The Lincoln Heritage Handicap runs at Doncaster on Saturday at 15:15. Our resident racing blogger talks us through the runners for this 1 mile contest.
The frocks and fascinators (or an orange sticker if you’ve been naughty) of Royal Ascot and the Pimms and panamas of Glorious Goodwood might be a long way off, but fans of flat racing will be getting excited this weekend at the return of turf racing in Britain. And what better way to usher in a new flat season than with one of the toughest handicaps on the calendar to get stuck into?
Admittedly, that might be overstating the puzzle of the twenty-odd runner Lincoln, which has been won by five favourites since the turn of the century, the latest being Penitent who landed a bit of an ante-post gamble in 2010. His profile wasn’t dissimilar to that of Eton Forever when that one took last year’s Spring Mile (Lincoln consolation race), and a year on that one is back and favourite for the big one.
You’d be hard pressed to count him out, either. Following that impressive Spring Mile win, Eton Forever found himself in over his head in a listed race at Ascot next time before finishing fifth in the Hunt Cup at the Royal meeting there. Returned to Doncaster for what would be his final start, Eton Forever finished runner-up to Man of Action, his best performance since the Spring Mile. Given his evident affinity with Doncaster and his record fresh (which stands to reason given how lightly-raced he’s been), everything looks in place for Eton Forever to run a big race.
Second in the betting is Fury, who represents the same connections as Penitent at the time he won the race. It’s presumably that which keeps Fury prominent in the betting, as there wasn’t a great deal in his three-year-old campaign to suggest he’ll be winning a race of this magnitude. Admittedly, this will be his first handicap and a big-field scenario may suit given he pulls hard, but there is definitely a leap of faith attached to Fury at odds of around 7/1.
In the sense that he’s not developed quite as expected from a promising juvenile campaign, Cocozza has a similar profile to Fury. The more encouraging thing where Cocozza is concerned though is that there were excuses for some of his disappointing efforts last season, and the drop back to a mile may well suit. Leaving John Oxx over the winter would normally be a negative, but Marco Botti is no slouch himself and could bring out the best in Cocozza.
If you’re looking for a progressive horse, you’d struggle to do better than Edinburgh Knight. For a long time a journeyman sprinter, Paul D’Arcy’s charge was already on a bit of an upward curve prior to taking off last autumn, winning an Ascot handicap over seven furlongs and a listed race at Kempton over a mile. He should see out this stiffer test at the trip and could well be better than handicap class this year.
Of those a bit further down the list, Primaeval could be of most interest. Like Edinburgh Knight, he improved in leaps and bounds in the second half of 2011, winning twice at Kempton including in a hot-looking conditions race. He ran well at Meydan back in January and if able to transfer recent improvement to turf (there’s no reason why he shouldn’t given he finished second a couple of times, including to Edinburgh Knight, at Ascot in the autumn) he will outrun odds of 14/1.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m going to side with progressive profiles in this year’s Lincoln rather than potential resurgence. With that considered, it’s Edinburgh Knight and Primaeval, whose relative form is intertwined from a meeting at Ascot last October, for me at the prices.