27 March 2009
I never fail to get excited about the start of the Flat. Years and years and years ago before most of you were born and before the mothers and fathers of a lot of you were born, the start of the Flat was a big event for the working people of this land, third only to Derby Day and Grand National Day.
There used to be a strip cartoon in the Daily Mirror - when the Daily Mirror was the Daily Mirror - which used to give a tip every day. On the first day of the Flat there was no cartoon, just the banner THEY'RE OFF! Meaning that the flat season was under way. If you did that today across Roy Of The Rovers or Andy Capp the readers would not know what you are talking about.
However, here we are at the threshold of another season of the Sport of Kings and the cavalry charge which is the Lincolnshire Handicap is the curtain raiser.
For once it is a relatively easy race to read because the weather is dry and the going seems certain to be good at Doncaster. That has meant the top rated hosses have all stood their ground at the confirmation stage and only five of the possible 92 contenders for the race have dropped out.
The net result of this is that the ante post favourite Expresso Star is shortening in price all the time and is now down as short as 4-1 with most of the bookies.
Of those most fancied hosses which are sweating on making the cut are Fireside a 9-1 chance with Coral, Mangham, a 12-1 shot with Ladbrokes and Extraterrestrial a 12-1 shot with Stan James. All remain outside the 22 guaranteed runners for the straight mile next Saturday. History suggests that Mangham (25th in the list) Extraterrestrial (34th) and Fireside (35th) will have to settle for the Spring Mile instead.
Trainer Michael Jarvis has said that he would be happy for Fireside to tackle the reserve race and trainer David Brown said of Mangham " We have to get in where we get in.
We would like to run in the Lincoln but the other race would be all right. We're sweating on it as we need three to come out. It is the luck of the draw really. There are quite a few not jocked up yet which seems to suggest they may yet pull out."
Trainer Richard Fahey seems resigned to Extraterrestrial not making the cut but is more hopeful of stablemate Bolodenka and Benandonner respectively 23rd and 24th on the list.
"I never argue with bookmakers" he says "but Benandonner would be my best chance. He was second in the reserve race last year and ran well on the all weather the other day.
The 2006 winner Blythe Knight is certain of a place after finishing second last year under apprentice Barry McHugh and appears certain to be claimer ridden again as he bids to become the first 9 year old to win the race. "He is running off 108 and how many horses do you see winning off 108?" said trainer John Quinn.
Clerk of the course David Williams thinks there is no bias in the draw positions for the straight mile "Since we relaid the course and did the works it has been very even. It depends where the pace comes from".
My selection is very easy because am going with the money and I am going to nap Expresso Star to get us off to a flying start to the season with a little saver on Benandonner if he runs.
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