If there is one runner hiding among Saturday’s Lincoln Handicap (3.35pm) crowd masquerading as a Group horse – then it has to be the Iffraaj gelding, Auxerre.
I was at Kempton in October when he landed his final start in what I would call work-manlike style from fellow boys in blue charge Piece of History. The latter subsequently let the form down at Redcar, but that may have been solely due to the soft ground that day. There is every chance that Auxerre could develop into a graded horse.
What I did notice about him at the Sunbury-on-Thames track was a bit of a slight, character trait. His initial reaction when asked for his effort wasn’t immediate and he had to be cajoled into action by William Buick to put the race to bed. That could just have been down to inexperience, but in a field of 22 in what is normally a rough race, I am happy to let him go and win at his price as Linclon favourite.
So now let’s enter the realms of each-way city and a double-pronged attack on the market leader. WAARIF made giant strides last season winning on four occasions and rising 20lbs in the handicap. But here is a six-year-old whose break out season can be attributed to his bulk and to a large degree strengthening up to his full physical potential.
I like the fact that good ground seems to serve him best and that he has a good record when fresh.
Off a rating of 97 he could yet emerge as the best of the long shots at 22/1.
My back-up play in the race comes in the form of KYNREN, placed in three top-class handicaps last season, sixth in the Cambridgeshire and badly drawn when finishing down the field in the Royal Hunt Cup.
This time around, this lightly-raced son of Clodovil is boxed up alongside plenty of the fancied horses in stall 22, including the favourite. If Robert Winston can get him covered up, this 8/1 shot’s his turn of foot could see him playing a major role at the sharp end of this 1m cavalry charge where Paddy’s paying the first 5 home.
The consolation Spring Handicap at 2.25pm could go to AL JELLABY, twice a beaten favourite on the all-weather, but with viable excuses on both occasions.
Firstly, he was too free out in front when headed on the line and last time out he went to the opposite end of the racing spectrum when falling out of the stalls. If Alan Kirby can get him settled and relaxed in the pack I fancy he is still a well treated horse off 89 and can take the scalps of Rampant Lion, Fayez and the well-treated Gulf of Poets.
INVINCIBLE ARMY gets the call over Equilateral in the Cammidge Trophy at 1.50pm, while keep an eye on any the market moves for the Andrew Balding trained CONSULTANT in the apprentice handicap at 5.20pm. He was highly-rated as a youngster but has endured plenty of problems, and could be well in front of his current mark of 68.
However, the most interesting wager of the day is at Kempton where Mark Johnson’s FIRE FIGHTING could be the answer to the Roseberry Handicap at 3.15pm.
I thought he was given an average ride by Alan Kirby at Lingfield last time out, but with his old mucker Joe Fanning taking over here this admirably consistent eight-year-old looks too big at the 12/1 currently on offer and will carry my each-way shekels with Paddy paying the four places.
*Prices correct at time of publishing