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

William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Handicap Bets 6f Ayr Saturday

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Trainer Kevin Ryan is aiming for 5 Ayr Gold Cups on Saturday

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.

ayrracesFollowing 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

John Gray

Growl to beat Orion’s Bow in William Hill Ayr Gold Cup

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Dandy Nicholls
has won this ultra competitive heat an impressive six times this century, so his two runners, Orion’s Bow, and Kimberella, have to be of interest. The former a 5yo by Pivotal, ran a great race in the Stewards Cup at Goodwood, finishing second, off a mark of 103 to the better drawn Dancing Star. He disappointed next time in the Great St Wilfred at Ripon racing off a mark of 106. Excuses can be made however as he was drawn on the wrong side, and had to be switched, so his 8th place wasn’t bad in the circumstances. Also it was his first run at Ripon, a course that certainly doesn’t suit all horses. Orion’s Bow is a most progressive animal having won his first handicap in July 2014 off a lowly 74 and his last victory in July saw him take a class2 Hamliton handicap (soft) of a mark of 97 winning by 3 1/4L from that good yardstick Hoof It. He handles most ground and it will come as no great surprise if he defies his new mark of 106.

The second Nicholls runner Kimberella is also very progressive, winning his first handicap in April 2014 off a mark of 82 and now running off 105. He was particularly impressive when winning a Class2 York handicap (Gd/fm) off a mark of 99 in July. Badly drawn in the Stewards Cup he finished 13th, beaten 4 3/4L off a mark of 103. He fared little better in the Great St Wilfred at Ripon finishing 10th, but the memory of that scintillating York victory remains, and given fast ground could get involved his new mark.

Read our Ayr Gold Cup preview from 2014.

Kevin Ryan has won this three times since 2007, and of his three entries, the 4yo Treuntum Star looks the least exposed. A winner of four of his thirteen starts, he was quite impressive when taking a Newmarket Class2 handicap off a mark of 95 on soft ground on his reappearance in April. Well beaten 19 days later on good, his shrewd trainer put him away until the Autumn, presumably to protect his handicap mark and exploit his preference for soft ground. Nicely treated and best after a break he is definitely one to consider, particularly if Irish maestro Pat Smullen takes the ride.

Richard Fahey’s 4yo gelding Growl is another who put up a fine performance in the Stewards Cup. Drawn out with the washing in stall 26 he had anything but a clear passage and Ryan Moore did well to finish fourth, full of running, only a nose and a head behind Orion’s Bow in second and Raucous in third. He meets the Nicholls horse a pound better at the weekend, and Raucous 5lbs better, so having had a welcome break  since Goodwood looks a worthy favourite.

David O’Meara’s 6yo gelding by Pivotal, Watchable, has been campaigned at listed or Group level in his last four races, and indeed finished a very respectable 3rd in a German Group2 last time out. He ran in a handicap at Royal Ascot in June where despite a poor draw finished 5th of 25 racing off a mark of 108. Racing off the same mark on Saturday, and coming from this yard he’s worth a second look.

Only one 3yo (Don’t Touch last year) has won this in the last decade, but W Haggas’s Raucous, a colt by Dream Ahead has plenty to recommend him. Eighth in the Gp3 Jersey stakes at the Royal Meeting, he finished a good 3rd in a Newbury Gp3 behind older horses next time out. Badly drawn in the Stewards Cup he ran a cracker off a mark of 102 to finish third. He ran inexplicably badly next time when a well backed 7/2 2nd fav for a listed race at Headquarters and in the subsequent stewards inquiry nothing came to light. However it often proves wise to forgive a horse one bad run and off his mark of 106 this talented 3yo is worth considering.

If Roger Varian’s Certificate, a 5yo gelding by Pivotal runs here in preference to a lNewbury engagement on Friday he must be of interest. Relatively lightly raced, he has been campaigned over further than 6f and has won his last two races, both over 7f.  He travels well, racing up with the pace, so the drop back in distance may not be a disadvantage. Indeed his ability to stay further may prove an asset. More of a concern would be, that on the three occasions he has encountered ground with soft in the going description he has drawn a blank.

Selection:   Growl

E.W.     :   Orion’s Bow