Gosden has winning formula for Doncaster prize
In racing nothing stays the same for very long. Just as training methods change and riding styles evolve, so many of our most famous races now attract a different sort of horse.
Not so long ago the Lincoln Handicap used to be the winter focus of attention for Flat racing fans. Yet now with year-round Flat racing on artificial surfaces and the Dubai Carnival attracting top- class animals and prizes, the Lincoln and the start of the domestic Flat Turf season have become very different creatures.
If further evidence was needed, Wednesday's low-key start at Catterick is something that would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago.
The change in identity of the William Hill Lincoln is all the more apparent when we look at recent winners. Top Newmarket stables now seem to target this £62,000 prize with increasingly classy horses. The rich cash pot has headed to Suffolk in six of the past seven years and for the past eight years the winner has subsequently run in, and in some cases even won, Pattern races.
Gone are the days when it was worth spending winter nights scanning the weights for a horse plotted up to land a gamble. Now, what is needed is a horse with untapped potential.
John Gosden sent out Expresso Star to land the race as the 100/30 favourite in 2009 off a mark of 97. The horse had run just six times. Expresso Star's next race was the Group Three Huxley Stakes at Chester followed by the Coronation Cup at Epsom, so just how much did he have in hand at Doncaster?
This time, Gosden runs the four-times raced Taqleed off a mark of 95. A slow-maturing sort, the colt ran in a back-end Newbury maiden as a two-year-old and was then given three outings last year. On the last of them he was a close sixth in the Cambridgeshire. Taqleed looks to be the best qualified in the 'open to improvement' stakes.
In the Spring Mile there has been a strong word all week for the Paul Cole-trained Mata Keranjang. The avalanche of money for the gelding on Thursday suggests the rumours have substance.
Meanwhile, Nigel Twiston-Davies confirmed yesterday that Paddy Brennan has told the trainer he intends to go freelance after their four seasons together. Brennan (29) will keep the ride on Imperial Commander, but one can't help feeling that, after his outburst about 'blood being thicker than water' he may have burned his bridges as far as Twiston-Davies.
The trainer, twice a winner with Earth Summit and Bindaree, intends having three runners in the John Smith's Grand National next week and it is unlikely Brennan will be on any of them. Hello Bud will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, Roll Along by Aidan Coleman, while a jockey has not yet been agreed for Grand Slam Hero. (© Daily Telegraph, London)