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?
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 meeting 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 what life is about, is it? Not like the jumps.
So why, if flat racing is the connoisseur’s bee’s knees, 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. The Lincoln Handicap is really small beer by comparison. Yet it will be a hundred years before Dubai can boast a lineage similar to the Lincoln. In many ways the British racing authorities have let the Lincoln down. First by allowing Lincoln racecourse to become defunct. 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 secondly by allowing the race to become just another ‘heritage’ handicap. You hardly ever hear the term ‘Spring Double any more. Just for the sake of interest Mighty Gurkha won the last Lincoln at Lincoln.
Now with a little imagination the Lincoln and the Lincoln meeting could be re-invented as something out of the ordinary. Of course the flat season should start at Doncaster. Not Leicester or Redcar. That is plain dumb. 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.
The six handicaps could comprise a one-off ‘Scoop Six’ type bet. A five-furlong handicap, a seven-furlong, mile and a half, two and a quarter mile handicap, plus of course the Lincoln and a ‘silver Lincoln’. With a heritage that goes back to 1865 I suggest that the Lincoln deserves to be one of the richest handicaps in Europe. At least with the Lincoln re-empowered with prestige and a purse equal to its history flat racing wouldn’t need to be so embarrassed to hold centre stage while we wait for the calendar to tick round to Grand National time.
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.