FIRST Island swept away some decent opposition at Doncaster yesterday to put his trainer, Geoff Wragg, in great heart for a tilt at the Dubai World Cup next week with Pentire.

In miserable conditions for the start of Flat turf racing, the colt stamped himself a smart miler in the Stones Bitter Doncaster Mile. Confidently ridden by Michael Hills, he came with a smooth run on the outside to lead at the furlong pole and defeat Wijara by one and a half lengths with favourite Nwaamis a disappointing third.

First Island acted as a lead horse for Pentire before the colt left for the Gulf earlier in the year. ``All the reports I'm getting suggest that Pentire has acclimatised well out there,'' said Wragg.

``But it's Pentire's first race on dirt and I've got to have some fears about how he will handle the kickback. The draw will also be a factor.''

Doncaster officials plan to canvas for the three-day Lincoln meeting to be transferred to April in a bid to breathe fresh life into the fixture. It is difficult to quibble with that standpoint with first a boys' race and than a ladies' race making it a disappointingly low-key launch to the Flat campaign.

The first two contests were certainly not punter-friendly with jackpot-busters Haya Ya Kefaah (33-1) and Manful (20-1) obliging.

There was more grief for backers as 16-1 chance Little Noggins found a late spurt to grab the Mitsubishi Diamond Vision Handicap. But punters got some respite when Derby entry Jackson Hill (6-4) scraped home by a short head in the Transpennine Express Handicap.

Meanwhile, Clive Brittain should be rewarded with a double on the second day through Mister Fire Eyes and Upper Mount Clair.

Mister Fire Eyes should show the benefit of a recent Wolverhampton outing by taking the William Hill Spring Mile Handicap, while Upper Mount Clair looks primed to repeat his 1995 victory in the Cystic Fibrosis Research Cup Handicap.

q CEILIDH Boy, one of 77 entries for the Stakis Casinos Scottish Grand National at Ayr next month, faces a stiff task today in the King's Own Scottish Borderers Handicap Chase at Kelso, where he comes up against Emerald Storm, a winner twice over the Borders track, writes Tom McConnell.

At Newcastle on Saturday, the 10-year-old unseated Brian Storey when challenging Fiveleigh Builds for the lead in the Arthur Stephenson Memorial Chase, but that was an uncharacteristic slip by the Earlston horse, who always runs well at Kelso.

q WITH less than three months of the season still to run Rosewell trainer Peter Monteith, with 20 winners, is regarded as a certainty to win The Herald's Leading Scottish National Hunt Trainer award.

Edinburgh bookmaker Bert Logan has quoted Monteith at 2-7 to pick up the award and last year's champion, Len Lungo, believes his Midlothian rival is already ``home, hosed and dried.''

Current positions in the Herald Championship:

Peter Monteith 20 winners, Colin Parker 12, Susan Bradburne 11, Len Lungo 11, Lucinda Russell 8, Tom Dyer 7, Dawn Goodfellow 4, Tom Kemp 4, Alastair Whillans 4, Bruce Mactaggart 2, Dorothy Thomson 2, Linda Perratt 1.