While Meydan celebrates the 20th running of the Dubai World Cup this afternoon with all the fanfare you might expect for the richest race on the planet, back home the English turf season gets under way at Doncaster.
It is 50 years since an outsider called Old Tom won the first Lincoln Handicap staged at Town Moor, following the closure of Lincoln’s racecourse, and the puzzle is no easier to solve these days than it was then.
So, though it is possible to be confident of a big run from one of the leading contenders on form, Gabrial’s Kaka, it is unwise to be too bullish that he will bring to an end the latest sequence of shock results.
Gabrial’s Kaka (3.45 Doncaster) was just as well fancied in this race last year as he is now, but was too eager and did not last home. More relaxed and restrained, he won next time out and, for the most part, held his form for the rest of the season.
Richard Fahey’s tough five-year-old still looks on a fair handicap mark and Jack Garritty, one of the apprentice finds of last season, reduces that weight by 5lb.
A low draw has dampened punters’ enthusiasm for favourite Mange All – seeking a fourth Lincoln triumph for his trainer William Haggas – but sometimes the draw does play a major role here, sometimes it doesn’t; there is little rhyme nor reason to it. And the last two winners were drawn lower than he is.
The lightly raced and progressive Certificate (3.10 Doncaster) looks good in the Spring Mile (for those who did not make the Lincoln cut), although readers might instead want to be on Indy, a rival with a similar profile and a better name.
Astaire (2.35 Doncaster) will not be the first star juvenile to suffer a dip in fortunes as a three-year-old before bouncing back at four and he showed enough zip on occasions last season to anticipate a revival.
It should be straightforward for Romsdal (2.15, Kempton) on his first start since chasing home Kingston Hill in last year’s St Leger, but he will be a stingy price; a more appealing betting proposition is Saoi (2.50 Kempton), ready to strike following an encouraging recent return to action.
The Grey Gatsby and Brown Panther are part of a potent English challenge at Meydan, and Stepper Point might surprise a few in the Sprint, but the real coup for Dubai’s rulers has been enticing US Horse of the Year California Chrome.
Though the new dirt track may be more familiar to him than the recently replaced synthetic surface, it is still a journey into the unknown for the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
The “DAP” the colt wears on his silks and blinkers stands for “Dumb Ass Partners”, after the put-down overheard by the small-time breeders when buying his supposedly useless dam at the sales for just $8,000. It is a rags-to-riches tale every bit as implausible as Coneygree winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. California Chrome will raise his career earnings to £6.4m if he can fend off strong home resistance and become the World Cup’s 10th US-trained winner.
Teaforthree, third in the 2013 Grand National, has been ruled out of this year’s running in a fortnight’s time after an old injury flared up. Aidan Coleman as been booked to ride The Druids Nephew in place of the injured Barry Geraghty.
Doncaster, Kempton and Meydan are live on Channel 4 Racing today.
Flat mates: ten to follow this year
The Grey Gatsby (trained by Kevin Ryan)
Last year’s French Derby winner looks set for another lucrative season.
Tiggy Wiggy (Richard Hannon)
Blisteringly fast filly. Stamina to prove in 1,000 Guineas, but still an exciting sprinting career to look forward to if she fails to make the grade at a mile.
Lightning Moon (Ed Walker)
Won all three starts last year. Gap emerging at the top among the older sprinters and he has the class to fill it.
John F Kennedy (Aidan O’Brien)
Imposing colt is Ballydoyle’s main contender for a fourth successive Derby triumph.
Limato (Henry Candy)
Four wins from four as a juvenile and a top-class sprinter in the making.
Windsor Park (Dermot Weld)
Cheltenham Festival winner. The Ascot Gold Cup is among several high-profile targets.
Able Friend (John Moore)
World’s best miler possesses an electric turn of foot.
Free Eagle (Dermot Weld)
Injury scuppered a Derby run, but Pat Smullen says this is the best horse he has ridden.
Watchable (David O’Meara)
Lightly-raced, but has already won a good handicap. Better still to come.
Elm Park (Andrew Balding)
Racing Post Trophy winner is the home side’s chief hope of seeing off O’Brien’s Derby challenge.Reuse content