THE Lincoln Handicap, traditionally the feature event on the first day of Britain’s flat turf season would have taken place at Doncaster on March 28, but as with all other racing fixtures it was forced to cancel due to the current coronavirus pandemic, writes Lucy Russell-Hughes.

Horse racing in Britain has been suspended until at least the end of April and with the cancellation of this year’s Grand National at Aintree, along with the Lincoln, which for betting purposes would have served as the Spring Double, it is a huge loss to the sporting calendar.

In light of the latest repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, it has allowed many in the racing community to reflect on their adoration of the sport.

And reflecting on the Lincoln, which this year would have been the 167th running of the prestigious race, it has proven a very successful event for Malton trainers.

Both John Quinn and Richard Fahey have enjoyed winning it twice.

Also the former legendary trainer Peter Easterby has won it on two separate occasions in its earlier runnings.

One of the race’s most regarded winners was the 2006 scorer Blythe Knight.

The Quinn-trained horse landed the event on his first start for his new trainer at odds of 22/1 with jockey Graham Gibbons in the saddle.

The meeting was held at Redcar racecourse during that year whilst Doncaster underwent refurbishment and Quinn’s son Sean recalls how pleased his father was with the result.

“It was a race Dad always wanted to win,” he said.

“He was chuffed when Blythe Knight did it. Also Levitate won it for us in 2013. It’s a great race and it’s the first big handicap that everyone associates with grass racing.”

Blythe Knight, now 20 years old, is one of the yard’s favourites, enjoying a well-deserved retirement at the Quinn’s Malton property.

“He has a home for life at our yard,” said Sean.

“He went off and did a few things in retirement but he didn’t take to the retraining as well as some horses might. He has a great life with us and he lives out in the field.”

Further to his Lincoln success, Blythe Knight went onto win Listed and Group races at the likes of York and Epsom.

He also added a Graded race over hurdles to his impressive CV when he landed the Top Novices Hurdle at Aintree in 2007.

Sean went on to explain how the yard is remaining upbeat and busy despite the current lockdown on the UK.

“Everyone is in the same boat and we are just trying to make the best of it,” he said. “We didn’t have as many jumpers this season, but the ones we had, around seven or eight, we have given them a break.”

The stable’s last couple of runs were extremely pleasing as Lord Riddiford won a competitive race on the all-weather surface at Chelmsford before one of the yard’s promising young jump horses, Dusty’s Choice, was runner-up in a novice hurdle event.

Although a dual purpose trainer, Quinn’s yard is made up mainly of flat horses, and the fact that the virus has forced the country into lockdown has come at an extremely difficult time as their season has been put on hold.

“We haven’t been doing as much or any fast work with the flat horses,” said Sean. “We are still cantering them daily and the two-year-olds in particular, we are keeping going because they still need educating.”

The Malton trainer was set to have a handful of runners ready and primed to contest last month’s Doncaster fixture and his son expressed the disappointment at having to miss out.

“There were three or four horses pencilled into run,” added Sean.

“There is a two-year-old that might have run in the Brocklesby as he was well forward so it is a pity for him and his owners.”

Alike with the Lincoln, the Brocklesby is another race proven very fortunate for North Yorkshire handlers. It is a conditions race run over the minimum trip and notable as the traditional opening two-year-old race of the British flat season.

Another Quinn horse that was also set for an early return to the track this season was

El Astronaute.

“He was going to be ready to run and he’s a horse that runs in plenty of the good sprints,” said Sean about one of the yards flagship horses who will undoubtedly be targeted in some top races this summer.

With many of these early targets for horses no longer, there is still plenty that Quinn’s son is looking forward to once racing resumes.

“In particular I’m looking forward to seeing how Liberty Beach does this year, she did so well as a two-year-old,” he said. “She’s done really well physically and I know Dad is really happy with her.

“We are hoping that racing can start again in May but seeing everything else that is going on in the world and other sporting events that are being delayed you just can’t be 100 per cent certain that racing will begin then.”