All flat racing fans look forward to the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster as it signifies the proper start of the campaign. And it sets a good tone for the upcoming months if you get the winner!
It’s pretty rare that the ground is better than good for this fixture and it can often be on the soft side, so for me that’s the first port of call when looking at horses for this race, the liking of some soft ground.
I’m having two antepost bets as I believe they’re both more than capable of winning this off their current marks, especially with some give underfoot.
The first is towards the head of the market, but I still think he’s value.
Brentford Hope possibly hasn’t quite lived up to expectations yet, given the manner of his five length waltz to victory at Newmarket on his debut in October 2019.
Touted as a Derby hope, he missed the race through injury so didn’t get back on the track until July last year, where he ultimately disappointed a few times over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half.
On pedigree and given his debut win at 1m2f, he should probably be a mile and a half horse. But having travelled ominously well in races, it looked as though he simply didn’t stay strongly enough. Dropped back to a mile by Richard Hughes on his final start of last season, he absolutely hacked up with his head in his chest off a mark of 91 on heavy ground.
That definitely looks his trip and this race is the plan to get his campaign up and running.
This horse has so much ability and I think we’ll see him show exactly what he’s made of at a mile this year. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a group horse to be totally honest and if that’s the case, a mark of 99 definitely underestimates him. I don’t believe he needs soft or heavy ground as he still travelled mightily well on good ground at York. But if he turns up and it’s soft or heavy at Doncaster on the 27th March, I can see him going off a very strong favourite and much shorter than he is now.
That being said, I still wouldn’t be put off if it’s good ground, as I think he’s now racing at his optimum distance, which has been more of a factor to his runs than the ground conditions.
My second bet is King Ottokar, who is another that looks a reformed character down in trip.
He’s been competing in group company at intermediate distances the past couple of seasons, but having been dropped to a mile towards the backend of 2020, he looks a winner waiting to happen. Over course and distance in September, he was denied a clear run at a pretty crucial stage and ran on well in the final half furlong. Then in the Britannia Handicap on Champions Day at Ascot, he did remarkably well to finish sixth. Drawn in stall 22, the horses that finished in front of him were all drawn 10 or lower.
Racing against the draw bias and again just stopped in his run slightly when starting to get rolling, it was a great effort to finish where he did.
Again he’s a horse that is fine on good ground, but he handles soft a lot better than most. If the rain comes, that’ll be in his favour.
Rated as high as 106 at his peak, he’s sitting at 99 now and I think that’s winnable given this trip with some cut in the ground.
Back Brentford Hope @ 7/1
Back King Ottokar @ 14/1 Each Way
Unfortunately, I’ve missed the boat on Cloth Cap. He jumps like a stag, is 14lb well-in and is 6/1 favourite, the only thing not to like is the fact that he’s never run over the unique Aintree fences.
Well done if you’re on at nice prices (and I wish I was) but at this stage I won’t be backing him as he shouldn’t really be much shorter on the day.
JP McManus is no stranger to a gamble, and that could well happen with Any Second Now.
He was fancied for the contest last year before the abandonment and I see no reason why he can’t run a big race this year instead.
He’s been prepped for the big day before when winning the Kim Muir at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National seems to have very much been in the plan since. He generally jumps pretty well and has tactical speed so should be able to get himself into a good position at Aintree, yet he is also a strong stayer. This and last season he’s won over two miles as his prep.
I like this as it shows he’s in great form, but it’s a short enough race that it won’t be too hard on him before Aintree. Ted Walsh won the Grand National back in 2000 with Papillon and he appears to have a great chance again here.
Willie Mullins has obviously had a plethora of major wins, but he’s only ever won the Grand National once. Burrows Saint looks a huge contender to give him a second victory and owners Susannah and Rich Ricci their first.
He won the Irish Grand National back in 2019 and was another who was fancied at Aintree last season. A couple of runs over hurdles this campaign seems to have got him rolling as he produced by far his best effort of the season last time when second in a Grade 3 back over fences. He has a blemish free record so his jumping is assured which must be a nice feeling going into the National (especially for a jockey). And what I really like is that in all three runs where there has been good in the going description, he’s won.
We’re obviously not guaranteed those conditions, but the race is quite late this year being the 10th April. A rating of 156 could well be high enough, but he’s only an eight year old and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he were to prove capable off this rating.
Lastly, I’m going for a much bigger price to finish off my hat-trick of selections.
I don’t imagine Hogan’s Height has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds for the Aintree showpiece, but he’s crept into mine.
His last two efforts have been disappointing on paper, beaten 29 lengths and then pulled up over hurdles. But he’s only a 126 rated hurdler compared to being 145 over fences.
The most eye-catching thing about him is that his last chase start was over the National fences in the Grand Sefton where he strolled home by 16 lengths. Some horses can take their form to a whole new level when seeing those obstacles, and Hogan’s Height looks as though he could well be one of those.
He is a winner over three miles as a hurdler, but his stamina hasn’t been thoroughly proved. However, weighing up that slight question mark with his clear liking of the fences, I definitely think he’s worth a punt off a low weight.
Back Any Second Now @ 12/1 Each Way
Back Burrows Saint @ 16/1 Each Way
Back Hogan’s Height @ 50/1 Each Way
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