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Ante-post favourite Auxerre headlines 22-strong field for Lincoln

Auxerre: favourite for the Lincoln Handicap on Saturday
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Godolphin will bid to get their 2019 British turf campaign off to a fine start with ante-post favourite Auxerre drawn in stall 17 in a final field of 22 for Saturday's Unibet Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster.

The last four winners of the season-opening contest have been drawn in double-figure stalls: ten, 20, 22 and 15. The Alan King-trained Chatez is in stall ten which housed last year's winner Addeybb.

The leading principles in the market have largely held their positions, with support coming in for the sole Irish raider Saltonstall and Humbert.

Auxerre, who has won three of his four starts to date, will be partnered by James Doyle and bids to give trainer Charlie Appleby a second win in the race after Secret Brief's victory in 2016. He is a general 7-2 shot to add a fourth career success to his name. 

Among the four-year-old's opponents is the David Elsworth-trained Ripp Orf (stall nine), winner of a valuable handicap at Ascot last September, second favourite Kynren (22) and the David O'Meara-trained Humbert (five). 

Ripp Orf (middle): won the Victoria Cup at Ascot last year

Another Batt, who has been running in Meydan over the winter, carries top weight of 9st 10lb for George Scott and is drawn in stall 12.

Philip Kirby, who will be hoping for Randox Health Grand National success with Blaklion at Aintree next week, saddles South Seas (16), who will make his first start for the Yorkshire-based trainer. The five-year-old has been shortened into 10-1 with several firms including Betfair. 

The Adrian McGuinness-trained Saltonstall, who had been well backed for the mile contest in recent days, has been given stall 18. The five-year-old was last seen finishing down the field in the Irish Cambridgeshire last term.

Mark Johnston, who is yet to win the contest, will run three, while Richard Fahey, successful in 2015 with stable stalwart Gabrial, runs Third Time Lucky (seven) and Great Prospector (19).

Conundrum of the draw

The return of Flat turf racing at Doncaster on Saturday brings with it the conundrum of the draw and whether your chances of finding success can been boosted, or hampered, by which stall your fancy is breaking from.

Run over the straight mile at Doncaster, the Lincoln has been won by horses drawn all over the course in the last ten years, with Penitent scoring from gate one (2010) and Secret Brief from 22 (2016), giving the appearance of a fair track for horses to race on.

This is backed up by looking at the horses who have filled the places in the last decade too, with no one area of the draw enabling horses to get an advantage on their rivals from the stalls.

However, certain conclusions can be drawn that can help whittle the field down a little for the first major handicap of the season.

Firstly, and it is often a point made by jockeys, the pace appears to be important. Last year Hayadh provided the perfect lead into the race for winner Addeybb, and it has been a similar story in previous runnings of the contest.

Secondly, in general the winner has been able to make his challenge down the centre to far side. That is not to say horses drawn high cannot win (the stats show that is not the case) but they have more often than not done better when moved away from the near rail during the race.
Peter Scargill

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The last five winners of the season-opening contest were drawn in stalls 10, 20, 22, 15 and three
E.W. Terms