The Spring Double – First Leg

For those of a certain age, the Lincoln was always the first leg of the Spring Double (with the Grand National being the other) and its running always signalled the start of the Flat Season.

Nowadays, things have changed with the all-weather tracks ensuring all-year round flat racing and the Turf Season now starting at Lingfield!

Whatever history and tradition demonstrate, the fact is that the Lincoln is still an important race and a very valuable one to boot.

This latter fact has made a huge difference to the shape of the field in recent seasons as trainers have been keen to chase the big money on offer on Town Moor. This means that any entry rated 90 or below is very unlikely to get a run in the main event and John Gosden was quoted recently expressing his concern that his 95 rated entry Taqleed may not make the cut.

At this stage, I would put this trio up as three that could well be suited by the Lincoln test and hopefully will all get to Doncaster on 2nd April – Irish Heartbeat, Nationalism and Taqleed.

Richard Fahey has been very public about his intention to have as many runners as he can in the Lincoln. The prolific Yorkshire trainer had five runners in the 2010 Lincoln and could easily have at least one more in 2011. The one that catches my eye from the yard is Irish Heartbeat.

The 6yr old started his career in Ireland where he won a maiden in 2008 over a mile and then a very competitive sprint handicap at the Curragh as a four year old.

Significantly, both of Irish Heartbeats UK wins have come at Doncaster, including when landing a gamble in the Lincoln consolation race last March. He will race from 96 next month, but showed when winning at Doncaster in the autumn off 91, that such a mark should not prove beyond him.

Looking at the entries it is clear that John Gosden is keen to win another Lincoln. The Newmarket trainer made punters very happy in 2009 when his Expresso Star landed a huge gamble in the Lincoln and two of his entries catch my eye this time around.

Nationalism comes from a family Gosden knows well as owner/breeder George Strawbridge has sent the majority of the family to Clarehaven, most notably half-brother Sleeping Indian, who won the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket before being placed in the p Cup Mile.

Nationalism was brought along with typical Gosden patience last season, not breaking his duck until late-July at Sandown. He then quick added a Goodwood handicap (off a mark of 95), before being sent off favourite to win the Cambridgeshire. His draw proved to be a negative, but even so, he only finished 5th in his group of 10 on the stands side. Gosden ran him once more at HQ, but he made no show behind Kingsfort in the Ben Marhsall.

Reports from Newmarket suggest that Nationalism has done particularly well over the winter and that he could well develop into a Group performer later this season.

However, the Gosden entry that looks marginally better handicapped is Taqleed. Like his stable companion, Taqleed has been lightly raced in his career to date, with just four runs on his CV.

Like Nationalism, Taqleed ran in the Cambridgeshire, and ran a great race, hitting the front going into the dip before weakening up the hill to finish 6th.

Assuming that the 95 rated Taqleed makes it into the final field, he looks to be a major player.