Why is the Lincoln Handicap so-called?

For the uninitiated, the Lincoln Handicap, which is open to horses aged four years and upwards, is run over a straight mile on Town Moor, Doncaster in late March or early April. The Lincoln is, in fact, the first so-called ‘Heritage’ handicap of the season, nowadays worth £150,000 in guaranteed prize money, and has been the curtain-raiser for the British Flat racing season for 170 years.

Not altogether surprisingly, the Lincoln Handicap is so-called because it was inaugurated, as the Lincoln Spring Handicap Stakes, at the now-defunct Lincoln Racecourse, at Carholme, Lincolnshire, in March, 1853. The race was originally open to horses aged three years and upwards and run over a mile and a half, but was shortened to its current distance in 1855.

The Lincoln Handicap was and, to a certain extent, still is, the first leg of the so-called ‘Spring Double’, with the second leg being the Grand National, typically run a week or two later. Between the two World Wars, when ante-post betting was in its prime, the Spring Double was hugely popular with the racing public and press, reflected by the sheer weight of editorial copy devoted to the issue of landing the potentially lucrative odds on offer. At that time, the Lincoln Handicap was one of the highlights of the Flat racing season.

For all the popularity of the Lincoln Handicap, in its heyday, the Horse Racing Levy Board withdrew its subsidy from Lincoln Racecourse in 1964, forcing its closure. The following year, the race was transferred to Doncaster Racecourse, where it has been run, with one of two exceptions, ever since.

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