Racing: Take Command on day one

THERE IS not much vegetation on Newmarket Heath, but for at least six weeks, what little there is has generally had at least one pair of binoculars poking out from between its branches. Flat racing on turf is about to return, and the dozens of quack tipsters who clog up Channel 4's Teletext pages are preparing for their most profitable month. "Unraced juvenile - this catches pigeons," the adverts will run, or "unexposed three-year-old - handicap snip", and for once, punters who should know better might just be ready to believe them.

For there is certainly something in the air when the lissome young things of the Flat emerge blinking from their winter quarters. It is the prospect of new names, fresh challenges, the next Classic generation and perhaps an evening or two at Windsor or Nottingham when there seem to be at least 50 runners in every race. It is also the thought that whatever else your horse may do, it should at least make it back to where it started and give you a chance to jeer the jockey.

As certain as the start of the Flat season, though, is the complaint that Doncaster in March seems a strange point at which to kick off. Which it probably is, but it was ever thus, and no-one ever says that the Beefeaters at the Tower should turn up for work in a suit and tie. And why is it necessary to start with a bang anyway, when the post-Cheltenham blues are still in evidence and many punters are probably happy just to ease themselves in.

The spiritual opening to the season, of course, is the Craven meeting at Newmarket next month, although these days it should probably be the Guineas meeting itself, when the Godolphin horses arrive back from Dubai with a tan and a hungry look in their eyes. Aljabr, however, will not be making the trip, or not yet, at any rate, since the horse who was many people's idea of the best juvenile last season will head for the Kentucky Derby instead.

Those who had already backed him for the 2,000 Guineas have been complaining ever since the plan was revealed, but in a global racing industry, this is simply another pitfall of ante-post betting. It would also be rather appropriate if Sheikh Mohammed could return to the Bluegrass, where 20 years ago he bought the foundation stock of his bloodstock empire, and win the race they covet above all others. In fact, you might say Kentucky owes it to him.

In Aljabr's place, the front end of the Guineas market is occupied by Stravinsky, trained by Aidan O'Brien who won last year's Classic with King Of Kings. He could make his seasonal debut as early as this Sunday at Leopardstown. Dimly remembered names including Mujahid (the Dewhurst winner, in case you're struggling), Enrique and Killer Instinct, are also prominent.

It is time to welcome back familiar faces among trainers and jockeys too, although David Loder, whose strike-rate was a crutch for many a wounded punter, has now left for France and his new job looking after Godolphin's two-year-olds. We will lose another ally too at the end of the year, when Jack Berry retires. He sets off on his final Flat campaign with more than 50 juveniles in his yard, and from that wealth of options he has chosen to run Paris Star (2.05) in the Brocklesby Stakes today. Though this is never a race to bet the bank on, a hint that big is difficult to pass up.

Generous Libra (next best 3.40) has the ability to win the Doncaster Mile, although as happened last year with John Jenkins's Hornbeam, one rival could turn up having been trained to the minute for just this race. There is already some good form behind WESTERN COMMAND (nap 2.35), not to mention a fair weight based on his latest all-weather success and the shrewd hands of Sir Mark Prescott.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker