Lincoln Handicap: Eton Forever heads the entries
Eton Forever's early season target will be the Lincoln.
"Eton Forever has wintered very well and, although it is still very early days, he will be on a training schedule to get him to the Lincoln..."
The Roger Varian-trained Eton Forever features among 97 initial entries for the Lincoln at Doncaster on March 31...
The historic handicap is the traditional curtain-raiser to the Flat season and Eton Forever showed a liking for Town Moor when running away with the Spring Mile, a consolation race for the Lincoln, on the same card last year.
The five-year-old, rated 111 by Timeform, went on to run three creditable races in defeat and his trainer is keeping his fingers crossed for further improvement.
"Eton Forever has wintered very well and, although it is still very early days, he will be on a training schedule to get him to the Lincoln, although a lot can happen in the meantime," said Varian.
"He didn't do much wrong last season. He ran two good races at Ascot but we came away from there, particularly after the Royal Hunt Cup where he was travelling very well two furlongs out, thinking that he didn't really get the trip over that stiff mile.
"We think an easy mile like the Doncaster mile or a stiff seven furlongs will be his ideal trip.
"He is rated 103 (BHA rating) now, which is quite a high mark and he hasn't done anything to suggest he should be any higher than that, but time will tell if he progresses further this season.
"He is a very likeable horse, with good ability, and the type of horse who runs well fresh so we will target him at the race as it might be the best time to catch him early on in the season."
The Michael Dods-trained Sweet Lightning took the Lincoln in 2011 and, although injury has kept him out of action since, connections are still hopeful he will be ready to defend his crown.
Tim Jones, racing manager for owner Andrew Tinkler, said: "Sweet Lightning is in Dubai at the moment and is going to have one or maybe two runs out there leading up the Lincoln. We will take it from there.
"The reality is that he is now rated significantly higher than he was last year (8lb higher) so whether he can go there and carry that sort of weight in the Lincoln or not, I don't know.
"Very shortly after last year's success he suffered an injury that he has taken a very long time to recover from, so it is a matter of trying to find out whether or not he has retained his ability, but he appears to be in great form at the moment.
"I would like to think he has more improvement in him. The plan will be for Johnny Murtagh to ride him again and similar ground to last year will be perfect."
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