Winners return to contest the Lincoln

Darlington and Stockton Times: READY TO GO: Trainer Richard Fahey (front right) leads down his three Lincoln runners Gabrial's Kaka ridden by Barry McHugh (right), Hi There ridden by Tony Hamilton and Brae Hill ridden by Ben Hamilton (centre) this week READY TO GO: Trainer Richard Fahey (front right) leads down his three Lincoln runners Gabrial's Kaka ridden by Barry McHugh (right), Hi There ridden by Tony Hamilton and Brae Hill ridden by Ben Hamilton (centre) this week

THE flat is back. Yes, the new flat season bursts into life tomorrow at Doncaster with the prestigious William Hill Lincoln being the flagship race, and it’s fascinating to see the last three winners are back to have another tilt at the prize.

Last year’s victor Levitate, Brae Hill (2012) and Sweet Lightning (2011) are the trio in question, while Tullius who is a general 16-1 chance will be partnered by crack apprentice Oisin Murphy for Andrew Balding.

The trainer said: “He’s in great form and is a Group winner at his best. He is entitled to run well but will need a decent draw and hopefully it’s not going to be fast ground, which is the only thing that would be a worry for him.”

Another trainer looking to have a strong chance is Stuart Williams who could be two-handed with Mezzotint and Boots And Spurs although ground conditions at Doncaster are likely to determine final running plans, the trainer has warned.

Mezzotint, generally a 20- 1 chance, enjoyed a successful campaign for Marco Botti last year prior to joining his new stable over the winter.

Williams said: “Marco did a fantastic job with Mezzotint last year, and the horse was bought to go for the big races at the big meetings.

He wants good ground so we’ll have to see what conditions are like nearer the time.

“Boots And Spurs might also squeeze in at the bottom, and he would prefer some give underfoot. Both are possible runners.”

Roderick Duncan, clerk of the course at Doncaster, is predicting good ground for tomorrow.

“We had just 2mm of rain on Tuesday, with a further 3mm forecast for Wednesday,” he said. “There is the outside chance of a shower but largely it’s dry up until racing.”

Who will start favourite for the British Flat season’s traditional curtain-raiser remains to be seen. While Captain Cat has been well backed in the past couple of days, it was the Richard Fahey-trained Gabrial’s Kaka who was the horse for money earlier in the week in a bid to give Fahey a flying start to what looks like being another big season.

Last Saturday John Weymes announced his top sprinter and stalwart of the stables Almaty Express retired from racing.

Now aged 12, and after winning every year he has raced in, the decision to retire him was made after a recent medical discovered he had a slight heart murmur.

During his 143 starts, he finished 33 per cent of them in the first three and won no less than22 of them.

The first one came at Catterick on July 7, 2004 and since then he’s won at Hamilton and Great Leighs once but it was his love of Wolverhampton’s Dunstall Park which earned him cult status by smashing the course record for the most wins ever since it switched to an all – weather surface with a winning tally of 18, a record which stands to this day and is likely not to be broken in the near future.

His last win is quite apt as it came where it all started at Catterick, when winning last summer and his great career saw him nominated in 2011 and then again in 2013 Racehorse Owners Associations Annual awards too.

“He’s been a pleasure to train and have with us but deserves to take life easier.” explained Weymes. “We look forward to many more years with him as he will continue to be part of the Ashgill family.”

Almaty Express was a complete star over many seasons but Weymes, and his staff, must take plenty of credit for keeping his sound and in love with his job for such a long period.

While all the talk is about the flat this week, don’t forget the worlds greatest steeplechase, the Grand National takes place next Saturday.

With that in mind, there is a fine opportunity to attend a Grand National preview in aid of MacMillian Cancer at the Buck Inn, Thornton Watlass, this Tuesday at 7.30pm.

A quality line-up of special guests include Grand National winning jockeys Gerry Scott, Graham Lee and Jason Maguire, on what’s sure to be a fun evening looking back at some old races and trying to predict this years winner. Tickets, at £10 which includes supper, can be bought on the night.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but after a very quiet week for northern jump fans, there are two meetings this afternoon.

Yes, both Wetherby and Newcastle are due to race.

Both venues are staging seven race cards with Newcastle getting under way at 2.10pm whilst Wetherby starts ten minutes later.

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