The flat season begins with a bang at Doncaster once again this afternoon, where the two feature races offer a glut of high class runners, on turf that will be quite quick for this time of year.
I am still not in my very own peak condition after recent illness, but this should not detract from my ability to spot an interesting sort, now that we are back on the flat!
In recent years I have gone very close, or won one of the two big races of the flat season on the opening day and hopefully that trend will continue come race time.
The main highlight on a high class card at Doncaster is the 3.15PM William Hill Lincoln (Heritage Handicap) (CLASS 2). A thorough abolition of the field by my own techniques has downsized the field to just 6 potential winners, all of whom have credible each way chances.
These runners consist of (in racecard order): Eton Forever, Man Of Action, Start Right, Fury, Mull Of Killough and Don't Call Me.
I am quietly interested in possibly mixing these up into various multiple strategy bets in order to scoop some of the large pool prize likely to be on offer in this race.
Eton Forever was my winning selection for the Spring Cup last season and on that occasion he was an easy decision, as he had been amongst the Antepost contingent for the Lincoln, at a very short price, before he failed to make the weights. He ran out a very clear cut winner that day and his trainer afterwards was very keen to forewarn punters that not much improvement would be forthcoming from that point as he had been prepared meticulously to peak in his first race of the season.
As expected though punters ignored this and the horse was sent off favourite for two of his following three runs last season, winning no further races. Considering he is now 11lb higher in the ratings than when successful in the Spring Cup last season and the fact he is a shorter price than for that race, there is quite simply no betting opportunity on this runner for those choosing their 'win single' selections.
Man Of Action and Start Right are two very out of place participants that instantly must attract the attention of any punter placing a bet this afternoon. These are Godolphin's first ever entries in the race and both look easily capable of landing the spoils given their past exploits.
Both runners have had first time headgear put in place with blinkers taking over the usual visor for Man Of Action, whilst a visor is now tried on Start Right to try and make him finish his races more strongly. It is Start Right who appeals more of the two runners given the headgear change is likely to have the bigger impact and he looks deadly interesting as a 'win only' proposition.
Fury trained by William Haggas looks to have some serious credentials coming into the race as he is still a lightly raced 4yo who has seen better opposition than he faces today already. The worry though comes with the likely quick ground as he is a horse who proved himself at the age of four when greeted with some juice underfoot and the word 'soft' in the going description.
Mull Of Killough was my main selection in the Lincoln last term where he could only place third, some six lengths behind the winner Penitent. He tries to improve on that effort now more experienced and gets into the race off the very same mark of 96 which gives him a chance.
Conditions are clearly more in favour of him this year with good ground likely to play more to his strengths than the soft ground he encountered last year for this race. Add to the mix that he has already had a prep run for this race on the AW at Lingfield (which he won) and you cannot argue that he looks to have fairly decent claims once more of making an impact at the finish line.
Dandy Nicholl's has a poor record in this race but often runs exposed types with the expectation that this race will serve well to have their handicap marks reduced. This season however he enters the fray with an improver in Don't Call Me who on paper looks a serious contender off his current mark of 95.
The gelding won on his final appearance of last season in soft ground at Ayr over a mile, when wearing a first time tongue tie, having previously reported to have had breathing issues. With the off season no doubt used to try and explore these problems further, connections keep the equipment in place and if his breathing issues are a thing of the past improvement should be mandatory.
A mark of 95 is unlikely to hold this contender back and with the stable in fair form he could prove to be one of the more overpriced runners in the field.
Narrowing it down beyond these six runners is likely to prove risky so the multiple bet advice stands and if any reader feels that I sound more confident of one selection above any of the other FIVE, then that could be the correct way to go if choosing just one horse for your money. Reading my own work I would suggest by a short margin I feel that START RIGHT offers the best win value given the current prices at 14-1.
The consolation race on the card for those runners not rated quite highly enough to make the Lincoln field is the 2.05PM William Hill Spring Mile (Handicap) (CLASS 3). In effect this is basically a 0-90 handicap which historically has favoured the younger horses on the upgrade, with EIGHT of the last ten winners being aged four.
The main 4yo challenger worthy of interest is Crown Counsel who only began his career last season but was kept racing for the majority of the calendar year with no less than 19 outings to his name. His best pieces of form evidently came when the ground was riding good or quicker and today with conditions to suit he can regain the winning thread for a stable in form.
One of the older horses in the field I give a kind word for is Snow Bay who loves his racing at this time of year. During his career he has never run in March but when appearing in April he has had five outings with three runs ending in victory and another in second. This year is a Leap Year and had it not been then today would have indeed been April too! Worth a thought and at a price he is arguably the best placed horse to end a continuing 4yo dominance.
It could pay to put these two runners in an Exacta and split stakes on a 'win only' result. They are hard to split and I would be disappointed if I was to make the incorrect judgement.
I will be spending the rest of this morning looking through the WORLD CUP card from Meydan in hope that I can find another scintillating runner at a big price like last year. VICTOIRE PISA scored a stunning success in the big race itself at a huge price to give both Japan and myself a much needed winner on the day.