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The Lincoln Handicap is the traditional curtain raiser of the turf Flat season, though this spring it has been transplanted to Newcastle from its Redcar home. That means the field has been cut from 30 to 20, though only the eternally optimistic would say the reduction makes the race any easier for punters. Plenty have chances. Last year’s 22/1 winner Blythe Knight is a reminder that the market isn’t always the best guide.
Gentlemen’s Deal will be a hot favourite after his thrilling short-head victory in the Winter Derby last week, a decent high draw and bullish comments from his trainer. On paper he looks like a handicap certainty since he gets into this turf race 15lb lower than his current all-weather mark. However, before betting big, it is worth considering that his best performance in any turf race since winning a maiden three years ago was fourth, beaten nearly five lengths, in a £18,000 Class Two handicap.
With £61,000 up for grabs on Saturday, this is a more competitive race. A better alternative is Granston each-way. He has a good draw in the middle and ran well on his seasonal bow on the equivalent card last year. His trainer James Bethell won this with Hunters Of Brora in 1998 and the booking of jockey Darryll Holland catches the eye.
Both literally and figuratively, Nad Al Sheba racecourse in Dubai is another country to Newcastle. The £1.8m on offer to the winner of the Dubai World Cup emphasises the gulf between the aristocrats of Flat racing and the labouring classes. Godolphin love to win this home fixture and in Discreet Cat they have an excellent chance. He is a titan of a horse. However, his interrupted preparation tips the balance in favour of tough as teak Invasor.
2:30 Ascot – Artadi (win)
3:55 Newcastle – Granston (each-way)
6:30 (GMT) Nad Al Sheba (Dubai) – Invasor (win)