Kings Stand Stakes (Group1) 5f Royal Ascot

Betting Preview : Kings Stand Stakes (Group1) 5f Royal Ascot Tuesday – Having won the contest with Prohibit in 2011 and Goldream two years ago, that master trainer of sprinters, Robert Cowell certainly knows what is required, and is quite hopeful that his talented 8yo might regain his crown. The son of Oasis Dream was an excellent third to last year’s Prix de L’Abbaye heroine, Marsha, on his reappearance in the Palace House Stakes at Headquarters in May, and was probably a little unlucky to be beaten by Priceless in the Temple Stakes at Haydock. He lost ground with an uncharacteristic slow exit from the gate, and was only beaten 1/2L. The 8yo seems to be as good as ever and given his preferred fast ground could prove Mr Cowell’s optimism well founded.

Current market leader is the flying 3yo American filly, Lady Aurelia, who was so impressive when winning last years 5f Queen Mary Stakes at the meeting. She flew from the gate, and coasted home by 7L, in the hands of Frankie Dettori. She went on to take a Deauville 6f Group1 at odds of 2/7, but then suffered her only defeat when breaking a blood vessel at Newmarket. She was impressive when winning a listed race at Keenland on her reappearance proving that she has trained on, so with that scintillating Queen Mary performance in mind, is fully entitled to her position at the top of the market. However 3yo’s haven’t a great record in the Kings Stand and we have to go back 36 years to find the last successful filly of the classic generation, (The Michael Stoute trained Marwell in 1981).

The 2015 winner of the Queen Mary, the ex American filly, Acapulco, is now in the hands of Tipperary maestro, Aidan O ‘Brien, and she made her debut for the stable a winning one when landing a 5f Curragh listed race five weeks ago. She would need to step up considerably on this performance to figure on Tuesday but the key to her seems to be good fast ground, so given her conditions and coming from this yard, expect a big run.

The only animal to retain his title the following year has been the legendary Sole Power, but last year’s winner, (and Oddsguru’s selection), Profitable, is not without a chance of emulating him.

profitable kings stand

Profitable landed the spoils last year for the Oddsguru.

A winner of the 2016 renewals of The Palace House Stakes, The Temple Stakes, and The Kings Stand Stakes, all on easy ground, he made a satisfactory reappearance when finishing second to Signs Of Blessing (gave 11lbs) in a Deauville Group3 seven weeks ago. Trainer Clive Cox blamed the poor draw and very tacky ground for the defeat and is confident of a top performance on Tuesday.

Cox is also represented by the 4yo filly Priceless, and this winner of four of her twelve starts looked an improving type when coasting home by 5L on her seasonal debut, in a Bath listed race. Well fancied for the Palace House Stakes next time out, she ran far too freely, and finished fifth. She made amends twenty four days ago when taking the Temple stakes, and given good or faster ground on Tuesday is worth considering.

The Sir Mark Prescott trained 4yo filly Marsha, was something of a surprise package when winning last year’s Group1 Prix de L’Abbaye, but showed that it was no fluke, when, despite carrying her Group1 penalty, she won The Palace House Stakes 45 days ago. She had eleven of Tuesday’s field behind her that day all of whom will be meeting her on worse terms, again emphasising what an improving animal she is, and she looks the one to beat.

The Willie Haggas trained Muthmir has only raced at Ascot on the one occasion and that was in the 2015 renewal of The Kings Stand where he put up an excellent performance to finish third to Goldream. The son of Invincible Spirit got this season off to a flying start with a convincing win over Mr Lupton and Tuesday’s opponent Willytheconqueror at Bath, but then disappointed behind Marsha in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket. However, he has never performed well at headquarters, and we saw a different horse last time. He won his third Group2, from another of Tuesday’s opponents, Finsbury Square, by a length, with Willytheconqueror 6 3/4L back in seventh, at Chantilly sixteen days ago. This run strongly suggests that he is back to his best and as he is likely to get the fast run race that suits so well, is another to consider, particularly as he is available at odds of 20/1 at the time of writing.

