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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Lincoln Handicap Preview


The Lincoln Handicap, run over a mile at Doncaster, is traditionally the highlight of the opening Saturday of the British Flat season. This year’s renewal, due off at 3.50 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, has attracted a maximum field of 22 runners and, as usual, presents a thorny problem for punters to solve. Indeed, the Lincoln Handicap has proved a positive race for outsiders in recent years, with winners at 16/1, 20/1 (twice), 22/1 and 25/1 since 2004, so we’ve short-listed two or three that could belie generous odds by running well.

The first one that takes the eye is David Barron’s 7-year-old Tres Corona (20/1), who made a promising return to action when ninth of thirteen, beaten 4¼ lengths, behind Whispering Warrior in the Lincoln Trial Handicap at Wolverhampton three weeks ago. He’s entitled to improve for that run, his first since September, and is 5lb better off with the winner this time around. Admittedly, he’s 13lb higher in the weights than when winning at Chester last May, but he was only beaten 2 lengths in the Cambridgeshire off a 3lb lower mark on his final start last season, so he could still be feasibly weighted. Any rain on Town Moor would be in his favour and, interestingly, he’s reunited with Philip Makin, who was the last jockey to win on him.

At even longer odds, Sweet Lightning (33/1), joined North Yorkshire trainer David O’Meara from Johnny Murtagh in December and has been campaigned, without distinction, at Meydan over the winter. However, the Fantastic Light gelding should be fit as a flea and returns to turf off a 2lb lower mark than when winning the Irish Lincolnshire at the Curragh at this time last year. Of course, the 9-year-old also won the Lincoln Handicap, off a 6lb higher mark, back in 2011 so, if he’s been rejuvenated by his astute trainer, he could be far from a forlorn hope in his attempt to win the race for a second time.

The one really ‘dark’ horse in the field is Jonjo O’Neill’s 4-year-old Unsinkable (33/1), who’s on a retrieval mission after finishing last of eleven, beaten 16½ lengths, on his reappearance at Lingfield four weeks ago. The Verglas gelding has clearly had his problems, but his form in Listed races at Lingfield and Newmarket last season suggests that his current handicap mark of 95 is fair enough, especially with leading apprentice Jason Hart taking off a further 3lb, and he’s another who could surprise some better fancied rivals. In fact , a return to the form that saw him beaten 4½ lengths by subsequent Winter Derby runner-up Windhoek in the Newmarket Stakes last May could make his current odds look very generous indeed by teatime on Saturday.

In summary, the Lincoln Handicap is, as ever, fiercely competitive, but our three against the field are Tres Coronas (20/1 generally), Sweet Lightning (33/1 with Totesport and William Hill) and Unsinkable (33/1 with Bet365 and Bet Victor). Good luck!

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