Although we’re close to Aintree and the Grand National, plenty of people will be highly anticipating something else that begins on Saturday. The racing circus moves on this weekend with the Lincoln Handicap signalling the start of the flat season.
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Champion trainer John Gosden may have an even stronger hand this year and should prove difficult to dislodge from his perch, with his arsenal always enviable for his rivals.
Stobart Champion Jockey Silvestre De Sousa has arrived back from a successful stint in Hong Kong and will make a bold bid at retaining his title, though whether he will want to ride at the evening meetings or not with his new retainer is up in the air and may well decide his fate on that score.
One of the best things about racing is there is never a dull moment – if you love your four-legged friends each week brings something new for everybody. From the fiendishly difficult to solve handicaps, to the five classics that effectively drive the breeding industry, the flat industry is the cash cow of racing.
Everyone will have their own favourite tracks and their own “go to” races but looking for one a month (that’s one heck of a task) and we have to start March with the Lincoln Handicap this coming Saturday as well as the Dubai World Cup from Meydan.
April sees the Guineas trials from Newmarket and Newbury where we all get our first chance to assess who has or has not trained on at three, closely followed by both the 1000 and 2000 Guineas from Newmarket at the start of May, in 2019 the 4th and the 5th respectively.
Later in the month York put on the Dante Stakes, perhaps the best known Derby Trail, as well as the Musidora Stakes and the Yorkshire Cup. Chester is an ever popular meeting that always pulls in the crowds, and both are before the first two Irish classics from The Curragh on the 25th (2000 Guineas) and 26th (1000 Guineas).
June is one heck of a month by any standards as we head off to Epsom for the one and only English Derby (1st June), seen by many as the true test of a racehorse with the twists and undulations on the Sussex Downs. Add the Oaks on the Friday before and we have four of the five classics out of the way and the season has barely started.
Royal Ascot may wind up plenty of racing folk as the TV cameras focus more on the fashion than the horses (my view), but there is no question it is the number one flat race meeting of the entire season. Group races aplenty from Tuesday the 18th through to Saturday the 22nd and in many eyes the flat equivalent of Cheltenham, closely followed by the Irish Derby on the 29th.
No let-up come July with the Super Sprint from Newbury, The Coral-Eclipse from Sandown (6th), the Irish Oaks from The Curragh (20th) The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes from Ascot (27th), and the start of glorious Goodwood on the 29th running through to the start of August and ending on the 2nd of the month, so time to break out the Panamas and Pimms.
York take centre stage later in August with the Group One Juddmonte International (21st) as well as the Nunthorpe Stakes and the fiercely competitive Ebor handicap, leading us in to September and the Park Hill Stakes, Doncaster Cup, Champagne Stakes, and the fifth and final classic on the 14th September with the St Leger from Doncaster.
Add the Middle Park, Royal Lodge, Cheveley Park and so on and we have a really busy month at both Doncaster and Newmarket especially though for many the Ayr Gold Cup on the 21st will be the handicap they have been waiting for all season.
October sees the Dewhurst Stakes back at Newmarket, historically a major trial for the following season’s 2000 Guineas as well as the Arc De Triomphe from Longchamp on the 6th and Champions Day from Ascot (19th).
The Breeders Cup from Santa Anita (1st and 2nd November) and the aptly named November handicap from Doncaster on the 9th will effectively bring down the curtain on another entertaining and hopefully profitable season.