Selection : Marsha
E.W. : Muthmir

John Gray

Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes Racing Tips

Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes

Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes (Group3) 7f Haydock SaturdayAfter the heady excitement of last week’s Derby, this Saturday’s offerings are of a much more pedestrian nature. Nevertheless Haydock’s Group3 John Of Gaunt Stakes looks a very competitive affair so let’s hope we can point you in the right direction.

David O’Meara won this in 2014 with that Grand campaigner, the 8yo Penitent, who passed the post at the rewarding odds of 33/1, and in the doughty 7yo So Beloved, he has a similar type to go to war with this year. The son of Dansili has a great track record with two wins and a place from four course appearances, and as he has won a Goodwood Group3 on soft ground the forecast rain for the weekend shouldn’t be a concern. He does have a little to find with Oh This Is Us on running here last month, but coming from this yard, and with conditions likely to be in his favour, it will come as no surprise to see him come out on top this time.

The aforementioned, Oh This Is Us, has been in great form this Spring, notching up two victories, and indeed looked a little unlucky not to have made it three when getting hemmed in, in last week’s Diomed Stakes at Epsom, with Pat Dobson in the plate. With Ryan Moore taking over the steering duties, he could be a danger to all but I wonder how he will cope with the likely conditions.

The Hugo Palmer trained Home Of The Brave won last year’s renewal, and the 5yo Entire, a son of Starspangledbanner, ran another very solid race when finishing second to Richard Pankhurst in a Newbury Group2 in August. He made a most encouraging reappearance six weeks ago when comfortably taking a Leicester listed contest in the manner of an improved performer and if handling conditions, must have a great chance of bringing off the double, (has won his only race on good/soft, but has never run on anything easier).

Charlie Hills is quite bullish about the chances of his lightly raced 4yo, Ibn Malik. The son of Ravens pass won the Free Handicap first time up as a 3yo, and followed that with a good 4th in Royal Ascot’s Jersey Stakes, less than 3L behind the winner, Ribchester. Well beaten in his only other start, he was put away for the season. Hills reports him in A1 condition following treatment for his feet, and as he won first time out last year has to be considered. However as a son of Ravens Pass he is always going to prefer a good racing surface.

If the forecast rain does materialise, conditions could prove ideal for the David Simcock trained Breton Rock. He loves to get his toe in and has won or been placed on six of the eight times he has raced on soft, and the only time he raced on heavy, a Newmarket listed race last June, he beat the very useful Adaay. He was only beaten a short head in this contest three years ago,(soft) but following a decent 3rd in the Group1 Lockinge three weeks ago, the 7yo son of Bahamian Bounty seems as good as ever. The only negative in his profile is the 5lbs penalty he has to carry for his Doncaster Group2 victory last September.

The Richard Fahey trained 5yo Growl has been campaigned at sprinting distances for most of his career but has been placed on one of his three attempts at 7f. However the way he ran on in last years Ayr Gold Cup to finish second strongly suggests that the 7f trip is within his compass, and in the hands of master trainer Fahey is definitely worth a second look.

The Andrew Balding trained Absolutely So is another who has done a lot of his racing at shorter than 7f, but did put up a very solid performance last time when going down by a neck to Oh This Is Us over the course and distance four weeks ago. He didn’t have the clearest of runs that day, and might handle the forecast conditions better than the winner, but if stamina is at a premium, which seems likely, I wonder if he will get home.

Given the wet forecast David Lanigan’s 5yo Mitchum Swagger (pictured above) is worth considering. Unraced as a 2yo, he made his racecourse debut a winning one when taking a 7f Newbury Maiden in May 2015. Despite some useful performances, including a head defeat by the useful Hathal in a 1m Group3 over the course on soft ground last September, his only other win was, again over the course, in a 1m handicap, off a mark of 87 in September 2015 on soft ground. He made a promising start to this years campaign when finishing 5th in a 1m Sandown Group2 in April but then, perhaps not surprisingly, made little impression in the Group1 Lockinge Stakes. He has got form at 7f, including that debut win at Newbury, and on the All Weather, so with his strong stamina credentials, if the conditions do deteriorate, he is definitely one to consider.
Selection : So Beloved

E.W.          : Mitchum Swagger

John Gray

Investec Derby (Group1) 1m4f Epsom Saturday

With no stand out performance coming from any of the established trials, this years renewal has a very open look to it, and indeed only one contender, Permian, with a Racing Post Rating of 114 comes anywhere near the 117 average rating achieved by all the winners of the Blue Riband in their previous race over the last quarter century. However even in the most open looking years, the market has proved a good guide, and Ruler Of The World’s starting price of 7/1 was the longest recorded this millennium.

