Gosden duo on Lincoln trail
John Gosden has two of the best jockeys on his side as he aims to saddle his second winner of Saturday's William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster.
The Newmarket trainer has enjoyed multiple success in many of the top races on Town Moor, including the St Leger and November Handicap, and tasted glory in the first big race of the turf Flat season with Expresso Star in 2009.
He now looks to the Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned pair of Lahaag and Eshtibaak to bring this prize back to his Clarehaven stables.
In his stable jockey William Buick aboard Lahaag and the owner's retained rider Paul Hanagan on Eshtibaak, Gosden has a strong hand.
"They are in good order and they both handle soft ground," said Gosden.
"The draw can be an issue there, but it's a fantastic track and you don't get too many hard-luck stories. Lahaag had a few issues early in life, which rather messed him up and he took a time to come to himself.
"Eshtibaak is a grand horse, probably a mile-and-a-quarter horse, but you need to stay the mile and a bit of stamina should help him."
Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, has been told there is little to choose at home between the pair.
"I haven't spoken to Paul about why he's chosen Eshtibaak other than he was unlucky a couple of times last year," he said.
"He's not the soundest horse in the world, or the easiest horse to keep right, but he's got plenty of ability and he won't mind soft ground.
"Lahaag was an improving horse last horse and had a few little problems, but I went round the yard this week and the lads said there wasn't much between them. I just imagine Paul thinks he's got a better chance in the ground on Eshtibaak."
Trainer Charlie Hills has high hopes for Captain Bertie, who was an unlucky fourth in the Lincoln consolation race, the Spring Mile, 12 months ago.
He made amends when landing the Spring Cup at Newbury, at the expense of Lincoln third Fury, on his next start and has been trained to the minute for this race.
"We're really happy with him. We backed off him in the winter and he came back in the new year," said the Lambourn trainer.
"He's a bit backwards in his coat but he's working fantastically well. He was unlucky in the consolation race last year and then went and won the Spring Cup at Newbury.
"I couldn't be happier with him, he's a spring horse and he's proven in this going."
Trainer Alan Bailey does not want the ground to deteriorate too much for Strictly Silver, who booked his place in the line-up by winning the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton.
"He wouldn't want it heavy, but anything drier would be fine," said the Newmarket trainer.
"He's as well as he would be - there can be no excuses. Robert (Tart) rides him most days at home and knows the horse well. He's very, very good value with his 5lb."
Prince Of Johanne has already scooped two big handicaps in the Cambridgeshire and the Royal Hunt Cup, but trainer Tom Tate feels his charge will be inconvenienced by the slow ground.
"He's a fast-ground horse but there are few races for a horse at this kind of level," Tate told Racing UK.
"He's come to hand quite early this time, but he does want faster ground."
Like Strictly Silver, Solar Deity has a 5lb penalty for a recent win at Wolverhampton, but trainer Marco Botti also has ground concerns.
"It looks an open race but I think Solar Deity would have a great chance provided the ground isn't too soft," said the Newmarket handler.
"He came out of Wolverhampton really well and looks in fabulous order."
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 understandably delighted to get the five-year-old back on the course.
"She didn't run last year but the year before she'd done nothing wrong," the Newmarket handler told At The Races.
"She ran well on her first start then won a maiden and a handicap. She runs off 92 and is a nice filly. Her work has been good and I'm quite pleased with her. The ground will be pretty testing and will be a bit of an unknown for us.
"She's not been beyond seven furlongs. Her dam was a sprinter but she's by Tobougg and he got more of a trip as an older horse so there's every chance she'll get the mile.
"The only advantage from being drawn 11 is to watch the consolation race before and if there is going to be a bias it does free you up to go either way."
Chapter Seven was bought of 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 action on turf.
"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."
George Baker feels the ground is likely to be against Belgian Bill, who failed to make an impact in two races at Meydan in January.
Had the going being better, the Manton trainer would fancy the five-year-old's chances.
"The ground is not ideal. Things didn't work out for him in Dubai, but he ran better there than his finishing positions would imply," said Baker.
"He's in very good form at home and one day one of these big races is going to fall into his lap. I would prefer the race to be run on good to soft, rather than proper soft ground.
"We are definitely on the back-foot on the ground, but I guess a lot of other people are as well."