After three years in favour of punters, the Lincoln Handicap reverted to type as a bookmakers' benefit when 33-1 shot Zucchero thwarted the huge plunge on 5-2 favourite Adiemus by a head yesterday. The David Arbuthnot-trained winner, ridden by Simon Whitworth, went clear of the pack with two furlongs to run and although Adiemus, another who was always close to the pace in the cavalry charge down Doncaster's straight mile, made relentless progress under Royston Ffrench in the closing stages, howled on by his supporters, it was the outsider's day.
The pair were followed in by another well-backed horse, I Cried For You at 5-1, who finished two lengths adrift, with Thihn (20-1) fourth and Scotty's Future fifth. The field, as usual, split into two groups and the draw seemed influential – the first five started from stalls 7, 6, 13, 12 and 10 with Norton, the first finisher on the stands side, no nearer than sixth.
Zucchero, who shares his name – the Italian for sugar – with a top-class middle-distance performer of the early 1950s and a current Italian pop star – had not run since July and was his Upper Lambourn yard's second string. His better-fancied stablemate, Lord Protector, came home seventh in the stands side group.
Whitworth felt the straight mile ideally suited the six-year-old, for whom the £62,855 prize was the sixth win from 23 starts. The gelding runs in the colours of Philip Banfield, a show-business manager, whose own stable includes Sting.
Whitworth said: "I rode him in his first three or four races and he didn't seem to like racing round bends. After the first time he went straight, he went from strength to strength. I was always tracking Adiemus, then, when a gap came two and a half out, I decided to make the best of my way home. The ground was very tacky and the last furlong alone felt like a mile, but he stuck his neck out and held on nicely – a great way to start the season."
Whitworth, who picked up a one-day ban for excessive use of the whip, had phoned Arbuthnot to plead for the mount two days previously. "It is the first time a jockey has ever personally rung me up and begged me to let him ride a horse," the trainer said.
The victory fulfilled a long-term plan by Arbuthnot, who had had this race in mind since injury cost Zucchero a tilt at the Cambridgeshire last October. "I said then we'd have a crack at the Lincoln," he added, "but, as he is a gross horse, I thought he would need the race. Wrong!"
In the past three years the traditional first leg of the Spring Double has gone to market leaders Nimello (9-2), John Ferneley (7-1) and Right Wing (9-2). But, since the race transferred to Doncaster in 1965, only 50-1 shot Bronze Hill in 1973 has started at longer odds than yesterday's hero.
Adiemus was inches away of becoming the shortest-priced winner of the historic handicap since Caurire took the first running at Lincoln in 1853 at the same odds.