Minstrel cheers bookies

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ROVING MINSTREL, a 33-1 shot, held on by a short-head to win the William Hill Lincoln Handicap yesterday. And though the four-year-old brought joy to those at Bryan McMahon's small Staffordshire yard, theirs were the only cheers as the result of the photo-finish was announced. The first big betting event of the turf Flat season was the usual bookmakers' benefit; Moving Arrow (14-1) was second, followed by two more at 33-1, Mr Martini and Leif The Lucky.

It is 10 years since the favourite won the Lincoln and this year's market leader, Country Lover, was never sighted with a chance and beat five home. Of the other fancied horses, Mellottie finished ninth, Castel Rosselo 11th and Mahool 19th.

On his first attempt at a mile Roving Minstrel took up the running in the centre of the course two out and though Moving Arrow headed him inside the final furlong, the four-year-old, under strong driving from Kevin Darley, gamely snatched back the lead - and the £36,000 first prize - in the final strides. Roving Minstrel runs in the colours of McMahon's wife, Joy, who part-owns him with Tommy Staunton and bred him from a hurdle- winning mare bought for £1,000. The trainer said: "He'd won over five and six furlongs, and we thought we'd have a crack at this when he ran well over seven last autumn.''

It was a first Lincoln win for the northern champion jockey Darley, whose efforts rounded off a fine day for the Tamworth-based McMahon, who also won the opener for a 713-1 double.

In the third race, the Global Shopfitters Conditions Stakes, all eyes were on Juyush, who had finished a respectful third to the mighty Celtic Swing in the Racing Post Trophy last October. The Silver Hawk colt looked backward in the paddock, but paid the expected compliment to last season's champion, leading all the way and needing to be pushed out only with hands and heels by Willie Carson to score by a length and three-quarters.

Heathyards Rock finished well to take second place without seriously troubling the winner, just in front of Moments Of Fortune and the filly Dee-Lady, who chased Juyush until she faded close home and will certainly win in lesser company.

Juyush, owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, is entered in the Guineas, but Carson's first reaction when he jumped off was: "No". He added: "He hasn't really got the sparkle that a Guineas horse needs, and will be better over further."

It a first winner for Barry Hills from Faringdon Place, his state-of- the art new 110-box yard outside Lambourn. He confirmed that Juyush would step up in distance next time out.