Soft ground brings Lincoln changes

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GEORGE Baker is likely to be represented by Jack’s Revenge, rather than Belgian Bill, in the rearranged William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster on Saturday.

The Manton trainer is leaning towards re-routing Belgian Bill to a conditions stakes at Kempton on the same day because of the prospect of soft ground in South Yorkshire.

Baker said: “With it being soft and heavy in places up there, I’m probably going to run Belgian Bill at Kempton for the conditions race because he’s got form on the track and Jack’s Revenge will probably go to the Lincoln.”

Dance And Dance could also be switched to the Sunbury venue for the same race, although trainer Ed Vaughan is likely to make a late call.

“We’ll make a decision closer to the time. I wouldn’t want to run him on heavy ground,” said the Newmarket trainer.

In something of an exodus, Shamaal Nibras is set to go for the same Kempton heat after trainer Richard Hannon chose not to confirm him for Doncaster this time.

Nine Realms was another notable absentee from a list of 60 horses left in at the confirmation stage for the Lincoln, which was snowed off last weekend.

William Haggas decided not to declare leading ante-post fancy Nine Realms at last Thursday’s final declaration stage and has not had second thoughts.

The weights remain headed by the Richard Fahey-trained Majestic Myles, while the new list gives places to Anderiego and Chosen Character.

The Doncaster executive are still confident that Saturday’s card will beat the weather, though today’s jumps meeting at Wetherby will have to pass an early morning inspection due to the forecast frost.

However, the track was raceable yesterday after the weekend snow thawed and it is significant that AP McCoy, on the brink of an 18th consecutive jockeys’ championship, is due to ride novice hurdler Westward Point before taking the mount on Jonjo O’Neill’s Upswing in the handicap hurdle.

McCoy’s perennial rival, Richard Johnson, has just one mount – Silentplan – in the concluding Bumper for Welsh trainer Tim Vaughan, who confirmed yesterday that long-term absentee Beshabar will miss the John Smith’s Grand National on April 6.

Owned by the Middleham Park Racing syndicate based at Barton-upon-Humber, 10-year-old Beshabar had raced just once since winning the 2011 Scottish National under Johnson.

Meanwhile, top jockey Tom Scudamore says there will be an even greater onus on riders this year to watch their speed as the 40 runners gallop to the first of 30 fences from a new start that has been moved away from the cacophony of the packed grandstands.

With Aintree’s safety record in the spotlight after two equine fatalities in each of the last two Nationals, Scudamore has welcomed new riding guidelines that have been issued.

The jockey, whose grandfather won the race in 1959 on Oxo, added: “We all want to help the race and do what’s best. I think it’s still important to have some pace, but this increases understanding among the jockeys more than anything.

“I’ve ridden over the fences before.

“They still take some jumping but are more forgiving. It’s important to make changes for the better, but with keeping the traditions of the race and not making knee-jerk reactions.”

Scudamore, whose mount Junior fell at the second last year, is likely to ride the David Bridgwater-trained Wyck Hill – provided the JP McManus-owned horse recovers from a recent training setback.

Trainer Colin Tizzard has confirmed Cue Card is on course for a thrilling possible clash with Sprinter Sacre in the John Smith’s Melling Chase a week on Friday.

The last time the pair met was in last year’s Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival when Cue Card was beaten by seven lengths by Nicky Henderson’s awesome stable star.

Sprinter Sacre has dominated the two-mile division this season, culminating in a glorious display in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Connections are keen on testing him over a longer trip.

Cue Card heads for Aintree following a scintillating display in the Ryanair Chase and the Melling Chase promises to be a race to savour if Irish raider Flemenstar completes the line-up.

Tizzard said: “Cue Card did some fast work today and he couldn’t be in better form.

“I think the Melling Chase is shaping up to be a very, very good race this year, but this is over two- and-a-half miles, which is Cue Card’s trip.

“We got within seven lengths of him last year in the Arkle but I feel we are a much better horse this year.”