Taqleed all the rage for Lincoln
The feature handicap in England on any given Saturday typically offers punters an opportunity to take on poorly priced favourites in competitive races, but it's hard to make a case against market leader Taqleed in this afternoon's William Hill Lincolnshire.
Doncaster's one-mile showpiece numbers 22 runners in all and, while that might be expected to be the first requirement for intense competition, the market tells a different story, with 5/1 the best price about Taqleed, and most firms going 9/1 bar.
It seems the layers have been forced into their current stance by the sheer weight of money for the favourite. When the market opened some weeks ago, double-figure offerings abounded, but his price has gradually contracted to where it is now.
Taqleed's trainer John Gosden is well known for nurturing improving horses through to their four-year-old campaign and this one looks a prime example of the Newmarket handler's patience. This son of Shamardal has run just four times, failing to show much on his sole outing as a juvenile.
Sure enough, though, Gosden then produced him to win a maiden by nine lengths on good ground at Nottingham last August, a win that was quickly followed by an equally impressive handicap debut over 10 furlongs at Newmarket. That success came off a mark of 85, and Taqleed lost little in defeat when beaten three lengths off 95 in a decent quality renewal of the Cambridgeshire on soft ground in October.
Off the same mark today, he can be expected to progress further now that he gets some good going again and 8st 9lb is an ideal weight. From stall 11, which is certainly not a negative, Taqleed can become the fourth successive four-year-old to land the Lincoln, the last two of which have also been well-supported favourites.
The remainder of the field lacks anything with the selection's potential, though obviously there are plenty of options in the each-way market, given the shape of the book. Taqleed's three fellow four-year-olds don't appeal, with the in-form all-weather performer Lowther one that could make the frame at up to 16/1.
In the consolation race for the Lincoln, the opening Spring Mile, Johnny Murtagh can get his day off to a good start with Kalk Bay. Traditionally this tends to go the way of one of the higher-rated runners that have just missed the cut for the main event.
Kalk Bay sits a pound off the top with 9st 7lb, a burden he should manage if he maintains the rate of improvement that he showed last term. William Haggas' four-year-old only made his racecourse debut when fourth at Newmarket in July and went on to win three of his four subsequent starts.
The son of Hawk Wing is six pounds higher now than when securing the last of those triumphs and he may not have the best draw in stall one. Nonetheless, good going tends to negate the draw bias at Doncaster, so 6/1 is a fair offering.
Murtagh partners the former Ger Lyons-trained Rain Delayed in the Cammidge Trophy. Many of the 14 runners in this -- including Rain Delayed -- have been busy on the all-weather in England or Dubai, but Bated Breath is fancied on his reappearance.
A winner of his first three outings last term, the Dansili colt went on to be prominent in two quality races before finishing up for the season. Bated Breath returns now in another well-contested Listed event, but his handler Roger Charlton is excellent with this type of lightly raced individual, so his class should see him through.
In the three-year-old maiden, Sud Pacifique is just preferred to Nabah. Twice a beaten favourite last year, Ryan Moore's mount will relish the 10-furlong trip, and Jeremy Noseda's horses are running well.
Best bet: Taqleed