Heading the market at the time of writing is the John Gosden trained Cracksman, and the Master of Clarehaven is hopeful that the son of the great Frankel, will deliver him a third success, following Benny The Dip (1997) and Golden Horn (2015). Cracksman won a mile Newmarket maiden on his debut last October, and kept his 100% record when getting up in the last stride to collar Permian in Epsom’s 10f Derby Trial in April. He just got the better of the subsequent Dante Stakes winner, looking as if he needed every inch of the 10f trip, but it’s worth noting that the time was nearly six seconds slower than standard, and on pedigree, Cracksman isn’t guaranteed to stay the extra two furlongs on Saturday. His sire Frankel never raced beyond 10 1/2f, and Cracksman’s half brother, Fantastic Moon, having won the 7f Solario Stakes as a 2yo, was never even placed in his subsequent six races, all run at around a mile. His dam Rhadegunda, by Pivotal, was very consistent, but never won beyond 11f, ( a listed race at Fontainebleau at the end of her 3yo career). With only the two runs under his belt the Gosden colt is very inexperienced, and with those doubts about his stamina, I’m not sure he deserves his position at the head of the market.

The short head runner up to Cracksman at Epsom, Permian, certainly isn’t short of experience. He is already the veteran of ten contests and to say the least has had a most unconventional preperation for a “Derby Horse”. A winner of a Windsor Nursery off a lowly 83 as a 2yo, he was beaten in a Bath handicap off a mark of 100 on his reappearance, but has been on a strong upward curve ever since. He followed his narrow defeat by Cracksman at Epsom by winning a listed 10f Newmarket contest with his head in his chest, and then took another significant step forward when winning that good Derby Trial, the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes, putting in all his best work at the finish. He is by that strong influence for stamina, Teofilo, a son of the great Galileo. Teofilo has already sired the winner of the Group1 Irish Derby, Trading Leather, and Pleascach, the winner of the 12f Group1 Yorkshire Oaks. He is also the sire of Quest For More who won a Chantilly Group1 over 2m4f. Clearly a strong influence for stamina there is also plenty of encouragement on the distaff that stamina won’t be a problem. He is out of the dual listed winning mare, Tessa Reef who has produced Samana Cay and Second Wave, both of whom have been placed at listed level over 10f. His top connections have supplemented this rapidly improving colt at a cost of £85,000 and come 4.45pm on Saturday it could look money well spent.

Aidan O’Brien is seeking a 6th win in the race, and fielding six sons of Galileo, who won in 2001 and has already sired three winners of the great race, New Approach, Ruler Of The World and Australia, has got a very strong hand indeed. Joint favourite at the time of writing, Cliffs Of Moher, looked a really exciting prospect when winning his second race, a Leopardstown Maiden, last October. He was more workmanlike than brilliant when winning the 10 1/2f Dee Stakes on his reappearance, but having coped well with the unique demands of the Roodeye, and the proximity of the huge crowds, it should make Epsom seem less daunting. His sires offspring stay well and there are stamina influences in the dams pedigree as well. He was putting in his best work at the finish at Chester and could find Epsom’s mile and a half right up his street.

