The new Flat turf season gets under way at Donny on Saturday. The Brocklesby Stakes is the first two-year-old race and, of course, there’s the Lincoln Handicap.
Long gone are the days when the start of the Flat meant ‘They’re Off’ banner headlines in the national press. The first race was always for apprentices and the winning rider thus became ‘leading jockey for half an hour’. That’s long gone too, as has Lincoln’s racecourse, the original home of the start of the Flat. However, there’s still a certain something about that first day of the Flat turf season. A promise of things to come, perhaps.
The first Lincoln spring meeting took place in 1853. The Lincoln Spring Handicap became the ‘Lincolnshire’ in 1858. When Waddington’s brought out their racing board game Totopoly in 1938, they chose the 12 most recent Lincoln winners (1926 to 1937) for the horses’ names. The Brocklesby was first run in 1842. It boasts some fast juveniles on its roll call, notably Classic winners Vedas and Donovan.
Doncaster became the new home for the start of the Flat when Lincoln closed in 1964. Lincoln then staged point to points until 1991. Its grandstand is still there and it’s easy to trace the line of the old course.
This year’s Brocklesby
With no form to go on, it’s best to look at the trainers. Surprisingly, Mark Johnston does not have a runner in this year’s race. Richard Fahey and David Evans are both noted for early season two years olds. Bill Turner, who runs Arthur’s Spirit, was once the man to follow in these races but is no longer the force of old. It could rest between Fahey and Evans. Fahey runs Wasntexpectingthat, by the high-class Australian sprinter Foxwedge. Evans saddles Lihou, by July Cup winner Mayson, a noted sire of fast sprinters, and he has booked Fran Berry for the mount.
As for the Lincoln, it’s wide open as always. I’ll leave that one to the handicap experts.