If big field early season British Flat turf puzzles aren’t your cup of tea, then join the club!
An air of a bookmaker benefit persists when considering what might come to the fore in the Lincoln, Doncaster’s traditional seasonal curtain-raiser, and rather than speculate on the likes of probable improvers Mange All, G M Hopkins, Zarwaan or Mondialiste getting the job done on Town Moor, I prefer to look further afield to the sunnier climes of Dubai for a recommended wager…
In fairness, the Lincoln’s £100,000 prize is a talking point for many reasons, not least because it’ll be the sixth and final leg of a mega-money £1m Scoop6, but when you think back to the likes of Babodana, Blythe Knight and Brae Hill, it’s not hard to surmise you’d have had more chance consulting either a clairvoyant or a Scouse Lobster on the end of Blackpool Pier, than picking those impossible to find names out off the 22-strong field!
Off to Dubai and it’s sparkling nearly new Meydan racecourse then, where enough readies to pay Falcao’s wages for a whole week are available just for finishing fifth in the feature Duabi World Cup (5.00pm, live on Channel 4)!
However, it’s in the penultimate race on the card that we’ll try and hit the bullseye, with the £3.8m Dubai Sheema Classic attracting a field of nine, and set to exit the stalls at 4.15pm.
Favourite here is Japan’s Harp Star, and she’s certain to benefit from the guidance of ‘go-to man’ Ryan Moore, who takes over in the saddle from usual pilot Yuga Kawada.
She hasn’t won since August though, and was beaten at odds on last time out in a race at Kyoto.
Perhaps the key form line goes back to October and the Arc, in which she was sixth, staying on well at the finish but set far too big a task.
You can argue she’d have finished closer to Treve with Ryan Moore up top, but the fact remains she’ll have to reverse form with horses who finished ahead of her that day, not least second placed Flintshire and fifth placed Dolniya.
Interestingly, Flintshire finished second to Dolniya in his prep race at Chantilly, but that was over an inadequate nine and a half furlongs, and stepping back up to a mile and a half here he can take his revenge.
Inbetween times he’s been second to the re-opposing Main Sequence in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and then cheekily taken the Hong Kong Vase.
He’s more versatile than Main Sequence, and it doesn’t bother me one iota that Flintshire has never run at Meydan – three of the last five winners of the Sheema Classic had likewise previously not done so.
For all of those reasons Flinthsire looks a great bet to land this, at 9/2 with either bet365 or Skybet.
Sticking with Meydan, Ryan Moore could well have better luck earlier on the card, in the shape of 127-rated The Grey Gatsby in the Group 1 Dubai Turf at 3.40pm.
On official ratings he has stacks in hand over his nine rivals, and in addition to his Group 1 wins in last year’s French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes, he also won first time out in 2013.
Either he has to under-perform or one of the opposition has to find a serious improvement for The Grey Gatsby not to land this.
Anyone searching for a winner a wee bit closer to home will likely be well served by John Gosden’s Romsdal, with the son of Halling teed up to win Kempton Park’s all-weather listed Magnolia Stakes over 1m 2f.
This is also live with us on Channel 4 at 2.15pm, and he’s scared most of the opposition off with his rating of 115, facing four rivals who admittedly do include Ed Dunlop’s 100/1 Derby fifth Red Galileo.
However, if it’s Classic form you want then Romsdal is the clear pick, finding only Taghrooda too hot to handle in the St Leger last time out.
He was also third in the Epsom Derby, and has made incredible progress since finishing third in a Doncaster maiden on this weekend 12 months ago.
With many of the big names on duty in Dubai it’s great to see John Gosden promoting from within, and rather than shop elsewhere Nicky Mackay takes the ride on this Godolphin owned four-year-old.
Although it’s his first run for six months it’ll be an upset if he’s beaten.
Last but not least, given that’s it’s still March we can’t sign off without at least one selection over the sticks, and the perfect material looks to be Derbyshire trainer John Mackie’s course specialist River Purple at Uttoxeter.
Put away at the end of September for a spring/summer campaign, he made an excellent return to the track when a solid third at Southwell 12 days ago.
That spin will have blown away any cobwebs or ring-rustiness, and it’s here at Uttoxeter that this horse really comes to life, winning previously at the track on three separate occasions.
He’s just one pound higher than for the latest of those successes, and don’t forget he won on his second start of the season a year ago – he can take the Betfred “Win Grand National Tickets On Twitter” Handicap Chase at 4.30pm.
Saturday’s best bets:
2.15 Kempton – 888Sport Magnolia Stakes – 4 Romsdal (win)
4.30 Uttoxeter – Betfred “Win Grand National Tickets On Twitter” Handicap Chase – 4 River Purple (win)