Levitate to rise to the challenge
Simon Holt previews Saturday's William Hill Lincoln card at Doncaster and fancies Levitate to win the feature.
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With the going at Doncaster turning soft, conditions could be ideal for LEVITATE as he bids to become only the third horse after Ob (1906/07) and Babur (1957/58) to win back-to-back William Hill Lincoln Handicaps on Saturday.
Only a narrow winner from Global Village and Brae Hill 12 months ago from stall three (he is drawn eight this time), John Quinn's easy-ground specialist progressed significantly later in the season when again beating Brae Hill at Ayr (good to soft), finishing fourth in a hot handicap at Ascot (soft) and then beating 19 others by three lengths and upwards back on Town Moor (soft again) over seven furlongs in November.
Raised 8lb for that latest win, Levitate will surely be helped by jockey Joe Doyle's 7lb allowance and, having been impressed with the young Irishman through the winter, I would say his concession is a significant advantage.
The danger could be Gabrial's Kaka, a horse thought good enough to contest Classic trials nearly a year ago.
Richard Fahey's gelding may have finished a remote last behind the top-class Magician in the Dee Stakes at Chester last May but prospered subsequently when his sights were lowered, winning a handicap at Pontefract before two good seconds behind Altharoos and Seek Again at Thirsk and York respectively.
On both those occasions, he looked a little unlucky to be collared close home and the latter effort certainly catches the eye given that Seek Again, in an inspired piece of placing by trainer John Gosden, went onto win the Hollywood Derby in the United States six weeks later.
A strongly-run mile is probably the ideal for Gabrial's Kaka but there is a slight question that ground conditions might have become too soft for him.
Fahey will also be represented by Hi There but this mile looks on the sharp side given a couple of 10-furlong victories in testing conditions last autumn.
Past winner Sweet Lightning is slipping down then weights while last year's fifth Jack's Revenge (now 12lb better off) could well get a bit closer this time. George Baker's charge, a former selling plater, ran some solid races subsequent to the Lincoln notably when a fine second to the progressive Graphic at York in October.
It is always a good idea to look for progressive horses in these big handicaps and both Whispering Warrior and Off Art could have their best days ahead of them.
While only a narrow winner of the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton, Whispering Warrior stayed on powerfully having been in top gear for much of the way (could this mile be on the sharp side?) and Off Art showed similar battling qualities when winning all three of his starts last season.
The last-named has been off the course for nine months but in-form trainer Tim Easterby has long targeted this race.
It is unfortunate that BRAE HILL has been ballotted out of the Lincoln as the eight-year-old boasts an unbelievable record in the race having finished second to Sweet Lightning in 2011 before defeating the smart Mull Of Killough a year later and then running third to Levitate 12 months ago off a 4lb higher mark.
The old boy can be a little in and out these days but his form at this meeting is irresistible and it will be no surprise if he goes very close in the William Hill Spring Mile (the Lincoln consolation race) in which Gworn and Dance And Dance could prove his main rivals.