May 6, 2020

A Flying Start to the Turf

The 2020 Turf Flat Season is due to get underway on Saturday 28th March with the traditional curtain raising meeting at Doncaster. The Unibet sponsored meeting features the Lincoln heritage Handicap worth £100,000 in prize money.

Given the status of the opening Big Handicap of the new season we will begin this edition with the key trends and traits of the past winners of the Lincoln Handicap. With a maximum field of 22 likely to be lining up these trends can be a useful tool come race day to whittle down the runners to a handful with the “winners profile”.

The Unibet Lincoln Handicap (1 mile; Heritage Handicap) Doncaster 3.35pm

In the past there was no obvious pattern in terms of the draw with winners having been drawn right across the track in years gone by. However, 7 of the last 9 renewals have been won by horses draw in stall 10 or above, including the last 5.

The age stat is a strong one with 22 of the 23 winners since 1997 aged 4yo to 6yo.

It is fair to point out that they do make up the majority of the runners but those aged 7yo and older are 1-87.

The classier type tends to win this and 9 of the last 10 winners were allotted at least 9st 1lb and 15 of the last 17 winners were rated 95+.

William Haggas has won this three times from only 7 runners, whilst last year’s winner Auxerre made it 2 out of 2 for Charlie Appleby.

Richard Fahey has also won the Lincoln twice but he does tend to fire a lot of bullets (43 runners) at this race and at the meeting in general, which can make it tricky.

21 of the 23 winners since 1997 came from the top 12 in the betting and seeing as around 20 to 22 runners’ line up that will help when we come to narrow the field on race day. 

19 of the 23 winners had won over a mile or further and all had at least raced over this distance, whilst 18 of the last 23 winners had won a handicap race previously and 17 had won at least 3 of their career starts. 

This is not the race where you want to be breaking your maiden tag. In fact, between 3 and 5 career wins looks spot on and accounts for no fewer than 16 winners since 1997. 

In terms of preparations for the first big Handicap of the new Turf Season, 19 of the 23 winners since 1997 were making their seasonal debut, which was the case for the last 12 winners. It would seem that a winter prep is the norm these days.

Quite a lot to digest but the profile of the previous Lincoln winners is fairly informative and can be summarised as follows:-

  • Aged 4yo to 6yo
  • Carrying 9st 1lb or more
  • Rated 95+
  • Trained by Charlie Appleby or William Haggas
  • Top 12 in the betting
  • Won over a mile or further previously
  • 3 to 5 career wins
  • Previous success in a handicap race
  • Avoid maidens

Hopefully the aforementioned trends will help us start the new Flat campaign on a positive note with the winner of the Lincoln Handicap.

Early Season Specialists

Next up, we are going to take a look at the records of the trainers, to see if we can hone in on a few that may help us find a few winners, at what can often be a very challenging time of year on the punting front.

To try and keep things refreshed and up to date we have focused on the last 3 campaigns (2017-18-19) and the early months, late March through to the end of May.

In addition we will split the research into age and race types rather than the broad brush approach that can often lead to numerous potential qualifiers, in some cases running against each other.

First up is the Juvenile division with the two-year-olds.


Generally speaking most racehorses are born between January and April in the Northern hemisphere, and as with all racehorses they turn a year older on the 1st January each year.

The season for juveniles invariably kicks off with the Brocklesby Stakes, a five furlong cavalry charge for mostly unraced 2yo’s over Doncaster’s straight course, and forms part of the race line-up for the Lincoln Handicap meeting.

The following Table shows the trainers that have achieved 10 winners or more from their 2yo runners over the 2017-19, March-May period.

As you can the likes of Richard Fahey, Richard Hannon, Mark Johnston and David Evans have quite a few of their 2yo’s out in the early part of the campaign, but you would be hard pushed to make a profit from following them blindly.

The two trainers that on the face of it would have made a level stake profit are Charles Hills and Charlie Appleby.

Let’s take a closer look at each of their respective records starting with Hills:-

Charles Hills

Two winning years out of the three is a positive but there appears to be a trend showing fewer runners of this type, but overall a yard to keep on your side in the early season 2yo races.