The Martyn Mead trained Emminent made his racecourse debut a winning one when landing a Newmarket Maiden last September, and even then his style of running suggested that he would be suited by further. He reappeared in the Craven Stakes and, putting in all his best work again in the last furlong, he won well. He was sent off a 5/1 shot for the 2000gns but in a steadily run race finished 6th, 3 1/2L behind Churchill, which in view of the latter’s subsequent win in the Irish equivalent wasn’t a bad performance at all. On pedigree there are solid grounds to expect plenty of improvement from Emminent with a step up in trip. He is by Frankel whom himself is a son of Galileo and from the limited evidence his offspring do seem to stay well. On the distaff, Emminent’s dam, You’ll Be Mine, is a daughter of Kingmambo, and she looked a staying type when finishing 3rd in the Group1 Fillies Mile as a 2yo. She is a half sister to Diamondandrubies, winner of the Group1 10f Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, and they’re both out of Quarter Moon, who was second in the 2002 Oaks. Considering his pedigree and his style of racing it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if Emminent became Frankels first classic winner.

Selection: Cliffs Of Moher

E.W. Emminent

John Gray

Betting Preview Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes (Group2) 5f Haydock Saturday


What an impressive winner last week’s selection, Ribchester, was! Despite his intended pacemaker, Toscanini, fluffing his lines, pilot Buick was very positive, and gave the son of Iffraaj a great ride from the front. Nothing could live with him in the closing stages and he came home 3 3/4L clear of the runner up, Lightening Spear. Richard Fahey’s charge looked as if a mile and a quarter would be well within his compass but his immediate target is the eight furlong Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal Meeting. As all surfaces seem to come alike to this exceptionally talented colt the 15/8 available for the Queen Anne doesn’t look bad value.
Saturday’s market for the Temple Stakes is headed by the flying filly Quiet Reflection, and having bagged two Group1s last year, The Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, and The Sprint Cup here at Haydock, she fully deserves her position. However both those top level wins were over 6f and it remains to be seen how she will cope with the drop back to five, a distance she hasn’t raced over since her win in the Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot back in 2015, and that was on soft ground. Her excellent trainer, Karl Burke, is fully confident that she has the speed to cope over five furlongs, but he is worried about fast ground, which if the current forecast proves correct seems likely, so a watching brief is advised.
There are no such fears regarding the Tom Dascombe trained Son of Kyllachy, Kachy, who finished second to Quiet Reflection, beaten a length, in the Commonwealth Cup and now meets her on 5lbs better terms. He disappointed in his next three races but put up an eye catching performance on his reappearance in the 5f Palace House Stakes three weeks ago where very slow out of the stalls, he flew home to finish 4th. Three times a winner over the minimum trip he is well worth considering.
Aidan O ‘Briens Washington D.C was third, 1L and 1/2L behind Quiet Reflection and Kachy in The Commonwealth Cup, but was ahead of Tom Dascombe’s contender when finishing second in the Palace House Stakes three weeks ago and coming from this powerful yard has to be considered. However, the son of Zoffany does seem to just miss out at this level, so perhaps O’Brien has a better chance with the ex American filly, Acapulco. Previously trained by American handler, Wesley Ward, she made quite an impression when beating Easton Angel 1 1/2L on only her second racecourse appearance at Royal Ascot in 2015, and went on to put up another noteworthy performance for a two year old when finishing second to Mecca’s Angel in the 5f Group1 Nunthorpe Stakes. Having her first run for O’Brien thirteen days ago, the filly, who is in foal to Galileo, and now owned by the Coolmore operation, won a 5f listed race at the Curragh by 1/2L from Ardhoomey. A real 5f specialist she will love the forecast ground and unpenalised has to be on the shortlist.
Another who will relish the likely conditions is the Charlie Hills trained 5yo Cotai Glory. He lost his race at the start when slipping over in the Palace House Stakes, and Jamie Spencer did really well to stay in the plate but the horse’s chance was gone. However he did keep on and finished well and trainer Hills is quite bullish about his chances. He was only beaten a neck by Profitable in last years Kings Stand Stakes, (at odds of 33/1) on a least preferred soft surface, so this son of Exceed and Excell definitely has what it takes to win at this level, and given fast ground at the weekend could easily find himself in the winners enclosure.
Selection : Cotai Glory

