Rock looks set to whip up a Lincoln Storm at Doncaster
The Grand National takes place at Aintree next week so we temporarily switch codes to the flat for the Betway Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster this afternoon (2.45).
Known to bookmakers as the 'Spring Double', the two races are important in the betting calendar with the Lincoln traditionally kicking off the British flat season - while the Grand National is obviously the most popular jumps race of the year.
As mentioned recently, I'm not too keen on ante-post betting these days so I'll hold fire on the National for now. However, as it stands, Silviniaco Conti is perhaps the most interesting at the weights, having won the Betfair Ascot Chase in February.
Interestingly, jockey Dave Dick managed to win the Spring Double races with Gloaming in the Lincoln (1941) and ESB in the Grand National (1956) although it's quite rare that anyone attempts that feat these days.
The Lincoln is not the easiest race to figure out with just nine favourites winning since the race was transferred from the now-defunct racecourse at Lincoln in 1965, although five of those favourites were in this century which is encouraging for punters.
Last year's winner Gabrial went off at 12/1 but perhaps the most interesting one from that renewal was David O'Meara's Mondialiste, the runner-up at 25/1.
The Galileo colt had come from France and won at Group level after the Lincoln - so O'Meara's entry this year, Lord Of The Land, immediately jumps off the page as he comes with a similar background.
While Lord Of The Land's French form is difficult to assess in relation to today's opponents, I'd guess that he's reasonably well handicapped and it would would be no surprise to see him make his rating of 102 look quite tame.
But bookmakers are taking no chances on a potential plot horse and yesterday evening they had him chalked up as low as 4/1. He's obviously the one to watch but at the prices, he's swerved in favour of Storm Rock, which I hope to back around 12/1 if I can get it.
A son of Rock Of Gibraltar, Harry Dunlop's charge has become quite a good handicapper lately and beat a few decent sorts in a Leicester handicap over a mile in October off a mark of 87. He went up quite a bit in the weights but was subsequently a neck second to You're Fired in a Nottingham handicap which was encouraging.
He was last seen finishing well down the field in a handicap at Wolverhampton of 101, which is 1lb higher than today, but I'm willing to forgive that effort as it was his first time racing on the surface and he ran out of space late on. By that stage, he'd also had a pretty long season so he was entitled to an off day. Soft ground will be a big plus.
Express Himself is another one to consider at a similar price. He beat a good horse in Mitchum Swagger at Haydock last time and I'm not convinced the handicapper has his measure.
A little later in the Listed Betway Cammidge Trophy (3.20) two horses stand out, namely Maarek and Jack Dexter. The latter loves this course and will appreciate the softer ground but the former might just edge it at a decent price of 5/1 or thereabouts.
Jamie Spencer gets the ride on board Evanna McCutcheon's Pivotal gelding and although he's no spring chicken aged nine, he proved he can still cut it at the top when second to Sole Power in a Group Two in September. While he finished off the season tamely at Fontainebleau, a little rest over the winter will have done some good.
At Kempton, I like the look of Volunteer Point in the Listed Betfred Mobile Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes (4.10) and a forecast price of 5/2 seems fair.
Mick Channon's filly clocked up a hat-trick of wins on the all-weather this year and she's a consistent sort which also has good form on turf.
A daughter of Footstepsinthesand, she's won or placed in more than half of her races and she is one of those reliable horses which almost always runs to form. According to the formbook, she's a couple of pounds inferior to Redstart but Redstart hasn't been seen since coming eleventh in the 1,000 Guineas and we are left guessing as to where she's at right now.
At Navan, Road To Riches sets the standard in the Webster Cup Chase (4.40). Third in the Ryanair Chase, he's got loads in hand on all known form, although that's reflected in the price of 8/15.
Judging by the tussles in the early betting, Predominance is likely to go off as favourite for the Betway Spring Mile (2.15) but this 22-runner handicap is wide open.
William Haggas' gelding was disappointing last time when dropped back to 7f and while a step up in trip should see an improvement, early odds of 4/1 seem skinny in a race which has been won by a horse priced in double figures 12 times in its past 15 renewals.
Instead, a chance is taken each-way on Lord Of The Rock, which is expected to go off around 16/1. Michael Dods' four-year-old comfortably won a maiden last June but ran out of space to finish tamely on his handicap debut off a mark of 90 at Doncaster in August.
Things just didn't pan out right on the day and he's worth another chance off 88 for a racing weight of 9st 1lb this afternoon.
2.15 Doncaster: Lord Of The Rock (e/w)
2.45 Doncaster: Storm Rock
3.20 Doncaster: Maarek
3.55 Doncaster: Belardo
4.10 Kempton: Volunteer Point
4.40 Navan: Road To Riches
Do the double
SOCCER: Guus Hiddink's CHELSEA have had plenty of problems this season but at least things aren't as bad as at Aston Villa, who are certain to be facing relegation. The pair will clash today at Villa Park but considering the home side have lost six league games in a row, it's very hard to see them getting any kind of result here. Back the Blues to win at 4/7.
RACING: Roger Varian's Belardo should prove hard to beat around evens in the Listed Betway Doncaster Mile Stakes (3.55). Although unfancied at 33/1, he put in a career-best effort when second to Solow in the Group One QEII at Ascot in October. The 2014 Dewhurst Stakes winner is versatile when it comes to the going so if the ground turns out to be on the softer side of good today, it won't be a problem. Custom Cut is the one most likely to follow the selection home.
Last week's double was successful at an overall price of just above 4/1.