Racing: Only the intrepid to follow Captain

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The Independent Online
IT SEEMS almost indecent, just five days after the Gold Cup, that it is already time to consider a race which will take barely two minutes to run and in which, unless something goes very badly wrong, your money will not leave the ground even once. But there it is, the Lincoln Handicap, trying as usual to grab a little attention between Cheltenham and the Grand National meeting, and no doubt luring punters in for a bet which they will spend the rest of the Flat season chasing.

The Lincoln, to put it mildly, is not much of a race for favourites, which is only to be expected when many of the runners have not seen a racecourse for at least four months.

This year, though, backers who put their faith in the likely market leader will at least have one of the country's finest trainers of handicappers on their side. Jeremy Glover has won three Cambridgeshires in the last 10 years, and in Captain Scott, he seems to have a Lincoln runner with everything that any punter could wish for.

There is good recent form, in the valuable Lincoln Trial Handicap at Wolverhampton 10 days ago, which Captain Scott won by two lengths. Glover's runner also prefers good ground, which seems likely according to the forecasters, and he is that straight-mile classic, a horse who might want 10 furlongs on a round course, but finds a demanding straight eight ideal.

"I thought that a mile at Wolverhampton might be a bit sharp for him," Glover said yesterday, "and I think he's best over a mile and a quarter. But early in the season when they're fresh, they're often a little bit sharper. When he got around the turn it took him about a furlong and a half to really stretch, but once he did, he was going away. A dead straight mile will be an advantage to him, because they've got to get it well."

The run on the all-weather was Captain Scott's first outing since July 1998, when he was sixth in the John Smith's (Magnet) Cup at York. "We were looking at the Magnet Cup and then the Cambridgeshire, but it didn't work out because he wasn't quite right," Glover says. "But when he came back in after his long break, he was so well that we could start looking for races for him. We may as well strike while the iron's hot."

One imponderable, as ever, is the possible effect of the draw. As last year, starting-stalls positions will be determined by the runners' connections. When their horse's name is pulled out of the hat, they will take it in turns to choose a box.

Glover will decide where he wants to be after walking the course on Thursday morning, although if Captain Scott's name is one of the last out of the hat, there is no guarantee that he will get his wish.

It is an uncertainty which makes the 8-1 against Captain Scott easy to resist until his draw is certain, although if he is one of the first out, and seems to be with the pacey horses, he could easily start at much shorter odds.

At least he is guaranteed a race on Saturday, since he was among the top 24 in the weights when 55 horses were declared yesterday. The final declaration stage also takes place on Thursday, both to facilitate the draw, and to allow another 24 horses to contest the Spring Mile consolation race on Friday afternoon.

Right Wing, who finished third last year, is also guaranteed a place, but Further Outlook, another leading figure in the ante-post market, needs two to scratch between now and Thursday morning to get in.

David Nicholls, Further Outlook's trainer, who also hopes to saddle Royal Result, said yesterday: "Both horses are well. We've done as much as we can with them despite the wet weather which held us up a bit.

"I'd certainly prefer to see Further Outlook get into the Lincoln rather than go in the other race [the Spring Mile] with 9st 10lb ."

News yesterday on the second leg of the Spring Double, the Grand National, concerned Call It A Day, who finished second to Young Kenny in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter on Saturday. "We were very pleased with him, he ran a smashing race," David Nicholson, his trainer, said. "He's come out of the race A1 and is on course for the National."

The participation of Rough Quest, the winner of the race three years ago, depends on his performance in the Doubleprint Handicap Chase at Newbury on Saturday. "We are expecting a good run," Terry Casey, his trainer, said yesterday. "Newbury is a nice, flat track and it should tell us whether to go to Aintree."