To think that some of these jockeys will be riding in Dubai next weekend.
Yesterday they rode through sleet and mud at Doncaster as the first day of a new turf season on the Flat permitted only the most sarcastic intimations of the sunlit carnivals to come.
From Australia, for instance, came news that Black Caviar had just extended her immaculate spree to 24. Perhaps she might yet return to Royal Ascot, to redress the indignity of that photo-finish scramble last summer. And then Model Pupil won the feature race by eight lengths, carrying the same colours as another legend of the modern Turf.
There will be no Frankel, of course, this time round. But the carousel keeps turning. The maiden race that opens the Irish season at the Curragh tomorrow was won last year by Dawn Approach, still unbeaten and hot favourite for the season's first Classic, the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, six weeks today. Who can say, then, what satisfactions the Flat will disclose once the sun finally comes out?
Mind you, any punters needing to salve wounds sustained at Cheltenham could be indulged any secret relief should today's card fail to survive a dawn inspection.
At the best of times, the William Hill Lincoln Handicap is a minefield. In this going, it becomes harder still to take sanctuary in the unexposed, well-bred horses towards the head of the market. Eshtibaak and Lahaag, for instance, represent the champion trainer with an aggregate of five handicap starts between them, but this race could summon more brutish, seasoned qualities.
The default option is plainly Brae Hill, who has finished second and first in the last two runnings, but both were on good ground. (They were watering last year, unbelievable as it may seem.) While he does have form in heavy going, he has spent most of his career at shorter distances and conditions could bring him to the limit of his stamina.
Hit The Jackpot is intriguing on his first start for David O'Meara, who continues to improve recruits from elsewhere, but would represent a fairly blind punt after losing his way in Ireland.
In contrast, the principle leap of faith required by Swiftly Done (3.50) is a teenage jockey still very short of experience. But Luke Leadbitter did manage to crack the riddle of Goodwood last summer, relative to which this straight mile should be a picnic, and his mount made very solid strides last year.
After proving that he goes well fresh with a good second on his return, he won consecutive handicaps in the mud – including one over course and distance – and had excuses for both subsequent defeats. Still on a fair mark, he looks a good each-way call to profit from his partner's claim at 25-1.
The Spring Mile, a consolation race for those that missed the cut for the big one, can go to Bancnuanaheireann (2.40). Picked up very cheaply by Mick Appleby last summer, he flew into a close second at Goodwood on his first start on these shores. Though his form was a little inconsistent thereafter, he was a close fourth at 50-1 in the Cambridgeshire and is clearly very much at home with a big field and strong gallop.
Conditions were testing when he won his maiden back in Ireland by nine lengths, while Appleby – who continues to make a very good impression – believes the horse is best fresh and has duly primed him for today's outing.
O'Meara has found an interesting one in Switcher (3.15). Though she does have a few pounds to find, her best form is all on soft ground and the drop back to six furlongs makes sense after she showed bright speed over seven on a couple of occasions last year.
Model Pupil, incidentally, will step up into Group company after storming clear in the closing stages yesterday. This track had long seemed to be beckoning him last season, but he missed the St Leger after a setback and still seemed a little green until woken up by Ryan Moore yesterday.
Charles Hills mentioned the John Porter Stakes at Newbury, though his father's record at Chester – where Model Pupil ran so well last May – will surely make the Ormonde Stakes a tempting alternative route to Cup races this summer. Assuming it ever comes.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Bancnuanaheireann (2.40 Doncaster)
Thorpe Bay (2.35 Southwell)
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