Though Richard Fahey has six entries for Saturday's Lincoln Handicap, the massed charge down the straight mile at Doncaster that is the traditional curtain-raiser to the domestic turf season, he was not exactly holding his breath yesterday as he put his contenders, headed by Extraterrestrial, through their paces. In his view, there are two compelling reasons why the bulk of the £125,000 William Hill-sponsored purse will not going home to his Musley Bank Stables.
"I should think William Haggas will win it," he said, referring to the Newmarket trainer who has charge of the 6-1 favourite Penitent, "I'm told they're really, really sweet on it. And the three of mine who will actually get a run in the race are the three worst-handicapped of my six. The one who I'd really fancy won't make the cut."
Of the trio who will run (there is a safety limit of 22, with Mia's Boy on top weight), Albaqaa and Extraterrestrial were third and fourth in the big-race trial at Wolverhampton 10 days ago and Harrison George will be having his seasonal debut.
"It was a messy old race at Wolverhampton," added Fahey, "and it suited neither of mine, but they still finished third and fourth. Job done, though, it gave them a run and took the freshness out of them. They are fit and ready to go, but have nothing to spare on the ratings."
Conditions look like being on the soft side on Town Moor; an unsettled week is forecast, with Thursday and Friday expected to be the wettest days. "Soft ground will suit Extraterrestrial," said Fahey, who had only Richard Hannon ahead of him on the numerical table last season, "but how he runs depends on which side of the bed he gets out of, he's a bit of a loveable rogue."
The six-year-old finished runner-up in the Lincoln consolation race, the Spring Mile, last year. Fahey's back-up squad this year are Prime Exhibit, Mister Hardy and the one he really regrets is not going for the big prize, Irish Heartbeat.
The British Horseracing Authority is likely to issue a statement today about the incident at Lingfield on Saturday in which Kieren Fallon was apparently punched after finishing unplaced in a race by David Reynolds, owner of one of the other runners. Reynolds, who was subsequently thrown off the track, will face charges which could result in a heavy fine or his being warned off. "We have now received all the reports we needed," said the BHA spokesman Paul Struthers yesterday, "and will be holding an inquiry. Which charges will be brought will probably not be firmed up until later in the week. It is to be hoped that the incident was a one-off; it was totally unacceptable behaviour and we are taking it most seriously."
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Great Reason (3.05 Kempton)
Stayed on to take lesser contest at Ludlow. The better ground will help.
Smoothly Does It (2.40 Exeter)
One to watch
Aphrodisia (Ian Williams) Did enough at Lingfield to indicate she can win off her current mark.
Where the money's going
The Package is 16-1 from 20-1 for the National with Paddy Power.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Captain Chris (2.00 Kempton)