The Duke’s Weekend Preview – Flat season begins

The start of the traditional Flat season commences with the Lincoln Meeting at Doncaster and what better way to announce the new term than a cavalry charge.

I really like Doncaster, because it attracts a crowd who want to have fun and it’s an enjoyable place to be. It will be an especially fun time if you can find the winner of the Lincoln. One of the trends worth considering is that pretty much all the winners in the past twenty years have been 20/1 or shorter in the betting. Of the 22 runners, that rules out half the field, so it’s a pretty decent way to narrow things down. Four year olds also tend to do well for stat spotters.

Let’s start off though with a look at two who have been racing over in Dubai. A few horses in recent years have had a winter over in Dubai and come in to this contest and won it (for example Sweet Lightning, Ocean Tempest, Secret Brief). A couple of horses have done that this year; London Protocol and Grey Britain. Both may have some potential in defying the previous stat about needing to be at the front end of the market. London Protocol is pretty interesting having not finished far behind Lincoln favourite Fire Brigade at Leicester in October when giving him 8lbs. He only gives him 1lb here and could outrun odds of 50/1. He’s the first to add to the betting slip. I know a few guys who think Grey Britain could outrun his odds, but I think he prefers 1m2f, not the mile of the Lincoln.

As mentioned, Fire Brigade tops the market with some firms. He was very progressive last year and assuming he continues that upward trend under the guidance of Ryan Moore, he probably deserves to be favourite. He is on a career high mark, but he’ll have no issues with the ground conditions, he’s got a decent draw and I think despite being 6/1 he’s worth the second bet on the slip.

Lord Glitters is favourite with other bookies and it’s easy to see why. He won the Balmoral Handicap on soft ground in October at Ascot and ran a creditable race in a Listed contest after that. He’s probably a Group performer disguising himself as a handicapper, but having said this race is tough off top weight. William Haggas has a good reputation for this kind of race, but I’m not totally convinced Addeybb will get the ground conditions nor will he like the trip (I think he needs a bit further).

Ballard Down hasn’t been seen since a win on the July Course at Newmarket. I often think winning distances on the July Course can be quite flattering and the revised handicap mark is 9lbs higher, so he will need to have come on quite a lot in the intervening period. Mitchum Swagger may benefit from a switch in yard and is a decent horse on his day, but you’d be shooting in the dark a little with him. Instead, I’ll place my lucky pin in to Gabrial. He won the Doncaster Mile in 2013 in his first try at Town Moor. In his second performance at the track he landed this race off a mark of 100 and he was fourth in this race last year off 108 when ridden by a 3lb claimer. He’s also on his best mark (103) since winning the contest in 2015. For me, he is absolutely not a 33/1 chance and worth a go.

So, three selections for the Lincoln: Fire Brigade, London Protocol and Gabrial.

Of the other races on the Donny card, Tabarrak and Zabeel Prince dominate the Doncaster Mile market. The wheels fell off Zabeel Prince a bit at Ascot in October, but if he can regain the thread he could be quite dangerous and I’d actually prefer him to Tabarrak who I suspect might be a quick ground horse. Actually there is one at a price who could surprise in this race and that is Another Touch. My reasoning behind this is his record in small fields. If you look at races with seven or fewer runners, his career form reads like this: 1-2-2-1-1-1. At 14/1 it’s a bit of a flyer but let’s hope Richard Fahey can cause a big race shock.

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