Until today, unpretentious Redcar has had limited claims as an attraction. The seaside venue was once host to the Andy Capp Handicap, eponymously punning the Daily Mirror's cloth-capped cartoon northerner. The town's twin resort, Marske, gave its name to the sire of the immortal racehorse and stallion Eclipse. On a clear day the Cleveland Hills provide distant scenery, but look the other way and the backdrop is a Teesside chemical works.
Redcar racing started two centuries ago on the sands at Coatham. The modern field of play is flanked by housing estates; appropriately, in the one half-way down the straight, just beyond the allotments and the cemetery, the semi-detacheds in Newmarket Road have a racecourse at the bottom of their gardens.
This afternoon the residents will get a free look at the most prestigious card staged at Redcar in its 134-year history. For the first, and possibly last, time the Flat turf season starts in earnest in its no-nonsense surroundings. Doncaster has the builders in, so the 152nd Lincoln Handicap and three other traditional start-of-term events have been transplanted from Yorkshire's most southerly course to its northernmost.
Despite Redcar's ordinariness, it has a priceless asset. It is one of only eight courses in the country with a straight mile and a fair one at that, with no marked draw bias. Unlike on Town Moor, the 30 runners will all have the opportunity of giving their supporters a run for their money.
Redcar is the Lincoln's fifth home; as well as on the Carholme, where it started life, and Doncaster, it has been run at Lingfield and Pontefract. But finding the winner is difficult anywhere. Proportionally, the race has produced more long-priced winners than any other big handicap; 55, or 41 per cent, have started at 20-1 or longer, including three at 100-1.
Today's prize may be marked for export to Ireland. Common World (3.15), trained by Tom Hogan in Co Tipperary, will be suited by the prevailing easy ground, which may be further softened if forecast overnight rain arrives. The seven-year-old improved through last season, stepping up to produce some good performances in minor Group company, and can go two better than last year, when he was poorly drawn.
Next on the shortlist is Kamanda Laugh, who ran a fine trial on dirt at Wolverhampton two weeks ago, with Zero Tolerance, another soft-ground specialist, also worthy of consideration.
Redcar will enjoy its day in the spotlight but a more permanent new era dawns at Kempton today as the Sunbury track opens for all-weather business. Ouija Board recently gave the new surface her approval with her pre-Nad Al Sheba workout but there is nothing running today fit to polish the nails in her shoes. In a selection of maidens and handicaps Blushing Thief (5.15) can continue his reinvention as a sprinter.
Better may be seen at the Curragh tomorrow, on the first day of the Irish Flat season, when Aidan O'Brien gets some of his Classic prospects out at the earliest opportunity, subject to the heavy ground passing his scrutiny. Chenchikova, high in the Oaks lists on the strength of winning her maiden at Tipperary last year and owning an impeccable pedigree - she is High Chaparral's baby sister - has nine rivals in the mile Group Three and Amadeus Mozart, runner-up to his stablemate George Washington, the 2,000 Guineas favourite, in a Group One last term, takes on 25 in the six-furlong maiden.Reuse content