A SLOW and spasmodic start to the 2016 Flat season gathers pace today when David O’Meara attempts to win the mile-long Betway Lincoln, the first major race of the new campaign, with the aptly-named winter recruit Lord Of The Land.
Second in the corresponding race 12 months ago with Mondialiste who went on to land the Strensall Stakes at York’s Ebor meeting before winning the Group One Woodbine Mile in Canada, victory today would also vindicate O’Meara’s decision to move stables.
Having enjoyed prolific success while based in Helmsley, O’Meara has split from his former patron Roger Fell and moved to the Warthill stables near York that were previously occupied by the late Mel Brittain.
Yet, while the O’Meara horses and staff become accustomed to the new surroundings, all eyes will be on Lord Of The Land who will be ridden by stable jockey Danny Tudhope.
“He was bought in France. He had some good form there, he won five races,” said the trianer. “He’s done a lot over the winter and has pleased in his work. We’re looking forward to it. He’s obviously not without ability – how good he is has yet to be seen.
“There’s a lot to find out –whether he’s a true miler, or stays further or not, and whether he wants fast ground or soft ground. He’s run on easy ground in France and run fine in it. Saturday will be a big learning curve for us.
“You could try to pigeon-hole him as the next Mondialiste, but he’s so different from him, physically.”
Birdman, the mount of Josh Doyle, also represents O’Meara.
Emblematic of the trainer’s uncanny ability to eke out improvements in horses, Birdman rose 36lb in the ratings last summer and O’Meara believes the testing conditions on Town Moor will suit.
Richard Fahey’s Gabrial denied Mondialiste last year and the Malton handler has three chances to repeat the dose with Heaven’s Guest, Rene Mathis and Farlow.
Of top weight Heaven’s Guest, Fahey said: “He’s a legend of a horse. He doesn’t mind a bit of juice in the ground. He handles it well. He has to do a lifetime best. Can I see him winning it? I can see him running well but he’s got to be on his ‘A’ game.
“Farlow has been working really well. He’s a little bit soft, doesn’t like being crowded, but a straight mile will be right up his street. Rene Mathis is another that needs a lifetime best.
“He doesn’t mind a bit of juice in the ground.”
Meanwhile, Wesley Ward adds some American glamour to the Betway Brocklesby Conditions Stakes as highly-regarded filly Create A Dream contests what was traditionally the first two-year-old contest of the season.
“With a filly of this quality, we didn’t want to run her against the speed-orientated horses on the dirt,” said Ward.
Jim Goldie feels it is about time Ryan Moore rode a Scottish-trained winner as the pre-eminent jockey teams up with Jack Dexter for the first time in the Betway Cammidge Trophy.
Having won the race in 2013 and finished third and fourth for the past two seasons, the now seven-year-old is a familiar face on Town Moor and Goldie said: “Ryan has been riding Japanese horses, Hong Kong horses, Dubai-based horses and the like all winter so I told him it was about time he rode a Scottish one!”
Champion Hurdle hero Annie Power and Arkle winner Douvan could both reappear on day one of Aintree’s Grand National meeting as Ireland’s all-conquering Willie Mullins bids to win the trainers’ title in Britain.
Mullins has also entered Gold Cup-second Vautour in Thursday’s Betfred Bowl, a compelling contest that could also feature Cue Card who fell three out in Cheltenham’s blue riband race and Sue and Harvey Smith’s Wakanda.
A decision on Balthazar King’s future will be made in the autumn.
The popular 12-year-old was a surprise faller in the cross-country race at Cheltenham last month, his first run since suffering multiple injuries in the Grand National last season.
Trainer Philip Hobbs had mooted taking him to France but has decided to give him the summer off before deciding the future of the veteran.
Thirsk-based Danny Cook took the 45th win of a career-best season when El Massivo prevailed at Wetherby in the 4.25pm yesterday.