Racing: Lincoln trainers face up to bottom draw

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The Independent Online
STEVE HUISON, one of the stars of The Full Monty, will eschew the pleasures of the post-Oscars parties of Los Angeles to perform at another glittering occasion this week. It sounds as unlikely as the plot of the film, but the actor has been chosen to conduct the first public draw for stalls positions in Saturday's Lincoln Handicap.

Huison will be at Doncaster on Thursday to conduct the revolutionary draw which allows connections to choose a stall for their runner, in an order determined by ballot. The new system will test trainers' ability to determine which stall affords the best chance of success and they will be invited to walk the course beforehand to assist in their decision.

Two names that will not be emerging from the drum are the previous Lincoln winners Roving Minstrel and High Premium. They were the most notable withdrawals at yesterday's five-day acceptance stage for the race at which only 12 defected.

The withdrawal of Tumbleweed Ridge, third last year, means that the weights for the remaining 69 acceptors will rise by 5lb, with Nigrasine now set to top the handicap on 9st 10lb for the pounds 50,000 contest.

A safety limit of 24 for the one mile race threatens the participation of Refuse To Lose, cut in price after his second in Saturday's Teletext Winter Derby at Lingfield. He needs 14 horses to be withdrawn to get a run and may have to settle for a place in Friday's Spring Mile Handicap, a consolation race for the first 24 eliminated from the Lincoln.

While there is innovation about the first leg of the Spring Double, the second half of the performance, Saturday week's Grand National, could do with an equal injection of excitement. No horse has captured the interest of the betting public in the lead up to the race and the bookmakers still bet 16-1 the field.

Included on that price is Suny Bay, who is far from certain to make the line-up after sustaining cuts in the Gold Cup last week

Reports yesterday suggested that the course-specialist Young Hustler would also be an absentee at Aintree, and might be retired, but these were denied vigorously by Nigel Twiston-Davies, the gelding's trainer.

"It is all nonsense and it makes you very angry," Twiston-Davies said. "They spoke to Peter Scudamore and got totally the wrong end of the stick. He's not been retired but I don't want to rubbish it completely as there is a chance he might miss the National - but the vet hasn't even seen him yet.

"He has just got an enlarged joint and we have got to scan him tomorrow to see whether he will be able to run."

Young Hustler's stable-companion Upgrade, winner of the Triumph Hurdle on Thursday, is a more certain runner at Aintree. "He suffered no ill effects from his run at Cheltenham and we will definitely look at the Glenlivet Hurdle for him," Twiston-Davies said. "It should suit him quite well as it is a front-runners' track."

The plans for another Festival winner are more long term with Ferdy Murphy yesterday raising the mouth-watering prospect of a confrontation between his French Holly and Istabraq - the two most impressive winners at the Festival.

Murphy had suggested he would seek to avoid the Champion Hurdler , but a change of heart has led the trainer to pencil in a meeting in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown next January.

The pair, who have won 15 of their combined 16 starts over hurdles, already dominate betting on next year's Champion Hurdle. They are 7-2 favourite and 7-1 second choice with William Hill. The trainer's Paddy's Return is to be sent novice chasing next season.