Scotland’s richest flat race, The Ayr Gold Cup, takes centre stage on Saturday. It has been won by some very high class animals, by no means the least of whom, was that marvellous mare Lochsong, who won in 1992. She won The Cartier Award as top European sprinter twice and was voted European horse of the year in 1993. Last years renewal saw the Kevin Ryan trained Brando become the highest rated animal to win in the history of the event, and he has gone on to victory at the top level this term, taking the Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 1/2f at Deauville. Always run at a scorching pace on a tough track, horses need to see out every yard of the trip, and an ability to win over further, particularly if the going turns testing, is a serious asset. With the ground currently described as soft, and plenty of rain in the forecast, any contenders who do stay beyond 6f are worthy of particular attention, and one that catches the eye is John Gosden’s Johnny Barnes.
Largely campaigned over 7f, he has never won at Saturday’s distance, but did catch the eye in last year’s renewal when, despite suffering interference on at least two occasions, he finished 8th, 4 1/2L behind Brando. Considering it was his first run for three months that was a pretty commendable effort. His win four weeks ago from Burnt Sugar over 7f at Goodwood should have teed him up nicely for Saturday, particularly as the runner up went on to land a valuable Leopardstown handicap, and the fifth horse home that day, Masham, collected a £52,000 prize next time out. As an entire son of Acclamation out of a Danehill mare, hopes of a stud career may still be entertained for this well bred animal, and a win on Saturday would certainly embellish, what to date is a pretty pedestrian looking c.v.
The Richard Fahey trained Rene Mathis won that same 7f Goodwood handicap as Johnny Barnes, two years ago, and he went on to finish 7th, beaten 2 1/2L (good) in that years Gold Cup. The 7yo hasn’t been seen since winning over 7f at Thirsk in April, and hasn’t won over Saturday’s trip since his 3yo days, but did give the talented Muthmir a race when finishing 3rd to him over 6f at York in 2014. He can go well after a break and handles soft ground, so could get involved at a rewarding price.
The other Fahey runner that catches the eye, is the 6yo Withernsea. Another who has been campaigned over further and is well suited by testing ground, he has been in great form in his last three races, and ran particularly well in that valuable Leopardstown heat won by Burnt Sugar last time. Given far too conservative a ride, he finished strongly to get third, but could well have gone much closer. If conditions deteriorate one to note!
Following two excellent efforts, in The Stewards Cup at Goodwood, and The Great St Wilfred handicap at Ripon, the Charlie Hills trained Shanghai Glory certainly deserves to win one of these big sprint handicaps. The 4yo son of Exceed and Excel finished a close 5th in The Stewards Cup where pilot Fran Berry felt they should have won. In The Great St Wilfred, where trainer Hills said the horse hated the track, he finished an excellent 3rd despite racing away from the first two. He is only two pounds higher on Saturday, thrives on soft ground and has Jamie Spenser in the plate, so looks a worthy favourite.
The Andrew Balding trained 4yo, Donjuan Triumphant had some cracking form as a 2yo, winning a Maison- Laffite Group2 by 5 1/2L and finishing a close 4th in a Saint-Cloud Group1. He didn’t go backwards last year either, finishing second in the Group1 6 1/2f Prix Maurice de Gheest. He moved from the Richard Fahey yard in April and has taken time to find his feet, but got his head in front sixteen days ago in a conditions race at Haydock. He has a 5lbs penalty to carry on Saturday for that win, but as he has gone up 7lbs in future handicaps he is effectively 2lbs well in. A course and distance winner, he handles easy ground and stays 7f. One for the shortlist!
The David O’Meara trained 6yo, Intisaab, is another course and distance winner who stays further, and ran a really promising race four weeks ago when going down by a short head and a head to the talented Gifted Master and Steady Pace (6f Newmarket) off a mark of 107. Racing off the same mark, he meets the winner on 5lbs better terms at the weekend, and is capable of making his presence felt, but probably wouldn’t want very soft ground.
Selection : Johnny Barnes
E.W. : Shanghai Glory