E.W. : Acapulco 

John Gray

Racing Tips Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes

Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes ( Group1 ) 1m Str Newbury Saturday – Having won twenty one of the last thirty renewals, 4yo’s are clearly the dominant age group, and so it proved again last year, when the Roger Varian trained Belardo came home in front. The Oddsguru’s selection, he was returned at the tasty odds of 8/1, so here’s hoping we can point you in the right direction again. Group1 form, particularly at a mile, has been most important with sixteen of the last twenty one winners boasting success over 8f at the top level. Any runner sporting the Blue of Godolphin is worth a second glance as they have won seven of the last nineteen renewals. Mind you, the Red and White of the Cheveley Park operation haven’t done too badly either with four wins since the dawn of the new millennium. Both 2000gns winners who contested this in the last decade have won, so last years Newmarket Hero, Galileo Gold, has to be of considerable interest.
A winner of a Goodwood Group2 as a juvenile, he started his 3yo career in the best possible style, winning the Newmarket Classic on his seasonal debut. He couldn’t quite match Awtaad in the Irish equivalent, but put up a sparkling display next time, winning the 1m Group1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot (Sft) where he had his Irish conqueror 1 3/4L back in third. A close second in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes followed, but he was disappointing in his last two races, finishing behind Saturday’s opponent, Ribchester on both occasions. However the first half of his season was impressive and racing in the colours of Saturday’s Sponsor, Al Shaqab, on ground which is likely to be soft, he has to be on the shortlist.
Having won the 6f Group2 Mill Reef Stakes over the course as a 2yo, the Richard Fahey trained 4yo Ribchester went from strength to strength in his 3yo career. He finished second at Maison-Laffitte on his reappearance before belying his odds of 33/1 to finish third in the 2000gns, 3 1/2L behind Galileo Gold. He went on to win the 7f Group3 Jersey Stakes on soft ground at the Royal Meeting, and confirmed his progress when, finishing best of all, he was only beaten a neck and short head by The Gurkha and Galileo Gold in the 1m Group1 Sussex Stakes. He made no mistake next time, winning the Group1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, where Galileo Gold was 3 1/4L back in eighth, and put up another very solid performance when going down by 1/2L to the brilliant filly Minding, in the Group1 QE.11 Stakes at Ascot in October. He made a highly satisfactory reappearance at Meydan in March over 9f, finishing third, (and pocketing over 3/4 of a million pounds for his trouble). Back over 8f, on the likely soft ground which he handles so well, and with stablemate Toscanini to guarantee a truly run race, this very progressive colt must have serious prospects of providing “the boys in blue” with their eighth win in the race.
Aidan O’Brien won this with Hawkwing fourteen years ago, but has drawn a blank with his ten runners since. He tries again this year with the beautifully bred 4yo daughter of Fastnet Rock, Somehow. She is out of that fabulous mare Alexandrova who won the English, Irish and Yorkshire Oaks in 2006. Somehow, only had the one run as a 2yo and won three of her six races at three, but this year seems to be improving at a rate of knots. She made her seasonal reappearance, in a Naas Group3 on holding ground where she went down down by 1/2L, but made no mistake 5weeks, later bolting up in a Gowran Park Listed event over 9 1/2f on soft ground. Last time, thirteen days ago, she won the 9f Group2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket on good/firm ground with her head in her chest, and looked a filly going places. Somehow, has never won over shorter than 9f but her marvellous dam, despite her strong stamina credentials, had plenty of speed, and it will come as no surprise to see her involved at the business end on Saturday, particularly If conditions are testing.
Martin Meade’s Aclaim is another who won’t mind if the ground is soft at the weekend. The 4yo son of Acclamation has raced twice on easy ground and won both times, and he looks a very progressive type. He won a 1m Ascot Handicap off a mark of 97 at the beginning of last September, and two weeks later hosed up in a 7f listed contest at Newbury on soft ground. In his final race of the season he took the step up to Group2 level in his stride, winning the 7f contest comfortably from Lumiere with Saturday’s opponent Cougar Mountain 3 1/4L back in fifth. Clearly progressive we probably haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Selection : Ribchester 

