Doncaster Saturday

1:50 Pertemps Network EBF Brocklesby Stakes 5f 3y

The flat is back! And what better way of getting punters into the swing of things than with a race on heavy ground for unraced horses who may or may not have reached their second birthday.

It’s not my idea of punting heaven, but there are some people out there for whom the Brocklesby is the most exciting event of the entire spring. Each to their own, I suppose.

I can’t really find an interesting angle into the race this year, with the standout on paper being the AMO Racing-owned Valadero, a Starspangledbanner colt out of a winning half-sister to Jim Bolger’s Amethyst Stakes winner Steip Amach, and that cost €250,000 as a yearling at the Goffs Orby Sales.

This fella appeals on pedigree and must be a decent specimen for his sales price to have trebled in less than a year, while he is sure to have done his pre-training with the excellent Robson Aguiar, who also did the early work on last year’s winner Persian Force.

2:25 Pertemps Network Spring Mile Handicap 1m

My view, based on previous meetings on soft/heavy ground on Town Moor is that low numbers are likely to be favoured on the straight track at Doncaster this weekend, and the pair who appeal most in the Spring Mile are Isla Kai and Dirtyoldtown.

The former eased in the weights after a winless 2022 campaign, but did bounce back to something like his best form when third in a big field at York on his final start. That was the only time all year he was able to race with ease in the ground, and his previous record on yielding or softer turf is a perfect four wins from four runs, including two wins over course and distance.

Despite Isla Kai’s credentials, slight preference is for the Grant Tuer-trained Dirtyoldtown, who strikes me as the type to improve as a four-year-old, and who ran his best race last season on his reappearance on rain-softened ground at Musselburgh.

The pair behind him that day both won competitive handicaps on their next starts, and he was conceding weight to both. Dirtyoldtown didn’t really progress after that, although he was only narrowly beaten here in September by the smart New Kingdom, who has since defied a mark of 101 in Meydan.

Dirtyoldtown was a winner on soft ground for George Boughey, and can be forgiven his inconsistent profile having been gelded halfway through his three-year-old campaign. His trainer gets excellent results from his horses, and has a positive record when returning them to the track after an absence.

3:00 Pertemps Network Cammidge Trophy Stakes (Listed) 6f 2y

Karl Burke has a strong hand here with El Caballo and Fast Response, and preference is for the latter, who is too big in the betting by dint of her second-string status.

El Caballo was last seen when trailing home as joint favourite for the Commonwealth Cup, with fast ground blamed for his poor showing and presumably he was jarred up from that run to have been absent since.

It makes sense that the stable jockey should ride him as he remains a prospective top-notcher at sprint trips given how impressive he had been in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock prior to Ascot.

That said, he does have a bit to prove given his lack of competitive action, and Fast Response makes more appeal given she produced a career best in identical circumstances when winning the Wentworth Stakes here in November.

The daughter of Fast Company, like many by her sire, relishes the mud, and improved markedly last autumn having been a run-of-the-mill handicapper.

Whether she can improve beyond this grade is open to question, but she is proven at the track, in the ground and at Listed level, so looks to have an excellent opportunity on her return to action.

3:35 Pertemps Network Lincoln (Heritage Handicap) 1m

I’m again banking on the far side of the track being favoured in the Lincoln, and the pair who appeal at the overnight odds are Encourageable and Baradar.

Encourageable is held on a formline through Wanees, who had him back in sixth when the pair met at Haydock in the autumn, but I reckon James Horton’s four-year-old will progress again after just a handful of handicap starts, and it’s notable that his best performance was the one time he encountered genuinely soft ground last season, when beating Positive Impact at level weights (including that rider’s claim) at Thirsk.

Positive Impact was rated 100 by the BHA handicapper after winning his next start, and Encourageable starts the new season on a mark of 94, which looks very workable. He’s well drawn by my calculations in stall 3 and while there will be a maximum field for the Lincoln, he’s pretty much the only confirmed front-runner in the field, and Auxerre made all to win this prize a few years ago.

Baradar is easier to make a case for, and should benefit from taking a tow from the main selection and possibly Helm Rock in stall 2.

He was placed in the Futurity over course and distance in 2019 and was a ready winner over seven furlongs in heavy ground here in November on his first start for George Boughey.

He looked a Lincoln horse there, and although raised 4lb for that effort, still begins 2023 lower in the weights than he was last year.

His wins have all come at seven furlongs, but he stays a mile, and his proven form in the ground and on Town Moor are significant positives.


Dirtyoldtown 2:25 Doncaster – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 (Bet365 - 6 places)

Fast Response 3:00 Doncaster –

1pt win @ 9/1 (general)

Encourageable 3:35 Doncaster –

1pt e/w @ 33/1 (Bet365, 25/1 general - 6 places)

Baradar 3:35 Doncaster –

1pt e/w @ 9/1 (general - 6 places)