No trainer in the UK is in warmer form at present than Andrew Balding, and the Kingsclere handler can add to recent successes by taking the prestigious and competitive Lincoln Handicap with the classy Tullius.
Despite carrying a hefty impost, the 6-year-old isn’t at all badly treated on form, and has the potential benefit of a stands-rail draw. In terms of his weight, the 3-lb allowance of the exceptional Oisin Murphy is a huge boost, and he looks certain to give backers a great run for their money.
Normally when looking at competitive handicaps, it pays to concentrate on lightly-raced types who are open to significant improvement, but the Lincoln has long been a law unto itself, and is a punishing contest coming so early in the season, with the emphasis firmly on experience and the ability to hit peak form early.
The advent of all-weather racing was meant to make this contest easier to solve, with the notion that a number of horses who had been kept active on polytrack through the winter would enjoy a fitness advantage, but the benefit of a previous run hasn’t really shaped the race’s recent history in the manner expected, and those making their seasonal returns, such as Tullius, continue to hold sway.
The son of Le Vie Dei Colori had a truncated campaign after reappearing in October last year, but had made a dream start for Balding in 2012, when winning impressively first time out, and going on to score twice in listed company. Things clearly didn’t go his way subsequently, as a 14-month absence suggests, but he shaped much better than the bare result on his final start, and he clearly retains most, if not all, of his old ability. The chances of him showing that ability tomorrow appear bright, given the suitability of a straight mile and his proven ability to show his best after a lay-off. Andrew Balding came within inches of an across-the-card treble on Thursday, which clearly augurs well for his prospects.
Those looking to potential to find the key will be keen on the chances of Off Art, who is unbeaten in a couple of handicap outings to date, and clearly still on the upgrade. That profile would often be a plus, but with only four lifetime starts, the Tim Easterby representative lacks the experience which has proven so vital in this contest. A middle draw is also likely to leave him isolated mid-race, and it will be a tremendous performance if he can overcome such difficulties.
Of even greater interest to us is One Word More, who is another with a proven record fresh, and who ran his best race last season at the Town Moor track. That effort came over seven furlongs, but he stays further, and may be capable of better still given the promise of his juvenile form, when second to the likes of Montiridge and Toronado in maiden company. Charlie Hills has his horses fairly well forward, and One Word More certainly merits a saver at current odds.
The BetBright Verdict
Tullius @ 7/1
Each-Way Alternative: One Word More @ 12/1
The race is off at 3.50pm tomorrow, best of luck with your bets!