THE new Flat season burst into life at Doncaster last Saturday with the Lincoln, and once again it was a big-priced winner, with Ocean Tempest coming home in front at 20-1.
Well ridden by Adam Kirby, the winner was trained by Newmarket handler John Ryan, who said after the race: “He paid his way in Dubai, but the plan was always the Lincoln and it has paid off.
“It’s wonderful. We brought him here in great fettle and his lead horse, Tenor, won at Lingfield yesterday, which gave us more confidence.
“The ground is the key to him. I wondered if he had too much weight but he’s done it really well and to win a race like the Lincoln is huge for a small yard like ours.”
Doncaster also raced on Sunday and Alan Swinbank was quickly off the mark in the turf season as Dark Ruler took the ten-furlong handicap in good style under Ben Curtis.
Phil Kirby looks to have a very smart horse on his hands with Aniknam, who made a winning debut at Hexham on Monday.
Kirby was delighted and said: “He is one of the better bumper horses we’ve got. All his work has been good. He enjoyed the ground and it was the right race for him. We’ll see how he is before making plans.”
Looking ahead, Mark Johnston could be doubly represented in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York next month.
Johnston could run either Hartnell, third in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, or Somewhat, narrowly beaten in the Royal Lodge Stakes.
Johnston said: “Hartnell and Somewhat are very well – they worked Tuesday morning. I couldn’t say, for sure, which one was more likely to run in the Dante.
“At this stage, we will be keeping the options open.
They will have a few other entries, but the Dante is a serious consideration for one or both.”
Of Hartnell, Johnston said: “The French race was a mile and a quarter but there is absolutely no doubt that he will be better over further, and I think there is no doubt he will be better in time.
“Somewhat did look to run a bit too free and basically not get home (when ninth in the Racing Post Trophy).
“So that would be why I harbour some doubts about whether he will stay as far as his pedigree suggests.”
Another local trainer, Kevin Ryan, could run The Grey Gatsby, who showed smart form after winning his maiden at York last year.
“The Grey Gatsby is a lovely horse to have,” said Ryan.
“He has grown, got stronger and improved. He doesn’t lack speed but which direction we’ll go, we’ll find out once we've run him.
“He will have two entries in the Craven meeting at Newmarket, one in the Craven, the other in the nine-furlong Feilden Stakes. That will determine whether he’ll go for a Guineas or wait and go for the Dante.”
There is so much to look forward to, with the nation tuning in to see what is going to win the Crabbies Grand National at Aintree tomorrow.
Once again, 40 horses will face the starter and I like a couple at big prices.
Hawkes Point ran well in the Welsh Grand National and I can see him running well for Paul Nicholls, who landed the race two years ago with Neptune Collonges.
Another couple of horses I like are Burton Port and The Package. The latter was running well in the race four years ago when unseating but he might be well handicapped now and comes here after a good run at Cheltenham.
He is trained by David Pipe, and Tom Scudamore is looking forward to the ride, saying: “Obviously the fences are different and while they still take some jumping, I see no reason why he can’t cope with it.
“You don’t get another chance to run over four-and-a half miles, but when I rode him in the Hennessy (2012, fourth) he was going better and better the further we went. I’ve always thought a marathon trip would hold no fear.
“He was able to compete at Cheltenham off his mark and I think he’s got a live chance.”