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Jockey Graham Lee

Jockey Graham Lee

Jockey Graham Lee

Doncaster hosts the first of the British Flat campaign's myriad sprint handicap puzzles when the Bet365-sponsored six-furlong edition takes centre stage this afternoon.

Jim Goldie, always such a shrewd operator in these cavalry charges, has the top-weighted Jack Dexter, which was vying for favouritism last night. Graham Lee's four-year-old mount certainly looked highly progressive when accounting for Captain Raimus, Our Jonathan and Hitchens in the Cammidge Trophy over course and distance last month.

While Jack Dexter is worse off at the weights with the reopposing Our Jonathon and Hitchens now, he is a versatile sort that appears to be on a steep upward curve, so odds of 6/1 couldn't be described as prohibitive. He should defy his burden to at least make the frame.

Higher

Thunderball, which won a handicap the same day over this trip, also returns to Town Moor. However, off a five-pound higher mark on his 76th start, he may not have much in hand now.

The horses that he beat are of more interest, as Spinatrix, King Of Jazz and Shropshire, second, third and fourth then, all turn out once more. Spinatrix is up two pounds, and his pace-setting style of racing ultimately leaves him vulnerable in such competitive events.

King Of Jazz was sent off favourite last time. He got a clear run down the inside, but, for all that he ran well, he never really looked like ending a string of losses that then stood at 16.

The soft ground might not have been to his liking either, and the prospect of today's going again easing to something less than good means that Shropshire is the one to keep onside along with Jack Dexter.

With 19 runs, Charlie Hills' grey is experienced without being completely exposed, while he is best with a bit of give underfoot.

Hills' Shamardal five-year-old, three times a winner over this trip, has already shown that he is capable of beating proper sprinters when taking a decent handicap off 94 at Ascot last July. He competes here off a two-pound higher mark, but is unchanged from when he flashed home on his reappearance behind Thunderball.

On that occasion, Shropshire got going a fraction late after assuming his usual position at the rear under five-pound claimer Matthew Lawson.

Nonetheless, he kept on with real intent when he did find his feet, and there was none finishing better when they crossed the line.

On the assumption that he will be a fraction sharper for the run and that Lawson might adopt slightly more aggressive tactics, odds of 16/1 about him getting there in time look generous.

King Of Jazz's trainer Michael Bell gets the nod to take the Doncaster Mile with the Jamie Spencer-ridden Sovereign Debt, his only other runner on the card.

Richard Hannon reintroduces the potentially smart Chandlery here after nearly two years off, while Gabrial could have a big say if he reproduces his respectable third to Frankel at Ascot in August.

Spencer, who often rides Gabrial, has passed him over in favour of Sovereign Debt, a previous course winner that will relish any rain that falls.

Successful over seven furlongs and a mile last year, the four-year-old Dark Angel colt was placed in Group company at Salisbury in August, before signing off with a fifth to Excelebration in the QEII at Ascot.

Given that Sovereign Debt didn't get the clearest passage that day, it was a commendable effort in such exalted company, so a similar show would give him a big say in this Listed heat.

The only Irish runner on duty in England today is Ger Lyons' Lily's Angel at Kempton. Another Dark Angel four-year-old, Lyons' filly excelled in her first four starts after joining him from Richard Fahey, maintaining her unbeaten record when coasting home for Gary Carroll in a valuable Meydan handicap in January.

Her defeat at the Curragh last week was a second backward step since then, but the Listed race in which she must concede three pounds to inferior-rated rivals here appeals as a more suitable opportunity.

Best Bet: Sovereign Debt

Irish Independent