First run in its present format in 1906 this very valuable handicap with a maximum field of 25 runners, is always a highly competitive heat. Raced for over Ayr’s straight 6f, usually on easy ground, it is always run at a pillar to post gallop, putting a premium on stamina, and an ability to stay beyond 6f has proven a decided asset in the past. It has proved a tough race for the Classic generation with only two 3yo’s getting their head in front in the past 22 years, and market leaders have done even worse, with only 2 delivering the goods since 1980. The late lamented Dandy Nicholls scored a fantastic six timer in the contest, a terrific strike rate by any standards, and very difficult to beat, but his fellow Yorkshire based trainer, Irishman, Kevin Ryan, with four wins is creeping up on the rails, and his 4yo, Tommy Taylor might just be the horse to get him to within one of Dandy’s record.
A son of the American stallion, Mizzen Mast, with only 2 wins from 17 starts, his strike rate isn’t exactly impressive, but his run in The Sky Bet Dash Handicap (6f Soft) at York at the end of July hinted at better to come. He finished 5/14, only a nose behind one of the market leaders for Saturday’s contest, Growl, and meets him on the same terms on Saturday, which makes his current odds of 25/1 look generous. He put in another decent effort last time, finishing 3rd in an Ascot Class2 Handicap (6f Gd-Fm) two weeks ago. Well suited by soft ground and stays 7f, (only beaten a head by the useful Londinium over 7f on heavy ground on his 2yo racing debut in 2016) he could find plenty in his favour on Saturday.
Following an excellent run in the 5f Group1 Flying Five at The Curragh last Sunday, the Fozzy Stack trained 4yo, Son of Rest, has the doubtful honour of leading Saturday’s market. He was only beaten 1/2L by Havana Grey, and had Sioux Nation, a previous top level scorer, a neck back in 3rd, at the Co Kildare venue, and he gets into Saturday’s contest on a mark 10lbs lower than his new rating of 111. As would be expected of a son of Pivotal, he relishes testing ground, (Has won on heavy and soft and was 2 3/4L behind Caravaggio on Soft/Heavy in a Curragh Group2 last year). He probably deserves his position at the top of the market, but it’s a concern that, while he clearly stays 6f and beyond, he has never won at the trip, and there has to be a worry about his ability to recover from last Sunday’s exertions in only six days. If he does prevail on Saturday, he will find his own little niche in history as the first winner from the Emerald Isle.
Despite their poor record in the contest, Roger Varian’s 3yo, Laugh a Minute looks interesting. A son of Mayson, (his progeny thrive in testing conditions) he has won 2 of his 9 starts, and put up an excellent performance in the Group3 Prix De Meautry Barriere at Deauville 24 days ago. He finished 2nd, 3 1/2L behind the subsequent winner, Tantheem (won a Longchamp Group3 easily from City Light next time) and had the useful D’Bai (close 2nd in a Doncaster Group2 next time back in 4th), strong form indeed! His mark on Saturday of 109, giving him a racing weight of 9-8 makes life look difficult, but it is a tight handicap, and with his liking for soft ground and proven ability to stay further, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see him improve the 3yo’s record in the race.
The Tim Easterby trained 5yo, Flying Pursuit has won 7 of his 37 starts and handles testing conditions, He has been in good form of late, winning the Sky Bet Dash at York from stable companion, and opponent on Saturday, Golden Appolo, at the end of July, and then finishing 6/20 in The Great St Wilfrid at Ripon on Good ground three weeks later. Back on soft ground, this previous course and distance winner is worth a second look.
Richard Fahey (a trainer seeking his third win in the race) will be hoping that his 6yo Growl can go one better than when finishing 2nd to Brando in the 2016 renewal. He has been running well in all the top sprint handicaps this term, and indeed, may have been a tad unlucky not to have landed Goodwood’s Stewards Cup in August. Racing off a mark of 99 he had to be switched at the furlong marker and finished really strongly to nab 3rd place on the line. Racing off the same mark on Saturday he looks well treated, but probably wouldn’t be suited by really testing ground.
The Dean Ivory trained 3yo filly, Eirene has been mostly campaigned at six and seven furlongs, and she put in an excellent round last time when going down by a hard fought 3/4L to Dancing Star in Doncaster’s Group3 7f Sceptre Stakes 8 days ago. She was pulled up on her only other venture into handicap company when losing her action in Goodwood’s Stewards Cup, Racing off a mark of 101. She has won at 5, 6, and 7 furlongs, handles soft ground and following that excellent effort at Doncaster last week looks well handicapped on her Goodwood mark. One to be interested in!
Selection : Laugh A Minute
E.W. : Tommy Taylor