With only 3 “Jollies” obliging in the past 40 years, one could be forgiven for thinking that The Ayr Gold Cup isn’t a particularly punter friendly heat, but the fact that 2 of the 3 (including last year’s dead heating favourite, the first Irish trained winner of the race, Son Of Rest) have come in the last 4 years, gives a rather different impression, and has to make the current market leader, Buffer Zone, of particular interest.
The 4yo son of the high class sprinter, Bated Breath, spent his first two seasons with Beckhampton handler, Roger Charlton, winning 2 of his 7 starts and left Wiltshire with a Handicap rating of 86. Transferred to the Co Meath yard of the talented, Ger Lyons last May, the 4yo has made rapid progress in his 4 runs for his new stables, and following an impressive victory last Sunday, in a valuable 24 runner, 6f Curragh Handicap, off a mark of 99, looks very well treated with just a 5lbs penalty to carry on Saturday. A rapidly improving type, (well entered up in Group races) who thrives in these big field handicaps, he will make them all go at the weekend if fully recovered from last Sunday’s exertions, and must have bright prospects of becoming the second challenger from across The Irish Sea, to score in the long history of the race.
With 4 wins in the race, Kevin Ryan has the outstanding record in the contest, and he will be hoping to improve it further with his well handicapped 4yo, Hey Jonesy. The son of Excelebration’s strike rate of 1/16 is hardly impressive, but he has done most of his racing at listed/Group level, generally acquitting himself well, and has been rated as high as 110 in the past. He put in a particularly good effort in a Haydock Conditions event, (7f Gd-Sft) in July going down by 1/2L to the now 107 rated Marie’s Diamond,
(Rec 7 lbs). He didn’t seem to get home over Ascot’s stiff 7f eight days later and his shrewd handler has put him on the easy list for the past 8 weeks. Racing off an attractive mark of 103 on Saturday, and back over his best trip, he will strip, one of the freshest horses in the field. Coming from a yard going great guns at the moment and with such a good record in the race, he looks good value at his current odds of 25/1.
David O’Meara, who won with the 6yo, Louis The Pious 5 years ago, is mob handed at the time of writing, and the one that stands out for me is the very consistent 5yo son of Lope De Vega, Summerghand. Last time out he ran his usual game race, where despite being drawn on the wrong side, he kept on strongly to finish 2nd to Dakota Gold in Ripons Great St Wilfrid Handicap. The Handicapper has been unrelenting and raised him another 2 lbs for Saturday, but while his lack of generosity tempers confidence, Summerghand is one of those tough types who will be in his element in a race like Saturday’s, and it will not surprise to see him involved at the business end.
The Paul Cole trained 6yo, Baron Bolt, who shared the spoils with Son Of Rest in last year’s renewal, is attempting to become the first back to back winner of The Ayr Gold Cup since Heronslea in 1931. The omens aren’t exactly propitious however as it looks unlikely that he will get the testing conditions that seemed to suit so well last year, and his current form isn’t nearly as good as last term. However, as a result he is 6lbs lower, and presumably has been trained all season, targeting a repeat, so is worth bearing in mind, particularly if the rains arrive.
Andrew Balding has won this twice, and fields an interesting contender in the ex Richard Fahey trained Don Juan Triumphant. Now a 6yo, he was trained for his first two seasons by The Malton Maestro, and as a juvenile, he not only won an Ayr nursery over course and distance, but also landed a Group2 at Maison-Laffite, and ran with credit in a 7f St Cloud Group1. Failing to build on his excellent 2yo career at three, he moved to Kingsclere where he has won only 2 of his 19 starts for Mr Balding. However he has run some excellent races in defeat including a good 3rd of 14 in last October’s Group1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot, and was a good 2nd to top sprinter, Brando, at Hamilton in June. Another who is best with some cut, he would be worth considering particularly if we get some rain. An entire horse, he is owned by the powerful King Power Racing Co, who presumably hope to stand the well bred son of Dream Ahead as a stallion, and a victory on Saturday wouldn’t go amiss on his CV.
The Sir Michael Stoute trained 3yo, Alkaraama will need quite a few above him in the handicap to come out to get a run but if he does he could be interesting. A son of the top class American Stallion War Front, he was unraced as a juvenile but has looked progressive in his 3yo career, winning three of his six starts. Despite being beaten last time, he took a further step forward, finishing 2nd to another upwardly mobile 3yo, Swindler. He was conceding 4lbs to the 3/4L winner and had Saturday’s opponent, Open Wide, whom he meets on 5 lbs better terms on Saturday a head back in third.
Selection. : Buffer Zone
EW. : Summerghand Hey Jonesy