Like moths charging at a dazzling lightbulb after a winter in the cupboard, Flat racing trainers, jockeys and fans charge towards the Irish Lincolnshire at 16:10 on Sunday.
A tightly-knit handicap with 20 runners, most of who are returning from their winter breaks, it’s very hard to have a strong view, but Marshall Jennings is a horse who has twice made a winning seasonal reappearance over the Irish Lincolnshire C&D and is now just 3lb above his last winning mark.
Admittedly, he failed to fire when contesting this race in 2017, but he was badly drawn that day, and having acquired a slightly better berth this time around, he should give us a run for our money under a capable claimer. Theobald looks a worthy favourite having been in top form on the all-weather this winter; his name means ‘bald person’, which is ironic as his trainer Jim Bolger has one of the most luxurious barnets in training.
The mile and a quarter listed event that takes place 35 minutes later at 16:45 looks a cracker.
Amedeo Modigliani, much to the delight of dad joke connoisseurs across the land, is named after an artist best known for portraits with elongated faces. The Ballydoyle runner looked an exciting prospect when winning a maiden in August 2017, but hasn’t been seen since, so the market may prove the best guide on his return from a 596-day absence.
The more solid option looks to be Still Standing – something I struggled with in my local last Friday – who won three of his four starts last season. All came in handicaps, but he is the type to make his mark at this level, and this looks an ideal opportunity.
Leading jumps jockey Ruby Walsh is set to have a rare ride on the Flat in the six-furlong maiden at 14:00. His mount, Castletownshend, who is trained by his father Ted (no not that one), is set to carry 10st 4lb, which is almost a bare minimum for Ruby. Whether that is a tip in itself is up for debate, however, as Castletownshend has only run to a fair level at best, and looks up against it.
The race doesn’t look the deepest of its type, though, and Empire State sets a pretty high standard and could prove hard to beat under Ryan Moore. Aidan O’Brien has made a faster start to the year than is usually the case and his Scat Daddy colt should give a good account once more.
The best bet on the card could come in the 15:05, though, with the Ger Lyons-trained Zander – who takes his name from a fish – making plenty of appeal.
He got us hooked when showing much-improved form to open his account at Galway in July and wasn’t disgraced when finishing second on his handicap debut at Listowel last time in much more testing conditions.
The handicapper has raised him just 1lb for that effort but he still looks to be on a nice perch…