Punting pointers: hot fancy Fire Brigade bids to land a gamble under Ryan Moore
32Red Lincoln (Heritage Handicap) | 1m | 4yo+ | ITV4/ATR
Traditionally the first big handicap of the Flat turf season and a cavalry charge that always provides a huge head-scratcher for punters.
After a spell towards the beginning of the millennium when three favourites won in six years – Stream Of Gold (2005), Expresso Star (2009) and Penitent (2010) – the shortest-priced winner since has been 12-1, with three returned at 20-1 and one at 25-1.
Common sense dictates that the draw must play some part in such big-runner fields, but a look at recent results – the last eight winners have come from stalls 20, 22, 15, 3, 3, 12, 16 and 1 – fails to give much assistance.
As is so often the case, any discernible advantage that may exist will come from being drawn where the best pace is.
Red-hot Fire Brigade still improving
Fire Brigade has been a warm order for this race since the ante-post markets opened, and even more so since the booking of Ryan Moore was confirmed.
After starting his last turf campaign off a mark of 71, the son of Firebreak made relentless progress, winning handicaps at Newmarket, Haydock (twice) and Leicester, meaning he tackles the Lincoln rated 98.
His trainer Michael Bell said: "He's got some good form on soft ground and a mile looks his optimum trip. He's crept up the handicap but keeps improving.
"We've got the assistance of Ryan Moore – it's always best to have him with you than against you."
O'Meara has strong hand once again
David O'Meara, a dab hand in high-class handicaps, got his turf campaign off to a flyer last year when Bravery stormed home under Danny Tudhope to land this race by a neck from Oh This Is Us.
The trainer has yet to saddle a winner in 2018, but it would be no surprise if either Bravery or Lord Glitters – the mount of Tudhope this time – ended that drought and put him back in the spotlight.
O'Meara said: "Lord Glitters won the Balmoral Handicap last autumn. The ground should be okay for him, but whether he can win a Lincoln under top weight is questionable. It's hard to win a handicap like this off a mark of 107.
"Bravery is drawn low this year in stall one [won from 20 last year]. He's in good form and Sam James rides."
Addeybb looks typical Haggas improver
Four-year-old Addeybb has the appearance of a potential Group horse running in a handicap and is clearly open to significant improvement after just five starts, which have yielded victories at Haydock, Ascot and Newmarket.
Trainer William Haggas, who has won the Lincoln with Penitent (2010), Very Wise (2007) and High Low (1992), knows what is required and said: "I think Addeybb will handle the ground, and get a bit further in time.
"He's a lovely horse and has a definite chance, but it's quite a competitive race. I do think he'll end up being a stakes horse."
What the rest say
Ralph Beckett, trainer of Mitchum Swagger
He's training well. I'd have liked to have got a run into him at the beginning of March, but the weather closed in. That slightly tempers my enthusiasm but he's fit enough to do himself justice. He'll like the ground and a straight mile is his forte.
Richard Fahey, trainer of Gabrial, Stamp Hill and Withernsea
Stamp Hill is fit and well and we're very happy with him. He's got to prove he stays a strongly run mile, but he wasn't stopping at the end of the International last summer. Withernsea doesn't have much in hand but will love the ground and he seems to like these big-field handicaps. Gabrial is a previous winner of the race and tends to run very well at this meeting. He has the ability but isn't getting any younger.
William Knight, trainer of Ballard Down
This has been his target for a while and his preparation has gone to plan. A flat, straight mile will suit and conditions underfoot will be in his favour. There's a big performance in him.
Martyn Meade, trainer of Dolphin Vista and Chelsea Lad
A spell hurdling woke Dolphin Vista up over the winter. He's really enjoying life at the moment. I think Jason Watson's 7lb claim could be of huge benefit in such a competitive race. Things never quite clicked for Chelsea Lad last year, but he's wintered well and runs well fresh. Both will like the soft ground.
James Tate, trainer of Via Via
We're quite optimistic. A straight mile on a flat track on soft ground looks ideal. He's done well over the winter and is clearly better on turf than the all-weather. He did a great piece of work on Monday. I realise he's one of the outsiders, but in my mind I'll be disappointed if he's not right up there.
Karl Burke, trainer of London Protocol
He's fairly fit but handicapped to the hilt. It's a bit of a shot in the dark really.
Enjoy the daily Racing Post newspaper in full with our digital newspaper. Available to download on any device from 9pm every evening, giving you tomorrow’s paper the night before - exclusive to Members' Club Ultimate. Join here