Refreshed Off Art can draw clear in Lincoln
CAPTAIN CAT was one of three significant withdrawals from the William Hill Lincoln yesterday after 18mm of rain fell overnight and the resultant soft ground certainly changes things at Doncaster.
Last year's winner Levitate and the 2011 victor Sweet Lightening are two that should be suited by the slower conditions.
A game six-year-old, Levitate won twice more last year after taking this off a mark of 90, signing off with a decisive Ayr triumph off 98 in November.
Apprentice Joe Doyle takes 7lb off for an effective rating of 99 now. John Quinn's charge's draw in stall eight might traditionally be perceived to be a disadvantage in this sort of ground, but he defied that logic to win from three in the mud last year and the stalls are on the stand side.
Levitate is a live place option at 14/1 and Sweet Lightening is another that shouldn't be discounted as an each-way player at similar odds, after tumbling from 25/1.
Having won this off 104, he became the first horse to replicate the feat in the Irish edition off 100 for Johnny Murtagh last year.
While he is nine years of age now, he is fit from running in Dubai, is proven in deep conditions, has a high draw and has been given a chance by the handicapper off 98 for 8st 13lb.
However, the one that appeals as the best value for the win at 8/1 is Off Art, whose trainer Tim Easterby has his string in tremendous fettle.
An unexposed four-year-old that gets in at the foot of the page off 8st 8lb, David Allen's partner ran four times in its first season, winning three.
After getting off the mark in a fast ground maiden at Thirsk, he produced the most impressive display of his short career when surging clear on his handicap bow on slow ground here over seven furlongs in May.
Stepped up to a mile off a 5lb higher mark at Ayr, he showed great fight to foil the winners of three subsequent races in second and third with a last-gasp lunge at the line.
Due to the manner of that win, Off Art has been put up just 4lb to 93, yet he appeals as a horse that could soon be deserving of a three-figure mark.
Although he comes here without the benefit of a run since June, the suspicion is that he has been trained especially for a tilt at this valuable prize and he has a very fair draw in stall 14. He could take a bit of stopping.
With the ground as it is, Sweet Lightening's new trainer David O'Meara has another interesting ex-Irish runner in the mile Listed race.
Custom Cut was a fantastic servant for George Kent, scoring five times in two years, including a fine win in a Curragh Group Three this time last year.
The five-year-old relishes soft ground, though he has done all his winning over seven furlongs, so this mile trip is a slight concern.
That said, he was conceding 3lb when a decent fourth to Gordon Lord Byron over a mile at headquarters on his penultimate start last August and he was conceding the same poundage when he split Duntle and Sweet Lightening at Leopardstown in May.
It wasn't stamina that beat Custom Cut on either occasion, so he warrants support in this open heat on his first start for his brilliantly shrewd Co Cork-born handler.
The other one that stands out on Town Moor is Jim Goldie's mud-lover Jack Dexter in the Cammidge Trophy over six furlongs.
Successful in the 2013 edition, Graham Lee's doughty mount has to concede weight to all bar one of his rivals now, having won a Group Three at Newcastle in the interim.
Since then, Jack Dexter has been placed in the Ayr Gold Cup and was just denied by Slade Power in the Champions Sprint at Ascot in October, before giving weight away to win a similar race to this here in November.
He is a superbly consistent performer that has everything going for him against inferior rivals.
Best Bet: Jack Dexter