The Punter: Nothing flat about new campaign ahead
A highly exciting Flat turf season is in prospect with expectations of the great Frankel reaching new heights and a much anticipated appearance of the unbeaten Aussie sprint mare Black Caviar at Royal Ascot. Possibilities of a clash between the pair are, however, unlikely.
The action unfolds in Britain with the William Hill Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster on Saturday. Finding the winner is never easy in what's traditionally the first leg of the spring double in tandem with the Grand National.
There has only been one winner over six years of age in the last 20 years while four year-olds have been successful in six of the last nine years.
It also pays to look for runners rated higher than 95 and rule out anything that has not won over one mile or further.
Trainer William Haggas has won twice in the last five years and relies this time on Fury who finished fifth behind Frankel in last year's 2000 Guineas.
Fancied selections have dominated with six of the last 10 being returned 10-1 or less which shows that quality comes to the surface. Favourites have won in two of the last three years and heading the market is 6-1 shot Eton Forever, who gave Roger Varian his first winner at this meeting last year in the Spring Mile.
Eton has run well since, including when runner-up behind Man of Action at Donny in September off a mark of 103, his rating on Saturday.
And it's Man of Action who catches the eye as one of two runners for Godolphin. Their other one is Start Right who will have champion jockey Paul Hangan on board before he takes up his duties as number one for Sheikh Hamdan Al Mahtoum.
Both five-year-olds are rated 2lbs below the favourite and have arrived in England from a winter campaign in Dubai, so will lack nothing in fitness. Both are suited to fast conditions but being a course and distance winner and one who likes to come from off the pace, Man Of Action is preferred at a best price of 16-1.
Aidan O'Brien has had two seconds from seven runners including Twirl who should be winning next time out. The betting indicated that she would not win first time.
However, it should be different this weekend as O'Brien heads to Meydan for the $10m Dubai World Cup with the favourite So You Think plus St Nicholas Abbey and Treasure Beach in the Sheema Classic along with other leading contenders in the supporting races.
So You Think, eight times a Group 1 winner, runs over his ideal distance (1m2f). At 3-1, the big black New Zealand bred can deliver and remove once and for all the doubts from certain quarters about his true status.
St Nicholas Abbey has to have a major chance in the Classic but don't be surprised if the French hope Cirrus Des Aigles (5-2) obliges.