Current favourite for this year’s renewal is the David O’Meara trained Lord of The Land. A useful performer for Andre Fabre in France, he was bought by his current connections in October and, while it’s difficult to be sure what his previous form is worth in the context of this race, O’Meara did saddle Mondialiste to finish second in this race last year on his first start for the trainer. Lord of The Land could prove to be equally well-handicapped on his UK/stable debut, but that prospect has already been factored into his price and there is much better value to be found elsewhere.
The withdrawal of Mitraad has seen Bravo Zolo promoted to second favourite and the form of his victory in a Wolverhampton handicap last month could hardly have worked out better, with the second, third and fifth all winning next time. However, this race presents an entirely different test, and it remains a concern that he has performed below expectations in three previous starts on turf. He is likely to need a career-best effort here and, while that recent win suggests he could still be improving, it remains to be seen whether a race of this nature will see him to best effect.
Jeremy Noseda also has Keystroke entered and, although he remains far from certain to make the cut, his prospects have been helped by the recent withdrawals of Mitraad and Buckstay. A winner over this course and distance on his debut, he returned from six months off the track to beat the useful Supersta at Wolverhampton last time and remains open to more improvement after just four career starts. Nevertheless, he has a similar profile to his stablemate in that he is unproven in big-field handicaps like this and looks worth opposing at this stage with his place in the line-up far from set in stone.
The same cannot be said of Udododontu, who acquitted himself well in a series of well-contested handicaps last summer, including when second in the Britannia at Royal Ascot. He joined Godolphin after that effort and returned from seven months off to make a winning debut for his new connections at Meydan in January. The fitness he gained from two runs in Dubai will be an asset here and, although there are concerns about his ability to handle soft ground, Udododontu can usually be relied upon to run his race in these big-field handicaps.
Mutarakez was well beaten behind Udododontu at the Royal meeting, but he had previously shown useful form when storming to victory in a typically competitive renewal of the Silver Bowl at Haydock on his penultimate start. He made a fair impression that day and returns from both a nine month break and a gelding operation here. An easy win at Sandown on last year’s seasonal debut offsets concerns about his lengthy absence, and he’s worth another chance to confirm the promise he showed in the first part of his three-year-old campaign.
Storm Rock is another four-year-old with leading form credentials, his record of steady progression on soft ground marking him out as a potential improver this season, while the battle-hardened pair of Master The World and Birdman will also have their supporters after profitable campaigns in 2015. However, their success last year has not gone unnoticed by the handicapper and this race may well fall to a less exposed runner.
The consistent Express Himself fits the bill, with the form of his career-best effort at Haydock last October now looking a lot better than it did at the time. He beat Mitchum Swagger on that final outing of last season, and that rival now has an official rating of 108, after again filling the runner-up spot in a listed race next time. Express Himself comes into this race on a mark of 101 and, having given Mitchum Swagger 3 lb when recording that Haydock victory, he looks potentially well treated.
Express Himself has done most of his racing on a sound surface, but a bit of ease underfoot failed to inconvenience him when enjoying a successful end to last season, during which he finished out of the first three just once from seven starts.
There are some more unexposed types towards the top of the market, but this race has the potential to develop into quite a gruelling test at the trip and Express Himself’s consistent profile makes him worth a small bet at the current prices.
Back Express Himself in the Lincoln Handicap at 12/1
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