The price is right for Lang Shining
I DON'T want to dwell on the festival too much; it seems like it was a painful experience for most -- but isn't it funny how the flat season is often welcomed back with open arms following a bad Cheltenham for punters?
A mate of mine is a prime example. In October, he was doing my brains in telling me how 'real racing' over jumps is far more exciting than the level.
Now, following some fallers at Cheltenham, he's playing a different tune out of his pipe and somehow seems to think the changeover in the season will improve his fortunes. I told him not to go to town with his bets until the flat form settles down a little, but I reckon he's not going to listen.
I offered the same advice to him last year. We've still got Fairyhouse, Aintree and Punchestown to think about before the big flat meetings get into gear but try telling that to a man desperate to recover the money he left behind at Prestbury Park!
The Spanish philosopher George Santayana summed it up perfectly when he said that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." It takes a while before you can judge the flat form -- so there's no need to go in all guns blazing.
That said, most of my serious punting is done off the flat so I'm one of those who welcome today's Doncaster meeting, even though I find jump racing more fun as a spectacle. I find that the form stands up better on the flat but others have a different view and you should concentrate on whatever works best for yourself.
Again, I'll keep stakes relatively small for now but it would be great to get the season off to a flyer with Lang Shining in the William Hill Lincoln Handicap (3.10 Doncaster). Fair enough, his odds around 33/1 would suggest that I won't be collecting on the race but, from a value point of view, he's a little overpriced so a chance is taken with a small stake.
Obviously, most of these big-priced bets get turned over but one or two winners per year can make all the difference so you have to take a chance on your opinion every now and again, even if it does go against the crowd.
There have been four Lincoln Handicap winners priced in double figures this century so an outsider winner is not beyond the realms of possibility. It is, after all, a handicap race where half the horses haven't been seen in months.
I will admit that Lang Shining has been a frustrating horse to follow since his last win in the 2008 Spring Cup at Newbury and his rating has been on the slide ever since -- but sometimes these things bottom out and he may be able to get back on track today carrying a relatively low weight of 8st 13lbs.
The six-year-old, which is the mount of Martin Dwyer, had his last race for Michael Stoute at Ayr back in September where he had every chance, but just faded a couple of furlongs out and finished in the middle of the field.
A change of scenery can often do a horse some good and I'm hoping that the switch to Jamie Osborne's yard will perk him up a little. Another positive is the likelihood of soft ground -- he's only ever raced once on soft and that was the day he won the Spring Cup off 89.
Of course, William Haggas' Penitent has the strongest claims overall but all the juicy prices are now gone and I wouldn't be keen on taking a short price in the first big-field handicap of the flat turf season.
At 33/1, I'm hardly brimming with confidence about my selection but I do believe that he's a better horse than his latest form suggests and he may just manage to place. If you're having a bet, it goes without saying that he should be taken each-way.
3.20 Newbury -- Osric
3.25 Kempton -- Suits Me
3.10 Doncaster -- Lang Shining (e/w)