And so it does, but if you want to experience a mixture of optimism and uncertainty which is a worthy tribute to the start of the Flat, Doncaster is still the place to be. You just have to arrive early, for the breeze- up organised by the sales company next door. Between 11am and midday yesterday, 100 two-year-olds galloped down the straight at Town Moor, taking a last chance to advertise themselves before the evening session at the auction ring. Slight, burly, precocious or green, they all thumped past the empty grandstands. Within 12 hours, most would have found a new owner, and until they see a racetrack in earnest, all of them could be next year's Derby winner.
This was the spirit of the Flat, played out for the benefit of 100 spectators. It was a distant memory by the time Achilles Heel was led back to the unsaddling enclosure, the first winner of the season and, within half an hour, the most forgettable. Even in his moment of glory, most backers' thoughts were for Adelle Gibbons, lying still on the track after a fall from Risky Tu, who finished third, shortly after passing the post. At first, her condition appeared serious, but though she was taken to hospital, Gibbons suffered only relatively minor injuries to her wrist and heels.
The Brocklesby Stakes, in which World Premier bravely overhauled Johayro in the final yards, would have been a better curtain-raiser. It was a reminder of the Flat's main attractions, half a dozen with a chance at the furlong pole and a finish on the nod.
The feature race, however, was less of an advertisement. A surprisingly good field had assembled for the Doncaster Mile, including Missed Flight, Bin Ajwaad and Fraam, but the pace was hopeless and the race became a sprint from two furlongs out. Missed Flight, a Group Two winner, started the strong favourite but could not find an inch of running room in the final furlong and Airport, at 12-1, made the most of the confusion. It may be some time before John Gosden saddles another winner at such generous odds.
Gosden completed a treble later in the afternoon with Inquisitor, strongly supported for the 10-furlong handicap, and Sea Victor in the maiden which closed the card. Immediately, thoughts turned to the Lincoln Handicap down the straight mile tomorrow, for which the declarations and draw were decided yesterday to allow for today's Spring Mile Handicap, the consolation event for horses which did not make the cut.
The racecourse management said yesterday that the draw should have little effect on tomorrow's big handicap, but it is a claim which owes more to their sense of tradition than any serious belief in its truth. A low draw has been vital in 11 of the last 16 runnings, and when Country Lover was allotted stall 19 yesterday, those who had backed him to favouritism earlier in the week all but knew their fate.
Castel Rosselo, who will start from three off the rail, was one of the lottery's winners. His odds of 8-1 will probably shorten greatly by tomorrow afternoon.
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