Throw your lot in with Swan

THIS is always a stressful time of year for lovers of the National Hunt game as they try to come to terms with the fact a new Flat season has once again muscled its way on to the scene.

For the second year running however, the first big event of the turf campaign, the Lincoln Handicap, will be taking place on unfamiliar territory thanks to the modernisation work currently taking place at what has now become its traditional home of Doncaster. Twelve months ago, Redcar took a shot of staging the 100,000 contest, today, it's Newcastle's turn, but from a punting angle all we really have to know is that, no matter the venue, it's still a maximum field, 20-runner headache.

The giant Gentleman's Deal has already secured one big prize this week with victory in Lingfield's Winter Derby and, according to trainer Mick Easterby, has 50 mares waiting patiently for him back at stud so the six year-old's cup truly does runneth over at the moment.

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Even with the 5lbs penalty he picks up for that Lingfield success, Paul Mulrennan's mount is still rated over a stone lower on grass than he is on an artificial surface so if he can transfer his recent form back to the real stuff, he'll be able to buy each and every one of those mares a nice bunch of flowers when he goes courting. He has looked a different horse recently although his record suggests he'll have to be as in seven attempts on sand, he's won all seven, in eight outings on turf, he's won just once.

Now that we've got the Flat back of course, we can also try to decipher what the draw is going to do, with experts of the opinion that a high draw is to be coveted in the Lincoln.

It would, though, hardly be the first time things don't pan out the way they're supposed to so let's fly in the face of conventional wisdom and go for lowly-drawn Irish raider Crooked Throw to prevail at Gosforth Park.

Charlie Swan's runner scored three times last term and although beaten a fair way by the winner when finishing second in last Saturday's Irish Lincolnshire at the Curragh it was still not a bad way to kick off a new season.

Appalachian Trail did Ian Semple proud in his three runs in Dubai and while there would normally be a slight worry about a horse coming back from warmer climes to the cooler conditions likely to prevail for today's Cammidge Trophy, it's worth remembering the gelding lives in Carluke so he's liable to find the Newcastle temperatures almost tropical.

For the time being, we'll stick with the sticks for the nap, Altilhar rated the best bet of the day in the Ascot opener.

Gary Moore's novice couldn't prevent Gaspara collecting a 75,000 bonus for David and Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival but he got closer than anyone else to the Imperial Cup winner and this looks easier.

Easy is one word you couldn't use to describe this evening's Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba but the winner does get 1,836,734.69 so for that kind of dosh, you would expect to have to put in a little effort. Godolphin have won the race five times in the last eight years and the unbeaten Discreet Cat can enhance that sequence by once again getting the better of American challenger Invasor.

The latter has been beaten just once in 11 starts but significantly that came when he was firmly put in his place by Discreet Cat on this card a year ago.