We look ahead to the Unibet Lincoln at Doncaster on Saturday and some of the potential key factors at play when it comes to finding the winner.
It’s 30 years since Fact Finder won the Lincoln for Reg Akehurst off a mark of 81, carrying 7st 9lb under Tyrone Williams.
The race is a very different beast these days, like most top-level handicaps, and the last time you would’ve got in the contest off a mark of 81 was back in 1999.
Right Wing won the Lincoln that year off a mark of 100, but he was second top-weight that day and nowadays you want to be edging towards that sort of rating just to get a run.
The average rating of the winner since 2000 is 97, but that’s creeping upwards all the time as the Lincoln begins to have the look of a Group race, rather than being merely a stepping stone for horses with such aspirations.
Unsurprisingly, horses running in the Lincoln on their seasonal reappearance have a great record given it’s the first big race of the Flat campaign.
However, the improvement of the all-weather season and the opportunity for Lincoln-rated horses to winter out in Dubai has meant that more winners of the Doncaster feature have had a run under their belts in recent years.
Despite this, coming in fresh after a full winter break remains king when it comes to finding the Lincoln winner.
Since the year 2000, 13 of the 19 Lincoln winners came into the race fresh after a break of 126 days or more.
It’s a trend that could well continue this year, with the six horses at the top of the market – Auxerre, Kynren, Humbert, Ripp Orf, Saltonstall and South Seas – all going into the race on the back of a break of five months or more.
John Ferneley and Nimello won the 2000 and 2001 renewals of the Lincoln on the back of runs at Wolverhampton, with the former finishing second in the trial and the latter winning under a 5lb penalty following a smooth win on the all-weather.
An all-weather prep threatened to become a thing after that, but the only subsequent winner to have won the Lincoln following such a routine was Very Wise in 2007 when the big race was run at Newcastle.
He had run at Lingfield over 10 furlongs previously but no horse that has prepped on the all-weather in the UK in the same calendar year as the Lincoln has been successful since.
Quite a few horses fit into the ‘All-Weather Wizards’ category this time around, with Chiefofchiefs, Zwayyan, Silver Quartz, Battered, Third Time Lucky, Aquarium, Breden, Masham Star and Wahash all having had a run on such a surface recently.
Lincoln winners since the turn of the century
- 2000 – John Ferneley OR 90. Prep: Wolverhampton Lincoln trial (2nd off 90)
- 2001 – Nimello OR 89. Prep: Wolverhampton (won off 84)
- 2002 – Zucchero OR 91. Fresh after 238 days off.
- 2003 – Pablo OR 97. Fresh after 140 days off.
- 2004 – Babodana OR 107. Fresh after 126 days off.
- 2005 – Stream Of Gold OR 98. Fresh after 169 days off.
- 2006 – (Run at Redcar) Blythe Knight OR 95. Fresh after 162 days off.
- 2007 – (Run at Newcastle) Very Wise OR 91. Prep: Lingfield (2nd off 92 over 10f).
- 2008 – Smokey Oakey OR 95. Fresh after 140 days off.
- 2009 – Expresso Star OR 97. Fresh after 163 days off.
- 2010 – Penitent OR 98. Fresh after 160 days off.
- 2011 – Sweet Lightning OR 104. Had 4-run Meydan campaign (no wins).
- 2012 – Brae Hill OR 95. Fresh after 210 days off.
- 2013 – Levitate OR 90. Fresh after 182 days off.
- 2014 – Ocean Tempest OR 102. Had 6-run Meydan campaign (no wins).
- 2015 – Gabrial OR 100. Fresh after 152 days off.
- 2016 – Secret Brief OR 100. Had 2-run Meydan campaign (no wins)
- 2017 – Bravery OR 100. Fresh after 167 days off.
- 2018 – Addeybb OR 99. Fresh after 176 days off.
The Meydan Factor
In the last eight years three winning horses had wintered out in Dubai without success, so having a run out in Meydan looks to be becoming more of a pointer than a prep on the all-weather in the UK.
Sweet Lightning won the 2011 renewal on the back of four defeats in Meydan, three years later Ocean Tempest landed the Lincoln after six defeats at Meydan and then three years ago Secret Brief gained Doncaster glory after two losses in Dubai.
This year Another Batt has The Meydan Factor in his favour after four runs out in Dubai, including a victory over seven furlongs in January, while Aquarium had three mediocre runs out at Meydan before running much better behind Zwayyan in the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton.
Similar comments apply to Ventura Knight, who was beaten twice in Meydan before running seventh behind Zwayyan and Aquarium at Wolverhampton.
Finally, the old stable switcheroo has been a decent pointer to finding the Lincoln winner in recent years.
In 2006 Blythe Knight won the Lincoln at Redcar on his first start for John Quinn having previously been trained by Ed Dunlop, while Quinn repeated the feat seven years later having picked up Levitate from Alan McCabe.
The most significant first-time-for-a-new-yard winner with this year’s renewal in mind, though, is the 2017 hero, Bravery, who was running his stable debut for David O’Meara who got him from Aidan O’Brien’s.
This year O’Meara runs Lincoln plunge horse Humbert for the first time having acquired him from Hugo Palmer’s, while Remarkable could also represent the North Yorkshire handler on his first run since leaving John Gosden’s.
Phil Kirby is set to run the former Andrew Balding-trained South Seas for the first time as well, while Adrian McGuinness is set to unleash the well-backed Saltonstall on his first start since leaving Mick Halford’s.
- Auxerre 7/2
- Saltonstall 8/1
- Kynren 9/1
- Humbert 10/1
- Ripp Orf 12/1
- Beringer 14/1
- Chiefofchiefs 14/1
- South Seas 14/1
- Zwayyan 14/1
- 20/1 BAR. Odds correct at 1630 GMT on 27/03/2019.