PAUL Hanagan admits it was “a tough decision” choosing Eshtibaak over Lahaag as his mount in the William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster today.
As first jockey to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum he had the pick of the two John Gosden-trained runners.
The two-times champion jockey has yet to win the first big race of the new Flat season, although his former boss, trainer Richard Fahey, struck with Brae Hill 12 months ago. “It was a tough decision between him and Lahaag. There wasn’t a lot in it. The only thing that swung it was I thought a lot of Eshtibaak last year,” said Hanagan. “He was very unlucky twice. At Kempton I got knocked over at the start. Next time at Royal Ascot I didn’t get much of a run, so that kind of swung it.
“They say he’s done very well and he looks well. I won on him at Lingfield then we just had no luck at all after that. You have to make a decision and hopefully one of them wins.”
Gosden feels both horses deserve to take their chance. “The track and the trip will suit both of them, they have been working nicely and they are drawn either side of the track,” he said. “Eshtibaak in a sense is probably a mile-and-a-quarter horse, as was Expresso Star, and on soft ground you want to see the trip out. The mile at Doncaster demands getting.”
Gladys’ Gal just made the cut to give her the opportunity to return to action for the first time since she won on this track in July 2011. Her trainer, Roger Varian, is delighted to get the five-year-old back on the course. “Gladys’ Gal has been working well this spring. I think she will stay a mile and that soft ground shouldn’t pose a problem,” the Newmarket trainer said.
Solar Deity has a 5lb penalty for a recent win at Wolverhampton but trainer Marco Botti is worried the ground might be too testing.
Chapter Seven was bought from the Richard Fahey stable for 95,000 guineas in the autumn and has a victory over Lahaag to his credit. His new trainer, Stuart Williams, reports the four-year-old in fine shape for a return to turf action. “The obvious place to start him is the Lincoln,” said the Newmarket handler. “We were just in front of John Gosden’s horse (Lahaag) at York when they were first and second and that horse has been favourite for quite a while so I’d be hopeful of a good run from him. He won’t mind the ground and he’s going there in real good form.”
Trainer Charlie Hills has high hopes for Captain Bertie, who was an unlucky fourth in the Spring Mile 12 months ago. He made amends when landing the Spring Cup at Newbury on his next start and has been trained to the minute for this race. “I couldn’t be happier with him, he’s a spring horse and he’s proven in this going,” said the Lambourn trainer.
George Baker feels the ground may be against Belgian Bill, who failed to make an impact in two races at Meydan in January.
The opening day of the Flat season took place in freezing conditions yesterday, with the snow that relented after three morning inspections only making way for an arctic wind, and Hills has designs on Model Pupil developing into a horse for the Cup races later this season after he made a winning return in the William Hill No 1 Downloaded Betting App Doncaster Shield.
After beating the smart Shantaram in a Newmarket maiden last April, Model Pupil finished second in the Chester Vase before a setback kept him off the track until October, where he was beaten at odds-on at Leicester. He was sent off the 5-6 favourite to make a winning return under Ryan Moore and while for a few strides Art Scholar looked to be travelling the better, Model Pupil’s class and stamina kicked in and he pulled clear to beat The Bull Hayes by eight lengths.
It may have been a new season but if you stick with Bill Turner you never go far wrong and his Mick’s Yer Man (5-1) was certainly his most impressive winner out of an incredible tally of six when he landed the William Hill Download The App Brocklesby Conditions Stakes.