Racing Post guide to unearthing winners at the Lincoln meeting
After a winter of letting the jumpers have their fun, Flat racing's followers and professionals are raring to go at Doncaster.
A winner to start the year would be nice and, for punters as well as connections, is likely to pay handsomely.
But with 120 declared runners across eight races on Saturday, which include one of the season's most competitive handicaps, a consolation for the same race, two divisions of the Brocklesby and another couple of Listed races, it will not be easy.
Let's start with the Lincoln
Finding winners of the Lincoln (3.35) is, if anything, increasingly difficult as those horses obviously open to improvement find it harder to make it in. A cut-off mark of 97 is 9lb higher than it was ten years ago. It seems like the only certainty is that the winner will be at least Listed-class.
The old-fashioned way of approaching the Lincoln, favouring progressive handicappers against the exposed, is best served by looking at the form of a new race.
The Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day fits a similar profile to the Lincoln and is open to three-year-olds, who by Lincoln time are still the youngest permitted runners. Yuften landed that race at the end of last season and is favourite for the Lincoln.
Ready to rumble?
While draw biases, real and perceived, are often mentioned, the main factor tends to be readiness. For the Lincoln, this can often come from a horse who has run in Dubai, as two of the last three winners had in the same year.
It is usually not that easy, however. For races on day one of the turf season, and for much of the first few weeks, historical precedent gives the best guess as to which trainers have their horses ready to run and which have them ready to win.
Richard Fahey is a prime example. In the last four Aprils on turf, he has returned 76 winners from 423 runners, an almost 500-1 shot if you compare it with his stable's overall strike-rate of 13 per cent. Fahey, of course, has also had two of the last five Lincoln winners.
Watch out too for Mick Easterby. His April shower has been something of a recent phenomenon. A previously poor record early in the season has been improved upon markedly in the last two seasons, with 11 winners from 68 runners being a pretty unlikely outcome for a stable with a ten per cent strike-rate.
Two-year-olds, and in particular the Brocklesby, which in a sense we get two goes at this year (4.10 and 4.45), are a separate entity.
Mark Johnston, who has won the last two editions of the race, has no runner this year so those with slightly longer memories will be thinking of Bill Turner, who sends out Hellovaqueen in division two.
A trainer represented in both divisions, whose early two-year-olds habitually outperform the stable average, is David Evans. His strike-rate with two-year-olds in April is nearly double what he achieves with juveniles through the season.