William Hill Ayr Gold Cup (Handicap) 6f Saturday

ayr gold cupWith 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

John Gray

Moët and Chandon International Stakes Class2 Handicap 7f Ascot

ascot moetI hope many of you were on last week’s selection, Casablanca Mix, (odds of 10/1 generally available when first advised) who was one of 4 winners for Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard, landing a 103/1 accumulator. The son of Shirocco was always travelling well within himself, and when he took it up at the 3rd last the result was never in doubt. The Handicapper has raised him 8lbs which seems fair, and the 7yo is definitely one to keep on the right side of this Summer and Autumn. Saturday’s International over 7f up the straight course at Ascot, presents an entirely different challenge, but with a pot of £93,375 for the winner, and a possible field of 29 runners, we can be pretty sure that whoever wins, he or she will have earned their corn. Previous form over Ascot’s straight course is always a positive, and one with an excellent record is last year’s 3rd, Ripp Orf.

A 5yo, son of Rip Van Winkle, his record at Ascot reads, 5/26 2/15 1/20 3/27 and 1/27, a pretty impressive record for sure, but racing off the same mark as last year (92) when he finished a length behind Burnt Sugar you can’t say that he looks particularly well handicapped. However he did run well off a 3lbs higher mark when 5th in The Victoria Cup in May, and his course form has to be respected.

With rain forecast for the weekend we could see some easing of the ground which should suit David Baron’s 5yo, Kynren. Lightly raced, he has won 3 of his 14 starts but his best performance to date came when beaten a neck by the upwardly mobile,
Cape Byron, on Good-Soft ground over course and distance in The Victoria Cup in May. He ran another sound race when finishing 5/27 in the Royal Hunt Cup over a mile last time off a mark of 101 and back over 7f off the same mark on Saturday could be a potent force if getting his ground.

The Jamie Osborne trained 7yo, Raising Sand, is another who reserves his best for the Berkshire track and is 3/10 at the course. He ran a fine race when finishing 2nd in The Royal Hunt Cup last time, and is another who won’t be inconvenienced by a soft surface, but does need the Handicapper to relent a little.

kevin ryan ascotThe Kevin Ryan trained 4yo, Hey Jonesy, has done most of his racing at 6f (including at Group level) but tackling 7f for only the 2nd time in his 15 race career last time, he saw the trip out really well when beaten 1/2L by the 104 rated Marie’s Diamond to whom he was conceding 7lbs in a Haydock conditions event. A literal interpretation of the form would make his mark on Saturday of 103 look very fair and he has been rated as high as 110 in the past. He finished on the heels of the leaders (beaten 3 3/4L) in the 6f Wokingham Handicap at The Royal Meeting off a mark of 106, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if his excellent trainer, who is no stranger to success at these big southern meetings, landed another.

Meeting older horses for the first time in his brief 4 race career, the 3yo Land Of Legends came through with flying colours when comfortably winning a Class2 7f Newmarket Handicap 30 days ago. By Iffraaj out of an unraced daughter of the Group 2 winning mare, Last Resort, he is well bred, and could prove to be much better than his current rating of 96. There has been plenty of interest in him in the markets, (10/1 at the time of writing) and a lightly raced 3yo like him is likely to continue to improve, but he does need 12 above him in the handicap to come out to get a run, and his lack of experience has to be against him.

The Roger Charlton trained Makzeem, was well beaten in last year’s renewal on
Good/Firm ground, but the way the 6yo quickened clear to land a Newbury Class2 on easy ground 9 days ago was impressive, and even on a 6lbs higher mark, if similar conditions prevail on Saturday, is worth a second look.

The Willie Haggas trained 3yo Fanaar surprised a few when finishing 3rd in the 28 runner Brittania Handicap at odds of 50/1, 37 days ago. He was hampered at the start of the one mile contest, and had to be switched two furlongs out to get a run, so did really well to finish 1 1/4L and 2L behind the well handicapped Biometric, and the favourite Turgenev. He has had a nice 37 day break, is another 3yo likely to be improving, and it’s worth noting that his sole success has come over 7f.

mark johnston ascotThe Mark Johnston trained 4yo, Vale Of Kent, showed that races like Saturday’s are right up his street, when landing Newmarket’s 7f Bunbury Cup a fortnight ago. Leading from the outset, Dettori got the sections exactly right, and when headed two furlongs out, the son of Kodiac battled back and stayed on well to win by 1/2L from the 4/1Fav Solar Gold in a good time. A slight concern would be his lack of form at the track but he is a half brother of the Group1 winning Vale Of York, is only 4lbs higher than Newmarket, and Ascot Maestro, Frankie, is again doing the steering.

Selection : Vale Of Kent

EW.           : Hey Jonesy.   Fanaar.

John Gray