Lahaag can get season off to a flyer for Gosden
A solid-looking renewal of the William Hill Lincoln is the highlight of day two of the Flat season at Doncaster this afternoon, with Captain Bertie the bookies' general favourite to oblige.
If the Town Moor track passes a 6.0 inspection this morning – there is a threat of snow – Charlie Hills' five-year-old will face 21 rivals, a few of which appear far more progressive. Captain Bertie has won just twice in 17 runs, neither of which came on a seasonal debut.
He was a well-beaten fourth off a mark of 84 on his reappearance in the Spring Mile here 12 months ago, so it's hard to fathom why he is so feared now off 94, given that his narrow neck win off 85 on his second start last term was his only triumph in six subsequent runs.
The one thing that he has in his favour is that he will handle the ground, which can't conclusively be said of Martin Harley's in-form mount Solar Deity. Successful in four of its last five starts on the all-weather, Marco Botti's colt is 5lb higher here than when he took a Lingfield handicap on his penultimate outing, having scored in Listed company since.
He is obviously going in the right direction, but odds of 20/1 probably reflect his being unsuited by conditions. Richard Fahey's Justonefortheroad is a similarly priced outsider that has far more each-way appeal, as he will relish the mud and often goes well fresh.
The others to keep on side are Chapter Seven and Lahaag. First and second on soft at York in October, they meet on similar terms, with Lahaag in receipt of 2lb for a head defeat.
Chapter Seven has plenty to do under 9st 1lb from a high draw. Still, Jamie Spencer's partner is a course and distance winner that will enjoy the test, so odds of up to 10/1 are fair.
Lahaag, however, is fancied to turn the tables on him now, as he is considerably less exposed. John Gosden's Hamdan Al Maktoun-owned son of Marju has run just four times.
Second on his Newmarket debut last year, he then won a maiden and a handicap over a mile, before signing off with that narrow defeat to Chapter Seven. Lahaag is up 5lb for that, but is the sort of horse that could yet develop into something more than a handicapper.
The York race in October was over nine furlongs and he saw it out well. He flashed his tail around a bit but you couldn't fault his effort in any way, so that stamina might prove a valuable commodity given that today's contest over a mile will be a real dour examination.
With just 8st 12lb to carry here, Lahaag is weighted to go very close, while his draw in stall six could also be favourable. There is plenty of pace among the lower numbers, not least last year's winner Brae Hill, which is another that is unlikely to go on the ground.
Interestingly, Paul Hanagan, Al Maktoum's retained rider, is on Gosden's other runner Eshtibaak, but that is no deterrent. William Buick, his replacement, is Gosden's first-choice jockey and one of the best in the business, so odds of around 8/1 are genuinely enticing.
The only surviving jumping action today is at Newbury, where the featured EBF Mares' Hurdle Final is typically tricky. Just before that, the equivalent chase is more interesting.
Violin Davis, representing the potent Harry Fry-Noel Fehily axis, has top-weight and will take plenty of beating in her bid for a fourth win on the spin. That said, Tara Rose is a viable alternative, as she gave the top-weight a fright when second to her at Bangor in February.
Since then, Nigel Twiston-Davies' eight-year-old has won well at the same track, and she is now 11lb better off with Violin Davis for her previous length-and-a-quarter defeat.
Off those terms, Tara Rose should have a big say under the trainer's son Sam.
Robert Tyner's Vicangelome is worth a speculative foray in the bumper. A half-brother to Cheltenham Festival winner Medinas, he finished second to a highly regarded sort on his point-to-point debut at Tallow in February, so he could show up well for Philip Enright.
Best Bet: Lahaag