Soon we are to enter that period of the horse racing year that can be best summarized as ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’. The Flat season.
And boy is Doncaster flat!
You have to pity the flat campaigners, having to pick up the sporting baton from the greatest show on Earth, with the greatest horse-race in the world waiting in the wings to demonstrate what true sporting endeavour is all about.
I suppose after the heady champagne cocktail of Cheltenham all racing, including the Midlands National, I have to admit, is small beer, and if it wasn’t for the glittering constellation that is the Grand National people of my persuasion might be persuaded to go into hibernation long before the threat of the last frost has receded. Yes, I concede that the flat does get a tad interesting come the Derby and Royal Ascot and this year it will be fascinating to see how many winners Josie Gordon and Holly Doyle ride but all-in-all flat racing is not the staff of life, is it?
If flat racing is the connoisseur’s bee’s knees, as many would champion, why is it allowed to start with an apologetic whimper? It’s almost as if after the thrills of the jumps season the flat is too embarrassed to part the curtains and step into the limelight.
The situation is perhaps not helped by the mega-bucks Dubai Carnival. It casts a long shadow and the Lincoln is really only an inflated handicap by comparison. Yet it will be a hundred years before Dubai can boast a similar lineage.
A great disservice was done to racegoers in East Anglia when Lincoln racecourse was allowed to close, as horse racing is done a disservice in allowing the Lincoln to deteriorate into just another heritage handicap. Indeed the Totopoly board game possibly celebrates the Lincoln to better effect than racing itself. (The winners of the race from 1926 to 1937 still race each other in the game). And you hardly ever hear the term ‘Spring Double any more, do you? And just for the sake of interest Mighty Gurkha won the last Lincoln at Lincoln.
Now with a little imagination the Lincoln could be re-invented as something out of the ordinary. Of course the flat season should start on a Saturday at Doncaster. It is plain dumb to start the season mid-week at Leicester or Redcar. Where is the publicity value in starting the season in a backwater? The Lincoln meeting could be a two-day fixture. Six handicaps on the Saturday. Six races on the Sunday with at least four being of listed status. Not a grand firework display or a Shirley Bassey cabaret, I grant you. But not a Bay City Rollers tribute act either.
The six handicaps could comprise a one-off ‘Scoop Spring Six’ type bet with a one-million pound plus prize fund. A five-furlong handicap, a seven-furlong, mile and a half, two and a quarter mile handicap, a ‘silver Lincoln’, with the grand finale the Lincoln itself. With a heritage going back to 1865 I suggest the Lincoln deserves to be one of the richest handicaps in Europe.
Quality, it is said, always sells. Return the grand old Lincoln to the importance it held in its heyday and a purse deserving of its history and the flat season will be off and running with the verve of Crisp around Aintree.
This article was under consideration for ‘Racing Ahead’ magazine, though they chose to publish a more relevant piece I wrote about Crisp. So this ‘blog’ or article was written six weeks ago and since then I have come up with a more radical way to re-popularise the Lincoln. This can be found under the title ‘Review of the Lincoln’.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.