Away from the hustle and bustle of trying to solve the Cheltenham contests lies another big challenge! Over the level, straight mile of Doncaster, the first big flat season puzzle takes place and I’ll give it my best shot to see what betting opportunities lie in wait.
Some of the top bookmakers offer 6/1 the field and a plethora of runners are priced between that and 20/1. Of course, figuring out who’s actually going to run in the race and isn’t being targeted elsewhere adds another element of the unknown into the equation, but here goes nothing!
The 2021 Lincoln Handicap – Main Contenders:
Brentford Hope is strongly fancied for Richard Hughes – who never managed to win the race in his illustrious riding career – and as an unexposed and improving 4-year-old, his claims are obvious. He has only had five career outings so ticks the unexposed box straight away, whilst his sole run over the mile trip yielded an easy win at Haydock last October.
The ability to stay further than the bare trip is a plus in many of these big field handicaps and the only question I have is if the ground turned up in any way decent, could he have a problem coping with speedier types? Given that he has a profile shouting “group horse in a handicap”, you can understand the market interest and as a result he has to take a place on the shortlist at 6/1.
Eastern World, also 6/1 in the betting having halved in price last week, finished well behind Haqeeqy on his last British outing but didn’t appreciate dropping in trip and could have also failed to take to cheekpieces. Since then, he has got back on track with an impressive handicap win in Meydan, bolting up over 1m 1f a few weeks ago, and that run offers hope for better being to come.
A big issue for me, however, is what the form is worth and how it’ll translate back here. My guess is that it’s not brilliant by any means and a 5lb penalty will put him under pressure in this company. Now, it’s worth noting that he’s very well-bred, the Meydan run came after a break (and being gelded), so he could improve further. But on what we’ve seen, there are questions to answer.
Fancy Eastern World to win? Back him at 6/1 with Paddy Power
Haqeeqy has the course form factor on his side having won well here over 7f last September. As a John Gosden inmate, the chances are that he’ll keep improving with time and experience on the track, so it’s not hard to understand his prominence in the betting. However, unlike the others mentioned so far, his best form has come at shorter trips than a mile.
The sole occasion he did go beyond 7f yielded a tenth placed finish of 10, although he had excuses there and breeding suggests the mile shouldn’t be a problem. I just worry whether he will be able to grind it out with the stronger stayers if the surface doesn’t come up on the quicker side. It’s hard to guess how that’ll play out and Haqeeqy is a horse I like, but I’ll leave him alone this time around.
Danyah has come in for some support of late and as a well-bred Hamdan Al Maktoum performer, it’s no surprise. He has plenty of experience having had a few juvenile outings before another four last season and the overriding feeling was that by the end of his 3-year-old campaign, he was starting to get the hang of things and signed off with a solid win over Alternative Fact at Haydock.
My main issue is that so far, he hasn’t screamed “big field handicap” type and those smaller field events on turning tracks that develop into a sprint might be more to his liking. Now, I must point out that he’s young enough to improve again and it’s impossible to say that he has shown his full hand, but the percentage call is to oppose and keep an eye on him for another day out.
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Others Of Note:
King Ottokar has danced many a dance in good races and has a differing profile to all of those mentioned so far, as he is making his way down the handicap! Now rated 99, he’s a half-stone below his peak mark and was unfortunate in the run on both occasions over a mile at the backend of last season, never getting the chance to build up a head of steam (most recently in the ultra-competitive Balmoral handicap).
There will come a day when he is hunted around at the back behind runners before flashing home to grab a big pot for his patient connections but whether it’ll happen in this race, I’m not so sure. The test on offer will be fast enough for him unless there’s lots of rain and something at Ascot, or the likes of the Cambridgeshire over 1m 1f at Newmarket, could be more his bag.
Chance, like Eastern World, could bring a fitness advantage to the equation as he had a spin around Meydan in late January and shaped well over a test that would’ve been plenty quick enough for him. He had a good 2020, returning from a long layoff to finish second twice before a heavy ground win at Newmarket. He may have more progression in the locker and is on the shortlist.
Ghalyoon is as lightly raced a 6-year-old as you’ll come across in a top handicap but he’s yet to go beyond 7f and there is so much speed in his family that there must be major doubts over his ability to stay. A tendency to over-race doesn’t help matters either and I’d find it very hard to recommend him as a bet. I could be wrong but a number of these will stay too strongly for him to cope.
