Lincoln Handicap Stats & Trends

The National Hunt scene may dominate springtime, with the dual beasts of the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree Grand National Meeting providing the finest jumps racing entertainment of the year. However, it is also at around this time of year that the upcoming flat season begins to peek over the horizon. It may be a little while before the classics lurch into view, but late March/early April sees the running of one of the most targeted handicaps of the season as the runners gather at Doncaster for the historic Lincoln Handicap.

First run in 1853, this event over the straight mile has long acted as the huge betting centrepiece on the opening Saturday of the British flat season. Invariably attracting a maximum field of 22, this £150,000 (2024) contest has provided the stage for several legendary gambles and a fair share of shock results, and it helps whet the appetite for what is to come.

Given the time of year, much of the field will be making their seasonal return in a race which draws a mixture of seasoned handicappers and unexposed performers. The latter category usually generates the most hype and betting interest, but do they hold an edge? Here, we look back at the 23 editions of the race between 2000 and 2023 (no race in 2020) and pick out a selection of stats and trends which may assist in solving this tricky punting puzzle.

Age Trends

Lincoln Handicap Age of Winner

Open to runners aged four and older, the results over the period analysed suggest that the younger legs hold the edge. 11 of 23 (47.83%) editions were won by horse in the youngest age bracket. 17 of 23 (73.91%) were aged four or five, whilst all bar 2023 winner Migration fell into the 4-6 bracket. Only three runners aged seven or older have come home in front since 1965.

Weight Carried by Winner

Lincoln Handicap Weight Carried by Winner

Each year, the top-rated runner is allocated 9st12lb. Looking at the weights carried throws up an interesting result. The low number of winners at the bottom end of the range is likely a result of only a small number of contenders managing to make the cut with such a low weight. However, the fact that only two winners have carried more than 9st4lb shows how tough it is for those who have already displayed a high level of form to hold off the potentially unexposed rivals lurking lower in the list. Overall, 20 of 23 (86.96%) winners carried between 8st9lb and 9st4lb.

Finishing Position Last Time Out

Lincoln Handicap Finishing Position Last Time Out

Winning your previous start is rarely a negative heading into any race, and such is the case in the Lincoln, with nine of 23 (39.13%) editions falling to a last-time-out winner. 13 of 23 (56.52%) had at least finished in the first three. However, that still leaves 10 of 23 (43.47%) who had failed to trouble the judge on their most recent appearance – a much higher percentage than you would find in a graded race. One possible explanation for this is the practice of trainers running their horses under less-than-ideal conditions or when not 100% fit in order to receive a reduced handicap mark ahead of this big prize.

Rating of Winner

Lincoln Handicap Rating of Winner

In common with many top flat handicaps, results from the 21st century suggest that the quality of the Lincoln has been increasing over time, as displayed in the clear upward trend line. Between 2000 and 2014, the race was won by a runner with a rating of 95 or below on eight occasions. Between 2015 and 2023, all eight winners were rated 99 or above.

Babodana (2004) and Migration (2023) were the highest-rated winners over this period, with 2001 hero Nimello being the low man on the totem pole. The average rating over the 23 editions is 97.70, but recent results suggest that this may edge higher in the coming years.

Previous Handicap Starts

Lincoln Handicap Previous Starts

The above table suggests that the more unexposed sorts have held a definite advantage in the race, which makes sense in such a competitive event – the fewer handicap outings, the more likely it is that a runner may be yet to reveal the true extent of their ability, and so have something up their sleeve from the handicapper. The one-to-five start bracket leads the way, with each subsequent bracket seeing a decline in the number of winners. The one exception to this is the 21-25 bracket. The type of runner in this category is most often a more seasoned performer with a touch of class who has dropped to mark below their previous peak rating.

Fate of the Favourite

With 22 runners lined up across the track in a race filled with handicap plots, this has all the hallmarks of a race that the market may find difficult to get right. As such, the favourite has a pretty good record. Five winning favourites or joint favourites from 23 editions, representing a strike rate of 27.74%, is very solid for a big field contest such as this, with a £1 level stakes punt on the jolly returning a profit of £4.33.

Overall, 10 of 23 winners returned a single-figure SP, five were priced between 10/1 and 18/1, with the remaining eight at 20/1 or bigger. Zucchero caused the biggest shock when coming home in front at 33/1 in 2002.

Other Stats

  • 17 of 23 winners won this on their first start of the season.
  • 20 of 23 winners had previously won over 1m or further.
  • 16 of 23 winners had previously won at Class 2 level or above.
  • William Haggas topped the trainer’s table over this period with three wins, followed by Charlie Appleby, John Gosden, John Quinn, Mark Tompkins, Paul Cole and Richard Fahey with two wins apiece.
  • Pivotal was the only sire with more than one win to his name.