The names still trip off the tongue, Anak Pekan, Pinchbeck, St Andrews, Pulau Tioman, Putra Pekan, Ofaraby, Putra Kuantan, Peak of Perfection. Every racing fan has a favourite Michael Jarvis horse, a go to option when the betting gods had been unkind that would put you right. Iffraaj was mine, a horse that benefitted from a patient approach to eventually reach his peak in Group company after landing valuable handicaps along the way. Though the Jarvis/Robinson axis will perhaps be best remembered for the rapidly-improving 3-y-o that would make hay in handicaps throughout May and June, usually not seeing another rival as it made all around the Roodeye and the like. Sadly, it’s been a force that hasn’t been so potent over the last couple of seasons and it’s with some sadness that news reaches us that Michael Jarvis is to retire because of his ill-health.
Jarvis trained some top-class horses throughout his forty-three year career, winning the Arc with Carroll House and the One Thousand Guineas and Oaks with Ameerat and Eswarah, whilst surely only inexperience cost him a Derby with Hala Bek. If there was one horse which truly showcased Jarvis’ skills it was perhaps Rakti. A very difficult horse to harness, but anyone who remembers his front-running demolition in the 2005 Lockinge will testify what a top-class horse he was. I wish Michael, and the team at Kremlin House to be headed by his former assistant Roger Varian all the best for the future.
One of Varian’s first runners could well be Eton Forever who is prominent in bookmakers ante-post lists for the Lincoln. With the weights revealed, now is as good a time as any to look at the race and I don’t believe it’s anything like the pin-sticking cavalry charge many would have us believe. I’m not a stats punter by any means, particularly ones that rely on small and unreliable sample sizes, but I do note the record of horses towards the head of the market in this race of late. Of the last twelve renewals, six have been won by the favourite or joint-favourite. This isn’t significant in itself but it does point to the fact that the race is solvable these days whilst a recent trend tends to favour four-year-olds.
That is logical when you think about it. The vast majority of handicaps are won by well-handicapped horses. The vast majority of horses that run in valuable Heritage Handicaps these days are not well handicapped. The prize money which is much higher in these races than listed events continues to tempt connections to chance their arm but from a betting perspective, all they are doing is helping the ante-post prices of horses like Penitent and Expresso Star hold up. By virtue of being more lightly raced than their elders, the four year olds are less exposed and have more scope for improvement.
A look at the BHA handicappers response to the Lincoln in previous years is a guide to what type of improvement the winner of this year’s race is going to need to find. Smokey Oakey and Blythe Knight went up only 6 lb for their wins, but more impressive winners like Penitent and Expresso Star went up 11 lb and 10 lb respectively. Does the horse you fancy have half a stone of improvement in him?
The 2011 renewal will be the fifth since the maximum field size has been reduced to twenty. At Newcastle in 2007, the lowest official rating to get into the race was 88 and in 2010 it was 91. However in the two intervening years it was as high as 94. Looking at the entries, I think it’s going to be difficult for those rated below 91 to get a run.
Unfortunately, having identified the need to find an improving 4-y-o rated higher than 91, I find all of those horses right at the top of bookmakers ante-post lists. Horses like Our Joe Mac, Brick Red, Kalk Bay, Gunner Lindley are all entitled to go well and are likely to be shorter prices on the day than they are at present. The one that interests me most though is Suited And Booted. He didn’t get off the mark until his sixth start but he’s proven most progressive since and has won his last two starts in handicaps. A strong traveller with a potent turn of foot, he is sure to be suited by the demands of a race like the Lincoln. The downside is he hasn’t been seen since July which suggests a problem of some sort and I’d want to see some positive comments from the stable regarding his participation before getting too involved.