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Friday 1 April 2016

14:45, Doncaster, Saturday April 2

The Lincoln, run over the straight mile at Doncaster, is the traditional curtain-raiser for the Flat season and looks as competitive as ever this year, with just 8lb between the top and bottom of the handicap. Winners at 25/1, 22/1, 20/1 (twice) and 16/1 in the last ten years provide cause for optimism as far as this column is concerned and, with several of the fancied runners making their seasonal debuts, a shock result is always a possibility.

First on our shortlist this week is Richard Hannon’s 6-year-old Emell (40/1) who, at first glance, doesn’t appear to have much going for him. The Medicean gelding could finish only 18th of 22, beaten 19 lengths, behind Gabrial in this race last year and is 5lb higher in the weights this time, has never won over a mile, or on soft going, and finished last of eight, beaten 5¼ lengths, behind Mister Universe on the all-weather at Lingfield four weeks ago.

However, he was far from disgraced at Lingfield on his first appearance since last October and ran well enough in defeat on good to soft, and soft, going last season to suggest that he won’t be beaten because of underfoot conditions alone. From a handicapping perspective, in his last run in a handicap he was only beaten 1¾ over 7 furlongs at Newbury last July off a mark of 103 so, although he’s no handicap snip, it’s difficult to argue that he’s impossibly handicapped either. It’s worth remembering, too, that he finished second in the Celebration Mile as a 4-year-old, so he has a touch of class. Being drawn on the outside, in stall 20, may not do his chances any harm and his chance is not as forlorn as his odds suggest.

Fire Ship (33/1), a 7-year-old trained by William Knight, also returns for another crack at the Lincoln after finishing 20th, beaten 20 lengths, last year off a 9lb higher mark. However, the West Sussex trainer expressed his concern that the prevailing good ground on that occasion wouldn’t be soft enough for the Firebreak gelding, so that performance is probably best forgiven. In his defence, on his sole appearance in a handicap on soft ground last season, Fire Ship reared at the start and lost many lengths and, while he failed to make much impression in two starts over hurdles this winter, it can be argued that he’s well handicapped on the pick of his Pattern race form. According to his trainer, he doesn’t like to be crowded in his races, so stall 16 of 22 should suit him well enough and he’s another who could go well at a decent price.

While you're getting your racing fix or waiting for the day's races, why not check out the fun online game I've been playing, Frankie Dettori's Magic Seven at , you can play this and other games for free or real money if you're feeling lucky.

Selections: Doncaster 2.45 Emell (40/1), Fire Ship (33/1)


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