Fire Brigade And Moore Can Win The Lincoln
David Dick is the only jockey to have won both legs of the Spring Double but Graham Lee could become the second on Saturday. The two races are the Lincoln and Grand National and Lee won the latter on Amberleigh House in 2004. At the time of writing Lee does not have a ride in the Lincoln but if he ever wins the Doncaster handicap Lee will emulate Dick who won the National in 1956 and Lincoln in 1941 Ryan Moore rides the favourite Fire Brigade in this year’s race.
The Lincoln is a heritage handicap and is thus one of the most prestigious handicaps of the Flat season. It’s run over the straight mile at Doncaster and there will be a maximum field of 22 runners. A horse must be rated nine pounds higher to get in the race compared to the qualifying mark ten years ago. Its more difficult for an improving, unexposed horse to win the race but proven form in similar handicaps is now more important than potential.
The Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day in October has become an important trial. Three years-olds can run in the race so by the following March they have turned four and are eligible for the Lincoln. There is speculation about the effect of the draw but no one side of the track has dominated the race in recent years. The mile course at Doncaster is fair and there are no distinct undulations on one particular side of the track. In fact the draw advantage is negligible but some horses run better in the pack from the centre stalls.
Fitness and readiness are more important so horses that have been racing on the All-Weather or in Dubai have an advantage. Some trainers like Richard Fahey hit the ground running at the start of the season while other struggle to produce winners. Mick Easterby is another Northern trainer who has an improved record at the end of March and throughout April. A horse must be fit to win the Lincoln and fitness comes from races at the track and not from exercising at home. First time our runners who have not been racing overseas or on artificial surfaces are disadvantaged.
Every winner of the Lincoln since 1999 has been aged 4, 5 or 6 and since 1965 no horse older than 8 has won the race. Handicappers can have a long career and contest many similar races but beyond the age of 8 horses are not competitive in the major Flat handicaps. The last four winners have carried nine stone or more and the Lincoln is now more akin to a Listed race than a big field handicap. In the last five years three horses have prevailed at 20/1 and two started at 12/1. Four outright favourites and one joint-favourite have won the Lincoln this century.
Fire Brigade is aged four and is set to carry 9-01 but has not run for 145 days. As the quality has increased the weights have compressed and they will be in a nine pound race in this year’s Lincoln. The days of an unexposed horse winning from the bottom of the handicap have gone. The race is more akin to a conditions race and the winner will be not far below Group 3 class. Fire Brigade has been backed all week and that is mainly due to the Moore factor. The best jockey in the world has never won the Lincoln but it could be his turn. His mount has trained well over the winter so Fire Brigade is the selection despite not having raced for almost five months.