It takes two to solve Lincoln puzzle
Simon Holt previews Saturday's action at Doncaster, Haydock and Meydan, and he's backing two against the field in the Lincoln.
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The William Hill Lincoln - restaged following last week's snow-enforced abandonment of Doncaster - provides its usual test for punters on Saturday and, with doubts over the fitness and forwardness of so many runners, it is very difficult to hold a strong opinion.
Horses who have already raced (on the all-weather) this year could well have an edge and Strictly Silver's success in the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton definitely represents the best recent form on offer.
- 1pt win Strictly Silver in 15.05 Doncaster at best morning price - well-handicapped and race fit
- 1pt e.w. Swiftly Done in 15.05 Doncaster at best morning price - will like the ground and receives weight
- 1pt win Sydney Paget in 15.15 Haydock at best morning price - could make all under Jason Maguire
- 1pt win Monsieur Cadou in 14.05 Haydock at best morning price - fancied to follow up course and distance win
- 2pts win Gordon Lord Byron in 15.45 Meydan at best morning price - spot on after prep run and well drawn
Alan Bailey's grey is a progressive type and, again ridden by promising claimer Robert Tart, should go close especially with conditions drying up a bit.
Well on top at the finish under Tart at Wolverhampton, Strictly Silver's 5lb penalty still leaves him a pound well-in on his new mark while an earlier defeat by Robin Hoods Bay at Lingfield in January has been strongly boosted by the winner subsequently.
One horse for whom soft ground holds no fears is Swiftly Done who was my original selection last week - and it is one of the oldest rules of betting to never change your mind!
I saw this horse battle home well in very testing going at Newcastle last season when he was generally progressive and it is interesting that trainer Declan Carroll has chosen to use the fairly inexperienced claimer Luke Leadbitter who claims 7lb.
This means that Swiftly Done will receive weight all round. Incidentally, I think punters should take much closer attention to claiming jockeys in the months to come as most of these lads are getting very well coached these days.
To be honest, there are lots of horses with chances - and uncertainty over the draw just adds to the general complexity of the race. Lightly-raced types from good yards (e.g. Gladys' Gal) are always worth a second look in these major handicaps as are horses who have prospered in similar types of events like Prince Of Johanne, the winner of a Cambridgeshire and a Hunt Cup, and priced (at the time of writing) around 40/1.
Tom Tate's now seven-year-old is only 2lb higher in the ratings than when winning at Royal Ascot last June and tends to run well first time out.
Captain Bertie is another proven horse in big fields and, with ground conditions likely to suit last year's Spring Cup winner, it is no surprise to see him at the head of the market, while last year's winner Brae Hill cannot be discounted again given that Richard Fahey's horses seem to be in forward condition.
In conclusion, I will opt for a win bet on Strictly Silver, who could have a fitness edge, while Swiftly Done appeals each-way at bigger odds.
The feature race at Haydock is the BetVictor.com Levy Board Handicap Chase in which Sydney Paget looks well handicapped and could make all.
Donald McCain's promising chaser has jumped progressively well this season and was spectacular at times before being run down close home by Emperors Choice at Carlisle two starts ago.
That form has a solid look: the first two finished well clear and the winner followed up at Lingfield next time beating subsequent Midlands Grand National hero Big Occasion.
Emperors Choice has gone up 15lb in the official handicapper's ratings since Carlisle while Sydney Paget, an odds-on scorer next time, is up only five.
This is a drop in distance for the selection but Jason Maguire is likely to force things from the front and the pair may take some pegging back.
The danger could be Pepite Rose who was going well before gallingly (for she was this column's selection!) falling in the home straight at Newbury last time. Much of her best form has come on the Berkshire course.
In the opening BetVictor Tim Molony Handicap Chase, Monsieur Cadou (a fair third behind Emperors Choice and Big Occasion at Lingfield) is fancied to supplement a course and distance win in November.
Finally, World Cup night in Dubai is sure to provide its usual glittering evening of international horse racing and my idea of the best bet on the card is the much improved Gordon Lord Byron who has drawn well in the Golden Shaheen and should be spot on after a prep run at Dundalk.
The Irish challenger looked a serious horse when winning the Prix de la Foret under William Buick last autumn and is fancied to outpoint Godolphin's smart Australian import Mental (who has drawn wide).
In recent years, the World Cup itself has been difficult to predict but Hunter's Light is probably a worthy favourite on his recent course and distance wins, though the American pair Royal Delta (badly hampered in the race last year) and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom could be serious rivals.
Last year's first three - Monterosso, Capponi and Planteur - are hard to weigh up given that the first two have clearly had problems since while Planteur was unimpressive in winning an inferior race at Lingfield in his warm up.
It would be great to see Ed Dunlop's fabulous globetrotter Red Cadeaux run well though the 10-furlong trip is almost certainly short of his best, and a repeat of the slow early pace for which the World Cup has become renowned would hardly be likely to suit him.