William Haggas goes in search of a record fifth Pertemps Network Lincoln on Saturday with Al Mubhir lining up at Doncaster for the Somerville Lodge handler.
Haggas is locked with Jack Robinson on four victories apiece in the season-opening handicap, but appears to have an outstanding chance of becoming the outright leading trainer in the one-mile event with the likely favourite, who will be the mount of Andrea Atzeni.
An easy winner in heavy ground at Haydock at the back-end of last season, the four-year-old has undergone wind surgery ahead of his reappearance, with Haggas expecting conditions to be in his favour.
He said: “Al Mubhir did well last year. He is a nice horse who won on heavy ground at Haydock and the ground looks like it is coming right for him. He’s pretty fit and all being well, he should run a nice race.
“I thought he was going to be a good horse. He won his maiden very nicely at Newmarket as a two-year-old and then I thought he was going to be a nice three-year-old.
“Then he was very disappointing. He was pretty unruly as well and lost his way a bit.
“But he finished the season well. I don’t know how good he is, but he’s always been a nice horse and I think he’s in good shape.”
Haggas will also be represented in the race by Montassib, who was last seen finishing second to Wanees at Haydock in September.
The winner went up 3lb for that success and now races off a mark of 96, but trainer Charlie Hills is hopeful there is still improvement to come from the costly son of Le Havre.
“We’ve had this race in mind since his last run last year,” explained Hills.
“We are happy with him and he has form in soft ground which is great and I just feel that a nice, strongly-run mile, will suit him well.
“He’s a lightly-raced horse and still unexposed to what we think he could be, so hopefully he will run a decent race.”
Baradar made the perfect start to life with George Boughey when scoring over seven furlongs at Town Moor on debut for the Saffron House handler in November.
All three of the five-year-old’s victories have come with cut in the ground and connections are hoping he will relish testing conditions once more, stepping up to a mile.
“There’s obviously some nice horses in there lurking off good marks, but this has been the plan for our horse all along,” said Tom Pennington of Amo Racing.
“His three wins have come on soft and heavy ground, so the more rain the better for him.
“He’s in good form and has got good course form, finishing third in the Vertem Futurity as a two-year-old and won there at the backend of last year very impressively for George.
“He’s got the same draw as the winner came from last year (stall four), he’ll be ridden patiently and the ground will suit him.”
Another with both track and soft ground form to his name is Charlie Fellowes’ Atrium who was last seen striking over course and distance and now returns to South Yorkshire in search of a three-timer.
“He is in good order and has had a pretty clear run throughout the winter,” said Fellowes.
“This has been the plan since he got balloted out of the Balmoral and I’m pretty happy with him.
“It is in no doubt he is better with a bit of dig in the ground, but to win a Lincoln off 100 you have to be pretty much a Group horse and even though he was progressive last year, there’s no doubt he needs to take another step forward to be in that bracket.
“We hope he has taken that step forward and I’ve been delighted with his work. He’s never been a great work horse, but actually his work recently has been pretty good. It won’t take much for him to improve again.”
Second behind Atrium here in September was the thoroughly-consistent Empirestateofmind, who is one of two in the race for John Quinn and owner Ross Harmon along with stable stalwart Safe Voyage.
Quinn said: “Safe Voyage seems very well. He’s a 10-year-old now, but his last run was a very good run at Ascot in the big handicap and he still retains plenty of ability.
“Whether he can win a Lincoln at this stage I don’t know, but he’s fit and well and he’ll love the ground.
“Empirestateofmind is in good fettle as well. He had a good year last year and was touched off on his last run of the season at York.
“The handicapper put him up another 4lb for that and he’s gone up 7lb for finishing second three times in his last three runs. With that in mind I thought it would help to claim off him and your man (Taylor Fisher) is good value for his (5lb) claim I think.
“The horse is in good form, he’s fit and will like the ground.”
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