Charlie Appleby

There was a blip during 2018 but clearly it didn’t affect plans and the results achieved the following year with close to 1 in 2 juveniles winning their early season races.

Charlie Appleby was appointed as a Godolphin trainer in July 2013, after 15 years working for Sheikh Mohammed as a travelling head lad, stable head lad and assistant trainer. 

Having subsequently trained in excess of 600 winners in the famous blue silks he was also responsible for Masar to become the first Godolphin horse to win the coveted G1 Derby at Epsom.

Having just returned from the Winter Carnival over in Dubai, the full focus of the yard can turn to the new Turf season and hopefully, following their 2yo runners through to the end of May, can prove to be a fruitful exercise.

System 41: Back Charles Hills and Charlie Appleby’s Two Year Old runners through to the end of May.

Next up is the 3yo brigade and in particular those competing in handicaps having achieved an Official Rating during their first season.

Three-Year-Old Handicappers

The following Table shows the trainers that have achieved 10 winners or more from their 3yo Handicap runners over the 2017-19, March-May period.

The numbers of runners from the Mark Johnston, Richard Fahey and Richard Hannon yards are staggering, but what catches the eye from the above is the strike rate, and recent profits achieved by the Ralph Beckett yard.

Ralph Beckett

Having originally started in racing at the back end of the 80’s, Ralph Becketts’s equine career started out as a stable lad. He steadily gained experience working for some well-known trainers before joining Peter Walwyn as his assistant in 1996.

Now based at the Kimpton Down Stables in Andover, Hants, he has achieved success all the way up to Classic level and trained over 1000 winners.

Let’s have a closer look at the 3yo Handicapper stats from the last three early season campaigns:-

Three consecutive early campaigns of profit, despite the 2017 period only landing with 3 victories. The 1.53 A/E gives a strong marker that the yard has performed above the market expectations.

Over the previous full 5 seasons on the Flat Turf Ralph Beckett has averaged a 17% Strike Rate so clearly the 28% achieved with his early season 3yo Handicappers is worth taking note of.

System 44: Back Ralph Beckett’s early season 3yo Handicappers through to the end of May.

We move finally on to the older category with the 4yo+ Handicappers….

All-Aged Handicaps (4yo+)

The following table shows the trainers that have achieved 14 winners or more from their 4yo+ Handicap runners over the 2017-19, March-May period.

If we focus on those trainers that have achieved at least a 15% Strike Rate it narrows the above to Mark Johnston, Richard Hannon, Roger Varian, Gary Moore and Eve Johnson Houghton.

Johnston and Hannon can be discounted given their P&L losses, whilst Johnson Houghton had most of her winners, and profit, during the 2017 period. That leaves us with a duo to consider more closely:-

Gary Moore

Cracking profits from each of the last 3 early season campaigns bodes well. If the pattern repeats itself it should pay to follow the Gary Moore runners in the All-Aged Handicaps from the start of the 2020 Flat season through to the end of May.

Roger Varian

Whilst 2017 and 2018 didn’t set the world alight on the profits front, what it did give notice of was an improving profile and the last campaign achieved a cracking 50% strike rate.

The yard tends to focus on the slow maturing types, and assuming no radical change in modus operandi, we will hopefully benefit from following their runners in all-aged Handicaps (4yo+) for the coming early season period.

System 48: Back Gary Moore and Roger Varian early season runners in all aged Handicaps (4yo+) through to the end of May.


Undoubtedly the early few months of the new Flat Season can be tricky punting territory as we try to work out which yards have had decent preparations, and which may have been held back possibly by the terrible winter weather. The four trainers detailed appear to give us a fighting chance of navigating our way through that period, especially if we take a selective approach and concentrate on the specific types of runners that the research highlighted.

Here’s to a flying start to the new turf season.

If you would like to receive an email to let you know each time one of our systems has a runner sign up for our alerts service here –

These systems should deliver some easy profits for readers in the early months of the new flat season, for our Gold Members we have dug deeper and turned up some triple figure ROI’s by focusing in on the main winning strategies of our winning trainers. 

If you would like to upgrade to On Course Profits Gold you can do so here –


Steve Carter

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