Racing: Babodana fulfils a long ambition

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The Independent Online

The Lincoln Handicap may not seem an obvious must-have for a top Flat jockey, but victory yesterday on Babodana fulfilled a poignant ambition for Philip Robinson. His late father Peter had won the race as a trainer before his untimely death from a heart attack at the age of only 42, and Robinson dearly wanted to add it to his own CV. He did so in some style, sending the Mark Tompkins-trained 20-1 shot ahead from the two-furlong mark to hold on by three-quarters of a length. In a bookies' bonanza in the first major betting heat of the Flat season, Quito, at 50-1, came in second, ahead of Dark Charm (20-1) and Wing Commander (33-1).

The Lincoln Handicap may not seem an obvious must-have for a top Flat jockey, but victory yesterday on Babodana fulfilled a poignant ambition for Philip Robinson. His late father Peter had won the race as a trainer before his untimely death from a heart attack at the age of only 42, and Robinson dearly wanted to add it to his own CV. He did so in some style, sending the Mark Tompkins-trained 20-1 shot ahead from the two-furlong mark to hold on by three-quarters of a length. In a bookies' bonanza in the first major betting heat of the Flat season, Quito, at 50-1, came in second, ahead of Dark Charm (20-1) and Wing Commander (33-1).

"We got there in the end," said Robinson, giving Babodana's chestnut neck a grateful pat. "I remember I was second ages ago, beaten a short-head. It's good to win it at last." Robinson's runner-up spot came on Blue Bridge in 1980, when he was leading apprentice. His father took the historic contest - yesterday was the 150th renewal of the race - in 1976 with Sovereign Bill.

Four-year-old Babodana, with the top-weight burden of 9st 10lb, set his own milestone, equalling Cataldi's weight-carrying record of 1985. "He's a good horse, one of my favourites, always has been," said Yorkshire-born, Newmarket-based Tompkins, "and we've looked after him all through his career. He's always had a future, so we've never hammered him and he's been working nicely this spring. He's a Group horse really, he has to be to win this under that weight, and we'll step him up to Group 3 company now."

The effect of the draw has always been a subject of debate before the Lincoln but although low numbers, on the far side of the course, have traditionally been favoured, evidence from the previous two days' sport on Town Moor indicated a high-number bias. So it proved again yesterday: at half-way there was little to chose between the two pitches but from three out those racing on the stands side of the track drew ahead and supplied the first four places and eight of the first ten.

These days, trainers ballot to pick their position but, ironically, Tompkins had his - stall 23, one away from the rail - thrust upon him, as the last out of the hat. Quito, last year's David Chapman-trained Ayr Gold Cup winner, was just a head and a neck in front of the Richard Fahey stablemates Dark Charm and Wing Commander. Fifth-placed Alkaadhem was first home on the far side with his immediate pursuer Desert Opal ninth. The 7-1 favourite Pablo, last year's winner, finished 19th this time.

"I think the others may have been slightly ahead at one point but the boys in front of me were just playing catch with them," added Robinson. "He doesn't do anything very quickly, he's more the type you have to let stride on. He got a bit tired towards the end, so I expect he'll improve for that." Robinson also took the opener on Divine Gift, another horse due for a step up in class. "He's entered in the Italian 2,000 Guineas," said trainer Michael Jarvis of the easy three and a half-length winner.

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