E.W. : Somehow 

John Gray

Betting Tips Betway Lincoln Handicap

Betting Tips Betway Lincoln Handicap
Betway Lincoln Handicap 1m Str Doncaster Saturday
– Both our selections in last week’s Mares Novices Hurdle Finale Handicap ran with credit. Our E.W. selection Copper Kay finished an honourable second, and our first choice, Tara View ran on strongly to claim fourth place in the sixteen runner handicap, at odds of 9/1. The latter has to be the one to take out of the race, as going down the inside, she met trouble at the fourth last, and was shuffled back, losing her momentum. However she bravely got going again, and coming from an impossible position ran on strongly to save her supporters their e.w. cash. With better luck in running she would have troubled the useful winner, Snow Leopardess, to whom she was conceding 9lbs, confirming that she is still improving, so keep her in mind for the 20f listed Mares Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham’s April fixture.

There will be no obstacles to negotiate in Saturday’s big handicap, but with twenty two runners coming under orders for the cavalry charge up Doncaster’s straight mile, the winner will have plenty of other challenges to overcome, underlining the benefit of previous experience in similar contests. Form over a straight mile, particularly at Newmarket, has figured in the profile of plenty of previous winners, as has plenty of racing experience, with all of the last six winners having competed at least fifteen times. Babodana, thirteen years ago was the last winner to carry more than 9st4lbs but with a very compressed handicap range of probably less than a stone between the top and bottom weights, don’t be surprised to see this barrier breached again. One of the more likely looking candidates to do so, is the Roger Charlton trained Yuften.

This 6yo son of Invincible Spirit has run sixteen times, winning on three occasions. Originally trained by William Haggas, he spent a period in Ireland under the tutelage of Johnny Murtagh until returning last summer to England, into the care of Mr Charlton, who has put the horse on a firmly upwards trajectory. The gelding found Newmarkets 7f on the sharp side, when going down by less than 1L last September, racing off a mark of 100, but showed what he was capable of three weeks later in the Balmoral Handicap over Ascot’s straight mile. Racing off a mark of 101 he took it up one furlong out, and stayed on well to win the valuable Class2 nineteen runner contest by a length. A winner over Newmarkets straight mile in 2014, Yuften made a highly satisfactory reappearance in Wolverhampton’s 7f Lincoln Trial three weeks ago, finishing strongly, to just fail, by a nose and a short head off Saturday’s mark of 105. He will be ridden by last years winning pilot, William Buick and has plenty to recommend him.

The 4yo Morando, trained by Roger Varian (pictured below), despite meeting trouble in running, finished seventh, 2 1/2L behind Yuften in that Balmoral Handicap, and meets the Charlton horse on 4lbs better terms. roger varianThe winner of his three previous races, including a competitive fourteen runner 1m Ayr Handicap, which he won very easily off a mark of 96, the only negative in his profile, would seem to be his lack of experience. However there are plenty of positives about this very progressive 4yo, not least the bullish reports from the Newmarket Gallops, and the likely easy ground at the weekend. In the hands of master trainer Varian’s, Morando has to be on the shortlist.

It was easy to see why John Gosden persevered with the difficult to train 6yo, Sacred Act, when, having his first run for nearly a year and a half, he came home in eye taking fashion from a near impossible position, to pull a Class3 Sandown handicap out of the fire off a mark of 89 last September. He is 7lbs higher at the weekend,  and his inexperience, (has only run five times) is against him, but trainer Gosden,  having won with  Expresso Star in 2009 knows what is required, and if getting into Saturday’s race, (needs five above him to come out) is worth considering.

Richard Fahey has won two of the last five renewals and is mob handed at the time of writing. His 2015 winner Gabrial is racing off an 8lbs higher mark and has been disappointing in Dubai this winter, but both his 5yo Third Time Lucky, and his 4yo Nimr have attracted some interest in the Markets. The former has been running well on the All Weather this winter, and has won over 11f at Newmarket, but faces a very tough task off a mark of 106, eleven pounds higher than he has ever won off, so perhaps Nimr represents his best chance. He hasn’t run on grass since last June, but won a 1m1/2f Class2 Wolverhampton handicap three weeks ago by 1 3/4L and is only one pound higher on Saturday. However he needs nine above him in the handicap to come out to get a run.

