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.

St Leger Stakes 1m6f 132yds Saturday

Aidan O'Brien

Aidan O’Brien’s contender, Order Of St George, wouldn’t have impressed as a potential Leger winner when finishing second to Parish Boy at Leopardstown last October, but has really come into his own as a three year old.

Our E.W. Selection, Magical Memory, certainly belied his odds of 14/1 when finishing third in last week’s Gp1 Sprint Cup at Haydock Park. Always travelling very well within himself, he looked the most likely winner for most of the race, but probably got to the front just too soon. If he goes to Longchamp for the Prix de L’Abbe on Arc day his style of racing would be well suited to the furlong shorter trip, and is one to keep in mind. Saturday’s final English classic, the St Leger provides a test at the other end of the distance spectrum, and looks a fairly open contest.

Aidan O’Brien who has already bagged four St Leger victories (but has someway to go to match the nineteenth century handler, John Scott, who trained an amazing sixteen winners between 1827 and 1862) is triple handed, and all three go there with chances. Interestingly all three are by the outstanding Coolmore stallion, Galileo, and two of them, Bondi Beach and Fields of Athenry, boast an even closer relationship, both being out of Danehill mares. All three have won over 1m6f at either listed or group level so stamina shouldn’t be an issue.

Despite being drawn out with the washing, Fields of Athenry ran a decent race in the Ebor handicap. Drawn 22 and racing off an eye watering mark of 118, he finished a respectable fifth, despite not getting the greatest of rides from his 5lbs claiming pilot. He did have a hard race on the Knavesmire, but a reproduction of the form he showed the previous time he tackled the distance, at Leopardstown in July, when coasting to victory over the useful four year old Silwana would certainly put him firmly in the picture.

A winner of two of his four races, Bondi Beach is showing the benefit of his patient handling by the master of Ballydoyle. Unraced as a 2yo he made his racecourse debut at Leopardstown in May and under a hands and heels ride from Seamie Heffernan, won by a short head from the hot favourite Bantry Bay. He was a slightly unlucky second over 1m4f four weeks later, but upped to 1m6f next time he won a Gp3 by a short head from stable companion Order Of St George. Reverting to 1m4f in the Gp2 Great Voltigeur seven weeks later he looked an unlucky looser. Backed in to 11/4 favourite he was making steady progress over the last three furlongs when taking a bump one hundred and fifty yards out from Storm The Stars, who then carried him continuously to the left. He went down by 1/2L and in the subsequent controversial stewards inquiry, despite the jockey being stood down for three days the Haggas horse was allowed to keep the race. To this observer the best horse was second, and with an extra two and a half furlongs to travel at the weekend has excellent prospects of reversing the placings.

The third O’Brien contender, Order Of St George, wouldn’t have impressed as a potential Leger winner when finishing second to Parish Boy at Leopardstown last October, but has really come into his own as a three year old. On his reappearance, he ran stable companion Bondi Beach, who had the benefit of two previous runs to a shd, and then had little more than an exercise canter when winning at Down Royal four weeks later. On his latest appearance, Gp3 1m6f sft at the Curragh, he looked most impressive, winning by 7L and 8L from Seamoon and Kingfisher. He has clearly thrived since upped in trip and looks the one to beat on Saturday.

Storm The Stars who has accumulated £535,000 in win and place money must be a lovely animal to own. He ran two marvellous races when coming third in The Derby, and second in the Irish Equivalent. He demonstrated his toughness when coming third in a Longchamp Gp1, only seventeen days after his Irish Exertions and showed no signs of tiredness when collecting at York. He is a thoroughly genuine and likeable horse, but has had a very demanding season, and with some stamina doubts on the distaff, is passed over.

The French colt Vengeur Masque is bred to stay all day and ran a decent race last time at Deauville, 1m4 1/2f, finishing 4th. Unless the step up in distance elicits abnormal improvement it’s hard to see him being involved,

Selection: Order Of St George

Danger. : Bondi Beach