Matt Brocklebank looks ahead to the start of the British Flat season with two Antepost Angle selections for the Betway Lincoln at Doncaster on April 1.
Recommended bets: Betway Lincoln
It’s eight years since the Lincoln winner didn’t have any previous experience of racing at Doncaster and with the top of the market dominated by unexposed, Newmarket-based runners like Morando and Sacred Act, now looks a good time to get one of the locals on side.
It’s impossible to know how the conditions will pan out over the next couple of weeks but the forecast is set pretty fair over the weekend and into early next week, while Town Moor is a track renowned for how well it drains.
If it happens to come up genuine good ground, which it is has done for four of the last eight renewals, then the general 33/1 about STEEL TRAIN has the potential to look really good business.
He’s one of two possible runners for trainer David O’Meara, who saddled Mondialiste to be second to Gabrial in 2015 and was also responsible for last year’s big gamble of the race, Lord Of The Land, who failed to figure in the finish but returned 6/1 in this event on his first outing for the yard and went on to record an all-weather hat-trick at the end of the season.
It's obviously a race O’Meara is very keen to win and the shortest of his pair this time around is Bravery, bought in the autumn at a tenth of his price tag when a yearling, but still a not-inconsiderable purchase at 44,000 guineas.
A Dundalk maiden winner for Aidan O’Brien this time last year, he didn’t make the grade thereafter but wasn’t beaten far in a Listed race at the Curragh in October, albeit over a mile and a half.
He’s short enough in the market for what he’s achieved on the track over the Lincoln trip and stablemate Steel Train looks well capable of improving past him.
The latter is not only experienced over the straight course here, but also ticks the other significant recent trend of having had at least one run during the calendar year.
Unexposed four-year-olds making their first appearance of the season used to be the obvious starting point when assessing the Lincoln, but the race has seemingly become even more competitive and Sweet Lightning (2011), Ocean Tempest (2014) and Secret Brief (2017) all came into it with race-fitness on their side.
All three of those winners had been out in Meydan at the Dubai Carnival and while the relative climate at Newcastle and Wolverhampton may not have been quite so beneficial, Steel Train has still run a bit better than his finishing positions may suggest lately.
His 10th of 13, beaten under four lengths by Suzi’s Connoisseur when denied a clear run in a race not run to suit, wasn’t far from a career best last month and returning to turf – on which his record reads 25 runs, four wins, five seconds and two thirds – should suit him ideally.
He’s a full 12lb higher than when bolting up over seven furlongs at Doncaster in November but his subsequent win off a mark of 95 on Newcastle’s Tapeta surface left the impression he could remain seriously competitive from his revised rating during the Flat season proper, and O’Meara has probably had this race in mind since that course success.
Richard Fahey is also likely to fire at least a couple of bullets at the valuable contest having won it twice in the past five years, but the strength of his hand may not be quite as deep as he’d like with Nimr far from guaranteed a place in the field.
A 5lb penalty for winning a couple of races at Wolverhampton since the turn of the year doesn’t quite look like being enough to prevent him missing the cut, though Musley Bank could be represented by former winner Gabrial, Third Time Lucky and Another Touch if the latter gets in.
He’s been out in Meydan and while balloted out of his intended targets over there, a bit of winter sun of his back can’t have done any harm.
From the other end of the country, EDDYSTONE ROCK has had a very different period of early-season conditioning, racing a couple of times in the freezing cold of St Moritz, without success. He failed to shine in icy Switzerland but has one or two pieces of form that suggest he could be over priced as a 25/1 shot.
Unlike Steel Train, he stays further than the bare mile, while he wouldn’t mind if there was rain around having won so easily on soft at Tipperary in August, that coming on the back of a one-length second to subsequent dual winner Ringside Humour in a 12-runner contest at the Curragh.
Tipperary turned out to be his final outing for Johnny Murtagh, who was all for aiming the five-year-old at the Cambridgeshire before having to rule him out following an unsatisfactory scope in the run-up to Newmarket.
Eddystone Rock was narrowly beaten into third on his debut for new trainer John Best over 10 furlongs at Lingfield before heading out to St Moritz, but he was forced to make the early running there and most of his really progressive form in Ireland came when able to chase a strong pace.
Dropping back to a straight mile could prove absolutely ideal for this son of Rock Of Gibraltar, who remains open to improvement after just 10 starts on turf and worthy of each-way support.
Posted at 1453 GMT on 20/03/17.