Fox Duty Free had stalls problems when trained by Andrew Balding but since going to Ralph Beckett, he has been flawless in winning all three of his races on the All-Weather and seems to be a happy horse. I don’t think he has maxed out in terms of his rating yet but he’s a smooth mover with plenty of pace and the test offered in a Lincoln mightn’t be for him. We’ll catch him another time!
Fame And Acclaim is still in the Irish Lincoln so whether he’s going to run here I don’t know, but Joseph O’Brien pulled out Dance Jupiter from this race and I was keen on his chances, so hopefully the fact that Fame And Acclaim is still in means he’s an intended runner. At the moment, you can get a best-priced 25/1 with a few different firms and that’s on the large side for me.
The now 4-year-old had a solid season in 2020, winning three times and placing in a Listed contest. He’s such a big price due to flopping on this season’s return but that was on the All-Weather over 7f, a trip shy of his optimum, and it’s possible he badly needed the run in any regard. His profile isn’t as attractive as some of his rivals but he’s a live contender and must make the final list as well.
Johan has to get a mention given William Haggas’ record in the race. He definitely maxed out in terms of ability last season, winning handicaps off 88, 95 & 99. A couple of flops are sitting in his form as well and he now finds himself rated a lofty 105. Maybe being gelded can help to kick him on again but surely a few of these will prove to strong in receipt of weight.
2021 Lincoln Handicap Trends:
Age: Since Hunters Of Brora (aged 8) won in 1998, no horse older than 6 has managed to succeed. The last four renewals have gone the way of 4-year-old’s and based on the way the market is shaping up this time around, the bookmakers are expecting the progressive types to come to the fore once again.
Previous Experience: 8 of the last 17 winners had raced at Doncaster before, so previous course form is definitely worth looking out for. 7 of the last 17 winners ran at either Lingfield or Newmarket on their most recent start, two very different courses and tests to this but even so, worth noting!
Gender: Colts and geldings are responsible for almost 90% of the runners in the race and in the past 20 years, they’ve landed every renewal. Fillies and mares tend to be aimed elsewhere, more so these days with the extensive mares program.
Weight Carried: The last ten winners have carried no more than 9st 4lbs and nine of the last ten winners carried between 9st and 9st 4lbs – a narrow band that could shorten the current field to around 19 runners (assuming nothing above them in the weights came out of the race).
Recent Form: Obviously coming into the race on the back of a good run is a plus-point! 9 of the last 17 winners finished first or second on their most recent outing, with 8 of them being last time out winners. Almost all of them had ran in a handicap last time and 12 of the 17 winners were making their seasonal return, so a recent spin around for fitness purposes is not a necessity.
Trainers Of Note: Certain trainers target certain races, there’s no doubt about that, and from the last 17 runnings of the Lincoln, just five stables are responsible for winning no less than 11. William Haggas has three, Charlie Appleby, John Quinn, Richard Fahey and the now retired Mark Tompkins all have two. Anything they run are worthy of maximum respect.
Lincoln Handicap Tips & Conclusion:
I could probably mention another few runners and still not land on the winner, such is the competitive nature of these heritage handicaps. However, towards the top of the market I’m definitely against Eastern World as he looks too short now. I can’t doubt his well-being given his Meydan win and he’s very nicely bred, but the 6/1 Best Odds Guaranteed price simply makes no appeal at this point. If he was the 10/1 or slightly bigger available last week, that’d be a different story!
Brentford Hope will be the first of two selections. Ideally, I’d prefer to keep away from the shorter prices but the now 4-year-old impressed massively when dropped in trip to a mile at Haydock last October and the promise of better being to come in a cavalry charge is there. He moves like a horse who will progress into a Group performer and as long as the ground doesn’t get too quick, it’ll be hard to keep him out of the frame. He’s reportedly working well at home and is an intended runner.
At a much more attractive price, Fame And Acclaim* is worth a punt for Joseph O’Brien. His profile isn’t as appealing as many of the other 4-year-old’s but it’s not impossible that he will improve again and on the best of his 2020 form, a rating of 99 looks workable. He seems pretty versatile with regard to the ground and whilst he did flop at Dundalk on this year’s return to action, that was over 7f on his first All-Weather start and may have been needed. If he runs here, he could do a lot better.
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* - Important note: Since the article was published, Fame And Acclaim has been declared to run in the Irish Lincoln (I didn't think he'd run as Dance Jupiter was in there too but he has been pulled out). It now looks unlikely that Fame And Acclaim will run next week so hold off any bets for the moment. He's also 25/1 for the Irish renewal and could run big.
Saturday, March 27th: Lincoln Betting Tips –
|Fame And Acclaim - Non-Runner