The Lincoln at Doncaster takes centre stage on Saturday as the British turf season clicks into gear on the Flat, while there is also a supreme afternoon of entertainment to come from Meydan on their Dubai World Cup card.
The Lincoln has attracted a cast of 22 and it should be every bit as frenetic as a mile handicap on the straight course at Doncaster should be.
Auxerre has been favourite for some time and Charlie Appleby’s charge has seemingly got plenty of untapped potential on his side. He’s a bit short and a value alternative might be Zwayyan for Andrew Balding and Silvestre De Sousa.
He showed form in big-field handicaps at Ascot last season and looked better than ever on his recent return, winning a trial for his race at Wolverhampton. That race fitness can prove crucial now and, with the yard’s runners in super form (36% strike rate previous fortnight), he’s a viable each-way player.
What a revelation this colt by Raven’s Pass has become for trainer Mark Johnston. He bids to make it six straight wins since December by adding this Listed prize to his haul and is very difficult to oppose.
His most recent success came in a handicap over the C&D at Kempton off a mark of 107, when he was in control from some way out and had five lengths to spare at the line. The runner-up has since come out and won his next two starts, ensuring the form looks reliable.
Matterhorn looks to be heading towards Group-race fare before long and he can pocket this prize en route.
While keen to oppose Appleby’s favourite in the Lincoln, it would be much braver to go against Old Persian in the Dubai Sheema Classic. Last season’s Great Voltigeur winner at York, he didn’t appear to see out the trip in the St Leger on his final three-year-old start.
Old Persian warmed up for this task with a last-gasp Group 2 win over C&D recently and his trainer suggested he’s likely to have come on significantly for the run. That he won that day was testament to his sheer determination and ability.
He was scraping the paint off the rail, with nowhere to go as the field turned for him, and had to wait for daylight before powering home to lead on the line. With less trouble in running, this race should be his.