Selection : Morando

E.W.          : Yuften

Ayr Gold Cup 6f Saturday

Peter CH

Peter Chappell-Hyam’s 5yo Buckstay has been campaigned at 7f and further but it certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented for an animal with such credentials to win.

It was most disappointing that last week’s selection in the St Leger, Order Of St George, was re routed to the Irish equivalent because of concerns with the going at Doncaster. It seems to this observer that good ground was highly likely at the Yorkshire track, and indeed the Doncaster race was run on ground very similar to the one that prevailed at the Curragh where the O’Brien horse won in a hack canter.

There can be little doubt that he would have won at Doncaster and yet again, scant consideration was afforded to ante post punters. However our next best, Bondi Beach,(after a prolonged inquiry) did collect, so upwards and onwards. Saturday’s Ayr Gold Cup, with twenty five runners theoretically handicapped to cross the finishing line together, looks a much trickier puzzle to solve. Happily there are a few strong trends which may help in finding a solution. All of the last ten winners were rated at least 97, and with only two exceptions, carried at least 9st. Only two managed a burden of more than 9st4lbs. Another very relevant stat is the fact that only two of the last ten winners had managed to cross the line in front in more than one race that season, probably highlighting connections desire to minimise the amount of weight carried. It is one of the toughest sprint handicaps of the year, run over a demanding course, with the weather often playing a hand, so stamina is most important. A proven ability over the trip is essential, and the stamina to stay further is a definite asset.

Having won all of his four starts, the Richard Fahey trained 3yo Dutch Art gelding, and current favourite, Don’t Touch is on a real roll. Tackling a Class2 handicap for the first time, he showed maturity beyond his years, when taking the Great St Wilfred at Ripon last time out. Backed in to 4/1 favourite in an admittedly depleted thirteen runner field, he ran on strongly when the penny dropped inside the final furlong, to win by a head off a mark of 96. He is sure to have learnt a lot at Ripon, and although 3yo’s have a poor recent record (thirteen years since one won) he looks well treated off a mark of 101 giving him a nice racing weight of 9st1lb and is shortlisted.

Kevin Ryan, who has won the race three times, (twice in the last four years) has an interesting contender with his 4yo gelding, Lexington Abbey. He went down by a short head at Nottingham eight weeks ago off a mark of 95 and was put up 2lbs, almost guaranteeing him a place in Saturday’s field. Given ground no worse than good-soft, he is worth a second look at a big price particularly as Irish ace Pat Smullen has been booked.

The Andrew Balding trained 7yo Highland Colori won this two years ago off a mark of 104 and gets into this years renewal off a mark 1lb lower. Having raced prominently he faded to finish eighth last time, in his first run for twelve weeks, but previously had shown the engine was still there when beaten less than a length in a Class2 7f Newmarket handicap. He seems to be suited by plenty of give these days, and there is little doubt that his shrewd trainer will have him primed for a repeat of his 2013 performance.

David O’Meara’s 4yo Highland Acclaim got going too late in last weeks 5 1/2f Portland handicap at Doncaster, but came home in grand style finishing 5th off a mark of 98. Bound to be well suited by the extra 1/2f at the weekend, and again racing off 98 O’Meara must have strong prospects of repeating last years success with Louis The Pious.

Marco Botti’s 4yo Golden Steps showed that he was on an upward curve when taking a Class2 handicap at Goodwood last time off a mark of 96. Dettori, who has ridden the winner twice in the past six years has been booked, so although up 7lbs since Goodwood must be considered.

Peter Chappell-Hyam’s 5yo Buckstay has been campaigned at 7f and further but it certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented for an animal with such credentials to win. Indeed three of the last ten winners had won over further than six furlongs and the above mentioned Highland Colori boasted success over a mile. Buckstay won his last race, a 7f Class2 handicap at headquarters off a mark of 97 and races at the weekend off a 4lb higher mark. He probably handles most conditions, so it’s unlikely his uber shrewd trainer is travelling north without serious ambition.

Selection: Buckstay.

E.W. : Highland Colori.