Racing: Banjo Bay is primed to extend McMahon's run

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Bookmakers began taking avoiding action yesterday after Banjo Bay was confirmed as an intended runner in Saturday's Lincoln Handicap. The four-year-old is trained by Bryan McMahon, whose horses are invariably a potent force in Doncaster's three-day meeting which opens the Flat turf season on Thursday.

McMahon, who won the big mile handicap in 1995 with Roving Minstrel, saddled four winners at last year's Lincoln meeting. Banjo Bay was still available at 20-1 yesterday but one firm, Stanley, cut the four-year-old's odds to 14-1 from an earlier 25-1.

Bookmakers are trying to drum up ante-post business on the race, but most punters are holding fire until the all- important stalls' draw is made, especially as the Doncaster going is currently soft.

Banjo Bay won first time out in soft ground last season, but over six furlongs. "We feel he'll get the mile all right and that he's going to run a big race. But the ground is unknown territory at that distance," McMahon said yesterday from his stables at Woodside Farm, near Tamworth, Staffs.

"We think we've got him fit, but you never know for sure until the day. Our big hope is that he's improved over the winter. From the age of three to four, horses strengthen up and some improve for it."

McMahon added: "The Lincoln is a tough race to win. The field are going to go pretty quick. If you've a horse that can keep with the pace and then still pick up at the end you've got a chance."

Banjo Bay finished a one-length second to Smirk in a mile handicap on good going at Newmarket last July, receiving 1lb from the winner. Smirk, not a certain starter on Saturday, is currently the top weight with 9st 10lb, with Banjo Bay is on 8st 10lb. So Banjo Bay is set to be 13lb better off.

Adiemus, the hot ante-post favourite, now needs four horses to drop out at the final declaration stage to get a run in the Lincoln, which has a safety limit of 24. Adiemus has completed a four-timer on Lingfield's Polytrack surface already this year. The Jeremy Noseda-trained four-year-old will carry a 5lb penalty on Saturday, which puts him on 8st 1lb before any rise in the weights.

Paul Cole, who has won three of the last five Lincolns, said yesterday he would be "struggling" this time.

He has three entries – last year's winner Nimello, Inspector General and The Judge – but the Whatcombe trainer is not optimistic. He said: "The Judge won't get in, Nimello is a bit unlikely, it depends how he works on Wednesday, which leaves me with one who is a possible seven-furlong horse. So P Cole winning the Lincoln this year looks slightly remote at the moment."

Surprise results at the start of the Flat turf season usually mean big pay-days for betting shops, but overnight rain could mean a blank day for racing in Britain today.

Of today's three scheduled jumps cards, Exeter was abandoned yesterday afternoon, and inspections are planned at Hereford and Sedgefield this morning.

The Bookmakers' Committee intensified its conflict with the British Horseracing Board yesterday over the latter's proposed scale of commercial charges for pre-race data. The Committee disclosed that by a unanimous vote the bookmaking industry would seek a judicial review of the Levy scheme through which racing will be financed for the next year.

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