The Lincoln Handicap takes centre stage on the opening day of the Flat season at Doncaster on Saturday (15:35).
Auxerre has been all the rage and clear favourite in the ante post betting ever since the weights were revealed for the historic 1m contest.
He is 7/2 with Paddy Power and those odds look fully justified based on his ultra-progressive profile.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, this Godolphin owned son of Iffraaj made a highly promising debut when runner-up to Red Starlight at Newmarket sluicing up by five lengths at Haydock.
Auxerre then followed-up in good style at Chelmsford when only having to be ridden out with hands and heels to beat Gaudi by 1 1/2 lengths.
He was allotted a handicap mark of 93 on the back of those performances and looked well ahead of it when completing the hat-trick at Kempton.
After tracking the leaders travelling strongly, he was produced to challenge a furlong from home and then stayed on powerfully a furlong from home, stayed on well to beat Piece Of History by a cost half-length.
Although put up 7lb for that success, a revised rating of 100 may still underestimate Auxerre’s ability, given that the aforementioned Red Starlight as scored twice again since and finished runner-up in a Listed race.
Auxerre appeals as the type to do even better as a four-year-old and looks the proverbial group calibre horse masquerading as a handicapper. He has the perfect profile for this and looks the one they all have to beat.
Kynren a key player
Kynren has proven form in competitive big field handicaps and looks sure to go well in the hands of Robert Winston. This David Baron trained five-year-old won three of his four starts in 2017, but failed to get his head in front last season.
However, that doesn’t tell the whole story as he ran some cracking races in defeat. They included first time up at this meeting when going down by just 2 3/4 lengths and third of 20 to High Acclaim in the Spring Mile.
Kynren also ran well when third of 19 to Euchen Glen in the John Smith’s Cup at York off 96 and a 7 3/4 lengths third of 33 to ultra-progressive Wissahickon in the Cambridgeshire at over 1m 1f at Newmarket off a mark of 100.
He went on to round off the campaign with a fine two-length fifth of 20 in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day at Ascot off 99 and now returns to action off 1lb lower.
It makes him a key player form a handicapping perspective and the booking of Winston is another positive, as he has an overall strike rate of just under 22 per cent when teaming up with the yard.
At 9/1 with William Hill, who are paying a fifth of the odds for five places, the consistent Kynren look a solid each-way option.
Saltonstall has a shout
Emerald Isle raider Saltonstall has a good record fresh and is another with claims on his first start for Adrian McGuinness.
This five-year-old ran a cracker first time up last season when a 1 1/2 lengths second of 20 to On The Go Again in the Irish equivalent of this contest at Naas off a mark of 95.
The son of Pivotal then shaped as if amiss when a well-beaten third for four at Cork, but quickly bounced back to landed a competitive 13-runner affair at The Curragh by a length from Master Speaker off 98.
He got put up to 103 for that success and it’s fair to say that Saltonstall ran well below par in three subsequent outings.
However he is now able to race off a reduced rating of 100 as a result and that makes him look weighted to make his presence felt on the pick of his form.
McGuinness is also a shrewd cookie who does well with new recruits and has his team, and in flying form at present.
The County Dublin based handler is operating at a strike rate of 44 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing, having saddled four winners from his last nine runners.
So, given that Saltonstall also has his ideal trip and underfoot conditions, everything looks in place for a big run.
At 10/1 with BetVictor, who are also paying a fifth of the outright odds for five places, he looks another well worth considering from an each-way betting perspective.
Humbert interesting on debut for O’Meara
Humbert, who can be backed at 11/1 with Ladbrokes, is another with claims in a typically wide-open and fierce renewal in which a maximum field of 22 are set to go to post.
All four success for this five-year-old have come on the all-weather, but he showed that he has shown that he can be just as effective on the turf.
That run came in the Spring Mile on this card 12 months ago where he found only High Acclaim a neck too good.
He led the centre group and was the overall leader until getting headed two from home. Humbert then stuck to the task well to go down all guns blazing off a mark of 90.
He had Kynren, from whom he was receiving 3lbs, 2 1/2 lengths behind in third and now meets that rival on level weights.
That means that there is little to separate the pair and Humbert’s current mark of 98 is just 1lb higher than when successful three starts back at Newcastle.
The son of Kodiac also now makes his debut for trainer David O’Meara, who has a good record with his inmates in this type of contest. So, taking everything into account, it would be folly to underestimate Humbert’s chances.
South Seas appeals each-way under Spencer
South Seas is a fascinating contender on his first start for in-form trainer Phil Kirby.
The booking of Jamie Spencer to do the steering is an eye-catching one which suggests he is another worth considering each-way at a tempting 14/1 on offer with Coral, who are another bookie paying a fifth of outright odds on five places.
Owner Darren Yates paid 150,000 guineas to purchase the son of Lope De Vega out of Andrew Balding’s yard last October and has made no secret of the fact it was with the intention of winning this.
South Seas clearly has the class to run a big race off his current mark of 100 as he was rated 110 at the end of juvenile season which saw him win three times.
They included success in the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown and he also ran very well when runner-up in a Group 1 over in France at Saint-Cloud.
He clearly has a touch of class and shaped as if retaining plenty of ability on more than one occasion last season.
They included when an eye-catching sixth of 15 to Tigre du Terre at Sandown off a rating of 105 where, after being held-up, he was denied a clear run when trying to make a move two form home before keeping on nicely to be nearest at the finish and beaten 5 1/2 lengths.
Given that Spencer has only had six previous mounts for Kirby – winning on two occasions – it makes South Seas of obvious interest in this and a lively outsider at the odds on offer.