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Brentford can get season off to a flyer in Lincoln


Richard Hughes

Richard Hughes

Richard Hughes

While we still have the Fairyhouse, Aintree and Punchestown jumps festivals to enjoy, the Flat season kicks off today in Great Britain, following on from the Republic of Ireland last Sunday.

The Doncaster Lincoln meeting was lost to Covid last year, and depending on how your Cheltenham and National Hunt betting has been going, this year's change of code might be a welcome fresh start.

A word of warning, though - the start of the Flat season can be tricky, and if we take the fate of the favourite as a measure of how well or otherwise punters are doing, the months of March and April are two of the worst.

To give the overall figures for context first: I've gone back as far as 2008 and across all months, the Flat favourite has a strike-rate of 33%. Backing them, the average loss per euro staked to SP is just over seven cents. But in March, the Flat favourite's strike-rate is below 24%, and the average loss per euro staked is a massive 27 cents.

Things get better in April with favourites recording a strike-rate near 32%, but the average return per euro bet is still poor with a loss of 10 cents. The message here is not necessarily to avoid all favourites, but certainly proceed with caution early on.

It takes a while for the form to settle down and for punters to get a handle on a new bunch of two-year-olds. We also have three-year-old horses and older which haven't raced since last term, although a few will have competed on the all-weather more recently.

If you look at the top 50 or so Flat meetings in the UK and Republic of Ireland each year, the Doncaster Lincoln meeting, which traditionally kicks off the British Flat season, is third-last on the list of winning favourites at 24%.

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Things are not as bleak in the big race itself, the Unibet Lincoln Handicap (3.10pm), where the favourite obliged six times this century, most recently in 2019, so I won't put anyone off backing Charlie Appleby's Eastern World - but he's a little short for me at 3/1 in an open-looking renewal.

Instead, preference is for Brentford Hope, which was available at 8/1 yesterday evening. Trained by Richard Hughes, he got his career off to a winning start back in October 2019 and looked very promising - but he seemed to go astray last summer and lost three races under various conditions.

But things clicked in a handicap race over a mile last time out in October at Haydock, where he won with any amount in hand off a mark of 91.

He's up to 99 for today, but still looks well treated. While I was a little concerned when Hughes suggested he'll improve for the run, I reckon the trainer is probably keen to play down expectations and take the pressure off following some disappointments last term.

One favourite I am happy to back today is Brando, who has been chalked up at 5/2 for the Listed Unibet Cammidge Trophy Stakes (3.45pm Doncaster). Kevin Ryan's gelding is now aged nine, but showed he retains plenty of ability when second in a Group One back in October at 80/1, having hit 1/10 in-running on Betfair. He has a bit in hand on form here.

Priced around 7/2, Montatham gets the nod in the Listed Unibet Doncaster Mile Stakes (2pm) for William Haggas under James Doyle.

He earned a number of wins last season, and his latest race when mid-division in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket is overlooked as he'd no chance from his position following the way the race panned out.

For one at a big price, consider Poet's Lady, 9/1 yesterday for the Unibet Spring Mile Handicap (2.35pm Doncaster).

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