Just three trainers (Ivor Anthony, Denys Smith and David Elsworth) have won both the Lincoln Handicap and the Grand National, but no trainer has ever won both races in the same year – a feat known as the ‘Spring Double’. While the first race marks the start of the Flat season, the second is the zenith of the Jumps season and the two races take place on consecutive Saturdays in early April.
The challenge of backing the winners of both races, never mind training them, is so difficult that William Hill Bookmakers once gave thousands of potential investors a free £20 bet on the double. The offer followed an abortive attempt, in 1999, at floating the company on the stock exchange – at which point they gave everyone, who had registered an interest in the floatation, a voucher for the free bet. It would be easy to view the offer as a cynically empty gesture – but I, like many other punters, latched on to the John Dunlop trained 9/2 Lincoln favourite Right Wing, who won cosily by half a length.
My Grand National selection was Addington Boy, who was well supported in the market to 10/1. My potential winnings were £1,100, for a completely free stake, and although Addington Boy eventually finished fourth (winning me nothing), it was one of the most thrilling bets that I’ve ever placed. So imagine how exciting it is going to be when Jimmy Moffatt completes the Spring Double with Golden Town and Highland Lodge, both of which can be easily backed for their respective races at 50/1. That’s 2,600/1 for the win double or just over 180/1 if they can both reach a place.
I should point out that I know almost exactly nothing about Golden Town's chances in the Lincoln. But, having become the top trainer at Cartmel last year, I have faith in Jimmy achieving pretty much anything that he sets his mind to (as long as it involves training horses and has nothing to do with rocket science).
Highland Lodge, on the other hand, has won a race over at least 3 miles (like ten of the last ten Grand National winners); has an official rating higher than 137 (like ten of the last ten winners); has run at least three times since August (like nine of the last ten winners); has won a chase worth more than £29,000 (like nine of the last ten winners); has previously been placed over the National fences - when winning the Becher Chase (like seven of the last ten winners) and will carry no more than 11st (like eight of the last ten winners).
Asked about Highland Lodge’s chances by The Racing Post, Jimmy was quoted as saying “We’re pretty confident.” Which is how I feel about this weekend’s selection: Clic Work at Wincanton on Saturday.