Alex Hammond: Light to rule World
Well, who would have thought that at this time last year we were basking in spring sunshine and this time last week Doncaster had to abandon the Lincoln due to snow!
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I was at Fontwell in the week and chatting to fellow sportinglife.com columnist Simon Holt, who was telling me that if previous year's records are right and we get a decent April there is a huge chance of another rubbish summer. So, I'm holding out for another chilly month so we can enjoy a hot summer! At least conditions appear to be more favourable this weekend, albeit still very cold.
There was plenty of support for Captain Bertie prior to the intending running of this race last week with trainer Charlie Hills saying he had been working fantastically well and goes well fresh.
Lahaag is still the horse I like for champion trainer John Gosden. Robert Havlin now rides as William Buick is in Dubai. Owner Hamdan al Maktoum also has Eshtibaak who will be ridden by Dane O'Neill now, but was originally the choice of Paul Hanagan.
Strictly Silver will be ridden by apprentice Robert Tart for Alan Bailey. The horse won the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton last time out for the rider. Stuart Williams has snapped up the services of Graham Lee in place of Jamie Spencer for Chapter Seven.
Gladys Gal represents Roger Varian and new stable jockey Andrea Atzeni. The horse hasn't run since July 2011 and has just had the three starts. She looked useful when winning a 7 furlong handicap on her final start at this track but it looks a tough ask despite the talents of her trainer.
Richard Fahey has three runners including last year's winner Brae Hill who runs off the same mark as when successful twelve months ago. He has gone well fresh in the past and looks the best chance for the Musley Bank handler although Fahey said he would prefer to be drawn in the middle last week when he was handed stall 3 and he's now on the opposite side of the track in 19.
Despite that, he looks a decent each way selection and has been supported in the run up to the race. Lahaag is a horse I'd rather be with than against. Although he is drawn relatively low (6 - the same draw as the one he was handed last week) I hope he goes well for the Gosden camp. He has only had the four career starts, winning two of them and finishing second twice - on debut and on his last start when just touched off at York in October.
That last run was an interesting one as he was beaten by the then Richard Fahey trained Chapter Seven. That horse was then bought for 95,000 guineas at the Horses in Training Sales by Pearl Bloodstock and is now with Stuart Williams for whom he ran once after that on the all weather without covering himself with glory. He could continue to progress back on turf given a truly run race.
Lahaag looks the sort of horse though who should do well as a four year old as he has plenty of size and scope and I'm going with him to win this delayed season curtain raiser with Brae Hill my each way selection.
So, that race now clashes with the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup, at Meydan. The draw for the race was made on Wednesday with low to middle numbers the most favourable. There was a blow for US raider Animal Kingdom who has been drawn out wide in 12, he won the 2011 Kentucky Derby.
Saeed bin Suroor trains three of the 13 runners, with leading contender Hunter's Light coming from stall four, African Story in 11 and Kassiano is widest of all in 13 to complete the team for bin Suroor but he is a hold up horse and will be able to be dropped in by William Buick. Last year's winner Monterosso also runs for Godolphin, but he is trained by Mahmood al Zarooni, he will come out of stall 10.
Last year's second Capponi will start from stall five and is also trained by Al Zarooni. American trainer Bill Mott will be pleased with stall 8 for Royal Delta, she won the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic last November and also won it in 2011, but was only 9th in this last year.
There are three British runners, Marco Botti saddles Planteur who will be ridden by Ryan Moore, he's in stall seven, Ed Dunlop has globetrotting Red Cadeaux (stall two) who has been pointing his toe on this surface since arriving in Dubai and Andrew Balding has Side Glance from six. Hunter's Light has been running well in Dubai this winter. He's won both his starts including Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge last time out. He has plenty in his favour and the demands of the track suit him well.
The American challenge is strong, but they don't seem to excel here and as a result I'd be keen on Hunter's Light for Saeed bin Suroor and Silvestre de Sousa.
Secret Number is well fancied in the UAE Derby with some good judges feeling he is still value at his current price (2/1 with Sky Bet). The horse has only had the 2 career starts, both for Saeed bin Suroor. He won a mile maiden on the all weather at Kempton and then won on his Meydan debut in a 9 ½ furlong Listed race on the tapeta surface.
He has a superb pedigree being a son of Raven's Pass and a half brother to Group 1 winning milers Dubai Destination and Librettist and looks smart. He is improving and should take the beating over the course and distance he was successful over last time out.
At Kempton, it's worth noting that Ed Vaughan has decided to re-route Dance and Dance from the Lincoln to the 7f Conditions race on the all weather and I think he will reward that decision.
To some of the other action and there is some excellent racing in Ireland at the weekend with the Irish National at Fairyhouse the feature on Easter Monday. David Pipe looks like running Junior in the 3 mile 5 furlong contest despite him being burdened with top weight.
Conditions are ideal for Rich Revival and his season has been geared towards this race. He won the Leinster National over 3 miles last time out and his jockey that day didn't think he would have any problem staying this trip. Heavy ground is ideal, he is bred to suit it and is proven on it. He is lightly raced and deserves his position at the top of the market.
Marasonnien hails from the stable that dominated at Cheltenham, he's trained by Irish Champion Willie Mullins. Gigginstown House Stud have multiple entries with Gordon Elliott's Romanesco the shortest in the market for the owner followed by Sweeney Tunes for Paul Nolan. Home Farm is another leading contender for Arthur Moore, he's an interesting novice who looks on the up but I wouldn't be certain this son of Presenting wants a real slog on heavy ground.
Magnanimity is another Gigginstown horse, trained this time by Dessie Hughes. He hasn't won since January 2011 but has been mixing it in very good company and running with credit. Rich Revival has a favourite's chance and he looks capable of running a big race for Liz Doyle.
Lahaag in the Lincoln Handicap @ 8/1 with Sky Bet
Brae Hill in the Lincoln Handicap @ 12/1 with Sky Bet (each way)
Hunter's Light in the Dubai World Cup @ 7/2 with Sky Bet
Secret Number in the UAE Derby @ 2/1 with Sky Bet
Dance and Dance in the Conditions Stakes at Kempton
Rich Revival in the Irish National @ 8/1 with Sky Bet