Racing: Hunters straight out of the top draw

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The Independent Online
THE most famous winners of the Lincoln Handicap are probably those from the Thirties found on the Totopoly board - names such as Dorigen, Play On, Jerome Fandor and Marmaduke Jinks - and even the dearest friends of Hunters Of Brora, successful here at 16-1 in yesterday's 145th running of the mile cavalry charge, would not call her a champion.

But as far as qualities like durability, honesty and consistency are concerned the eight-year-old mare has few peers, and no horse among the 23 runners deserved victory more. Placed three times in Cambridgeshires and disqualified from first place in last year's Newbury Spring Cup, she gained just reward as she wore down the pacesetters a furlong out and kept going gamely under Jason Weaver's urgings to hold off the flying finish of King of Tunes by a neck.

It may be her swansong, as she is scheduled soon to leave Yorkshire to visit the stallion Zilzal in Newmarket to start her career as a mother. Her trainer, the Middleham-based James Bethell, said: "The plan was that if she won today then it would be off to stud. But she is in such good form that we may consider the Jubilee Handicap at Kempton on Easter Monday. In the past she has suffered from sinus problems during the winter, but this spring has been fine, and, for once, we haven't lost a day's work to the weather."

Hunters Of Brora, from stall 23, was the highest-drawn of the first five, who came clear of their rivals. King Of Tunes came out of box 12, Right Wing from six, Sharp Rebuff from five and Nigrasine from nine.

Bethell, one of only two trainers to bother to walk the course on Thursday morning before Doncaster's pick-your-own stalls ballot, was left with little choice by the time it was his turn. "It was either 23 or 1, and I thought there might be less chance of a clear run right against the rail."

Hunters Of Brora, who is best produced for a late finish, was given a good tow along by those around her in the group that came down the centre of the track. Weaver said: "They carried me along nicely and when it was time to push the button she was rolling. She drifted left, but that took her towards the horses on the rails and gave her something to aim at."

The well-backed favourite Solar Storm beat only one home, but finished lame. The stewards briefly had a look at interference between the third and fourth-placed horses, but took no action.

Bethell will miss Hunters Of Brora, named after her Perthshire-based owner Robert Gibbons textile firm, when she finally leaves his care. She has been with him since she was three, and he rides her daily at home. He said: "I use her as my hack, and she is a darling."

Half an hour after the Lincoln, Monaasib and Kevin Darley narrowly thwarted a feature-race double for Weaver as they prevailed by a neck in the six- furlong Cammidge Trophy. The Ed Dunlop-trained seven-year-old gelding has the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket's Craven meeting as his next target.

Time may tell that the best horse on view in Britain yesterday was Scorned, eight-length winner of the mile Class C Stakes race. The three-year-old, who beat the well-regarded middle-distance filly High And Low in a decent maiden on the same course last November, went past hard-ridden Gipsy Passion on the bridle a furlong out but Simon Whitworth ensured his racing education continued by keeping him up to his work to the line.

Scorned, who runs in the George Strawbridge colours, is a brother to the smart Hidden Meadow and like that one is trained and was bred by Ian Balding. The rangy colt is qualified for breeders' prizes in Germany by dint of being foaled there when his dam Spurned was visiting Dashing Blade, and will return to try to claim some of them later in the year. Balding said: "He's entered in some Group races in Germany, but we'll look for a decent conditions stakes before that. He's a horse with a lot of promise, and we know now that he does stay a mile."

Sadly, the result of Spurned's distant union with Dashing Blade was killed after breaking a shoulder. "He was the nicest of the lot of them, too," Balding said.