Jamie Spencer will ride Donncha for the first time in Saturday’s Betway Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster.
Andrea Atzeni has been aboard Robert Eddery’s six-year-old for nine of his 23 career starts, including his last run at Newmarket in October, but he’s all set to ride favourite Morando for Roger Varian in the curtain-raiser for the British Flat turf season this weekend.
That means Eddery has turned to Spencer, a jockey with a good record at Doncaster (25 wins from 135 rides — a 19% strike rate — for the last five years) but one that has yet to win the Lincoln, in part because he’s often been riding in Dubai when the meetings used to clash.
He was second aboard Brae Hill in 2011, though, and Eddery is hoping the jockey can go one better on Town Moor on Saturday.
“Jamie Spencer rides,” Eddery said. “He’s a hold-up horse that likes to come through horses so we’re hoping Jamie might be the perfect fit. He’s brilliant on this sort of horse.”
Donncha was the victim of his own consistency last season when he was without a win in eight starts, a sequence that contributes to a losing run of 12.
His mark of 100 hasn’t moved for his last five starts, however, and he runs off that rating again at Doncaster.
He did come close to winning when he was second at Sandown in July and when third in the valuable Betfred Mile at Glorious Goodwood later that month, but his best effort was arguably on his seasonal reappearance in the Betway Spring Mile at Doncaster.
The son of Captain Marvelous just missed the cut for the Lincoln a year ago, but he was a neck away from winning the Spring Mile off top weight, just being denied by Michael Dods’ Lord Of The Rock in the run for the line.
And trainer Eddery reports him to be in similar form this time around.
“Before he ran in the consolation race last year he was working really well and he’s in the same form this year,” he said.
“He ran a cracker in that so I’m hoping for the same. He looks really fit and well, he goes well fresh and he goes on any ground so I’d say he’d have an excellent chance.
“We’ll just see where he’s drawn now, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Count Octave, a well-related son of Frankel who holds an engagement in the Investec Derby, got off the mark in the style of a promising performer at Wolverhampton last night
Third on his sole outing as a two-year-old at Goodwood in October, the Andrew Balding-trained colt — a half-brother to Treasure Beach, who was beaten a head by Pour Moi in the 2011 running of the Epsom Classic — was sent off the 30-100 favourite in the Betway Maiden Stakes over a mile and a half.
Utopian Dream kept him honest down the straight with the pair well clear, but David Probert only really needed hands and heels as his mount ran out a cosy three-length scorer.
David Redvers, racing manager for owners Qatar Racing, said: “You never really know what you have got with these middle-distance types until they are on the track, but that looked a very nice performance.
“Obviously we will be guided by Andrew and where he wants to go. We think he’s a very nice horse, but whether he is a Derby horse, only time will tell.
“He certainly has the right pedigree and that was an impressive seasonal debut and we are on track.”
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