The flat is back! Doncaster hosts the first flat turf meeting of the season with its feature race being the Lincoln, along with the Spring Mile.
There are also good-looking cards on the all-weather at Kempton and Chelmsford while in Dubai it is World Cup night at Meydan.
Last week there were three selections: Rebel Rebellion won (13/2), Milansbar won (10/1) and Domesday Book second (9/2), so all in all a successful Saturday.
Today there isn’t much to read into the flat turf being the opening day so the Doncaster selections are tentative while Meydan’s selection look a little stronger. Despite a strong card at Chelmsford I can’t say I boast a good record on the surface, so will be avoiding the track for selections.
Tamarkuz (13/8) looks a solid favourite here winning three of his four races on the dirt at this year’s Carnival. He has crept up the handicap after those success’ but looks the class of the race and Paul Hanagan has won twice on him. A slight concern is how quickly the races have come and if he will be fresh enough after a three-week break but you can’t doubt his quality. He beat Gold City in his last two here and will be reopposed by the Satish Seemer horse is a bigger price to try to overturn the form, which for me is doubtful.
Dark Emerald has won twice and finished second twice (over this distance) at the Carnival for Brendan Powell. This grey five-year-old goes on the dirt for the first time on the dirt surface, so that is a negative as some horses don’t seem to be taking to the surface. Frankyfourfingers and Sloane Avenue looks the main dangers, with the former arguably preferring a longer trip, while the latter is someone who runs on late and has only won by narrow margins when winning twice at Kempton. When Sloane Avenue won a Kempton Graphic was third and won last month at Wolves on the tapeta surface, with Ryan Moore on-board he is also a danger but can be a little quirky.
Small mention goes to Aetna (11/2) who went into the tracker last year and this is a great opportunity to start the season well. A course and distance winner last time out in November on heavy ground so will be hopeful for some rain overnight or prior to the race. However she goes well fresh and is the pick of the race. Justice Day looks too big at a double figure price and could be dangerous as he showed some very good form last season and has the potential to repeat the form this season.
The Grey Gatsby (11/4) is the one to beat after he beat Australia at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Sakes in September, which overturned the form when he was beaten by 2l by the same horse in the Juddmonte International Stakes. He is an improving race and despite the drop in trip he will be ridden well-positioned ready to turn on the speed in the closing furlongs under Ryan Moore. He is the best horse in the race looking at the ratings and is off the same weight as all but two.
Euro Charline (10/1) each-way looks to big after his win at Ascot and then at Arlington Park in the Beverly D Stakes in August. The price looks too big for this Marco Botti filly, who as a four-year-old has the scope to improve and finish in a place here if well-ridden by Joao Moreira. After two wins at Wolverhampton on her first two starts she switched to the turf at Newmarket where she was second in the Nell Gwyn behind Sandiva, who is now running in America and has won her last two races. Solow the danger from France and could set the early pace, which could be pacey for this distance. Furthermore he could be an improving type.
3:45 Doncaster: Lincoln Handicap
The Lincoln Handicap ran over a straight mile at Town Moor this year has 22 runners, including last year’s winner Ocean Tempest.
There are three potential each-way selections that provide a little bit of value in a race where it’s arguably a race based on last season’s form and people’s perceptions.
Gabrial (16/1) looks to offer some of the value in this race and trainer Richard Fahey usually targets this race, which shows as he has a good record in the race after training Brae Hill to victory in 2011, while he was also placed in 2010 and 2012. He won on his last start in October at Leicester but his best form came at last year’s Dubai Carnival meetings at Meydan where he was second and a winner early on. On top of that there is good form before that too up against horses in the likes of Hunter’s Light, Frankel and Grandeur. No problems with the ground or his draw, where he will break from stall 15, as the trends suggest there is little draw bias for this race.
Hillbilly Boy (14/1) ran only two weeks ago finishing third on the all-weather surface at Lingfield. That race was more about him building up his fitness ahead of this race and trainer Martin Smith has an excellent chance of taking victory with this likeable five-year-old. He has only won once over this distance, which is my slight concern but there is ability there, which can be shown this season. Arguably may prefer softer ground, which ran was forecast overnight, but the good ground could see him offer an improvement.
Baraweez (25/1) ran well over this distance at Ayr and Newcastle (then demoted to second) to show potential that he can go well here. He has also won an 18-runner handicap at Leopardstown so the big field in this race is unlikely to cause any concern. At Leopardstown he beat Almargo, who had previously won a big-field handicap at Goodwood, so there is form and potential for this five-year-old to improve and go forward very nicely. As mentioned previously the draw offers no bias plus from stall 11 will give Chris Hayes the option of going to either side depending on what the ground suggests in the early races.
Two lightly raced four-year-olds GM Hopkins, Mange All along with Tres Coronas could all run big races in an interesting looking handicap to start the season.
5:00 Meydan: Dubai World Cup
A tentative selection on the second favourite Lea (4/1) whose form doesn’t look as strong as California Chrome’s on paper but on the track has the potential to go well once again. Speed figures suggest there is not much between them while I prefer the lightly-raced six-year-old over the horse that nearly won the Triple Crown. The 2005 winner of this race Roses in May was second in the Donn at Gulfstream Park before winning here and that is the same route Lea follows today. California Chrome has the obvious favouritism and talk from the track is positive about the horse and should handle the dirt and trip.