Overnight rain on Thursday into yesterday hit connections, punters and bookmakers alike ahead of the William Hill Lincoln, the feature race on the opening day of the turf Flat season at Doncaster today.
The defections came as the going was changed to soft from good following almost 20 millimetres of rain, but drier conditions are expected for race day.
The change in the ground caused the defection of ante-post favourite Captain Cat, as well as the fancied Bronze Angel and Norse Blues, from the big mile handicap resulting in a shake-up in the betting.
The sponsors revised their market, with Gabrial’s Kaka and Off Art sharing favouritism at 13-2. “Gabrial’s Kaka is the worst result in the book at this stage and leads the betting at 13-2 with Off Art,” said William Hill spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke. “Sweet Lightning has also been trimmed from 20-1 to 12-1 after support following the going change.”
Another horse who has been well-backed in recent days is 7-1 chance Tullius, whose connections are optimistic the six-year-old can make up for a long time on the sidelines.
The Andrew Balding-trained gelding was off the track from August 2012 to October 2013, but is now believed to be right back to the kind of form that saw him win seven times before injury intervened.
“He had injury problems last year and was never right,” said Sam Hoskins, manager of owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds. “Andrew is very bullish about him and feels he is back in the shape he was in 2012 when he won the Group Three Sovereign Stakes, but it’s a very hard race to win.
“The ground is now soft and having a 22 draw on the stands side is probably good on that ground so he’s got every chance. He has got a lot of weight and the stats are probably against him on that front but he is the class horse in the race.”
Off Art attracted plenty of interest after he just scraped into the race at the bottom of the handicap. The rain-softened ground will hold no terrors for the colt, according to his trainer Tim Easterby.
“He’s in good form and I think the ground will be OK for him,” said the Great Habton handler.
The Richard Fahey-trained Gabrial’s Kaka won just once from eight appearances last term, but ran arguably his best race in defeat on his final start, finishing runner-up behind John Gosden’s subsequent Hollywood Derby hero Seek Again at York. The son of Jeremy is joined by stable companion Hi There.
Fahey said earlier this week: “Gabrial’s Kaka is in great order and hopefully he’ll run a big race. He’ll need to have improved to win it, running off a mark of 95, but we think he has.”