lincoln-winning trainer Charlie Appleby.

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Appleby feels his Lincoln Handicap hope Modern News has progressed from a good Listed third in Meydan back in February

This time last year we spoke of apprentice Benoit de la Sayette who was having his first ride on turf on the Gosden’s subsequent winner Haqeeqy. This time, it’s the turn of another rising star, Harry Davies, to be in a similar position.

Incidentally, De la Sayette returns for two rides at Wolverhampton on Saturday night, having served his suspension for failing a drugs test after that Lincoln win, and hopefully his career can pick up where it left off with that incident behind him.

Back to Davies, who has been 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’s been identified as a future star for a few years now and is in a great place, at the Andrew Balding academy, responsible for educating the likes of David Probert, Oisin Murphy and William Buick. He also has experience on the pony racing circuit.

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Young jockey Harry Davies is set to ride his first race on Turf in Doncaster’s competitive season-opening Lincoln Handicap on Saturday for champion trainer Charlie Appleby and the 17-year-old is looking forward to the challenge

Modern News steps up to a mile for the first time but his trainer feels it will suit him. He’s a half-brother to one-mile Breeders’ Cup winner Modern Games, has more experience than Mujtaba and has the advantage of a recent run (at Meydan).

It’s hard to split the top two in the market and evidently the bookmakers feel the same. Simon and Ed Crisford also run an unexposed likely improver in 9/2 shot Saleymm who has won his last two starts on the All-Weather back in the Autumn and has subsequently undergone a wind operation. He’s one to keep on side and comes here understandably well-fancied for his in-form team.

Speaking of Balding and Probert, they team up with recent Lincoln Trial winner Notre Belle Bete (15/2 with Sky Bet). He faced one or two tough tasks when trained in Ireland and has thrived since joining the Kingsclere team earlier this year.

He carries a 5lbs penalty thanks to that recent Wolverhampton win. However, a word of caution, the trial hasn’t been a good guide to future Lincoln winners, although it does indicate his wellbeing.

Darkness (10/1) is another horse that could have more to offer and has some 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 this horse were to win this heritage handicap on his first start for the yard.

He hasn’t run since June, though, and has worn cheekpieces (won in them) and blinkers in France (left off here), so one of two red flags and it may be worth a watching brief until we learn more about him. He’s got ability, though, and has a listed win on his CV for Jean-Claude Rouget.

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Jockey Jason Watson was happy to see Darkness drawn in stall 20 for Saturday’s competitive Lincoln Handicap and expects the ‘stiff mile’ at Doncaster to suit the horse on his first start for trainer David O’Meara

Ametist has the necessary experience and could offer some each-way value at 14/1 for Haggas.

He was last seen finishing third in the Cambridgeshire and the drop in trip here won’t be an inconvenience as all four of his wins have come over seven-furlongs. His trainer says he goes well fresh, so another positive.

Of the Haggas trio, Mujtaba will end up being the best horse, but this lad might just have the necessary savvy to come out on top on Saturday.

Tom Marquand riding Ametist (red/blue cap) wins The Join The Great Racing Welfare Cycle Handicap at Newmarket
Tom Marquand riding Ametist (red/blue cap) wins The Join The Great Racing Welfare Cycle Handicap at Newmarket

Brunch goes again for Michael Dods, having finished second last year off 100; he’s 4lbs higher now. This is the type of race 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 goes well in big-field handicaps and this well-run mile will suit for trainer Les Eyre.

Rogue Bear is one to keep an eye on for trainer Tom Clover. He’s talented and lightly-raced and whilst he hasn’t been the easiest to manage temperament-wise, he settled down with experience last season and signed off 2021 with a Nottingham double.

If he doesn’t end up higher than his current rating of 87, I’ll be astonished and at 22/1 is quite appealing to run into a place 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 trying to work out where the favourable stalls position is. Who knows? I’m happy enough with Ametist in 13 and Rogue Bear in 19 and they are the two I’ll be siding with on Saturday.

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