William Hill Ayr Gold Cup | 6f | 3yo+ | ITV4/RTV
A historic handicap first run in 1804, which now boasts £200,000 in guaranteed prize-money, was shared for the first time last year when Son Of Rest, trained by Fozzy Stack in Ireland and the subject of a major gamble, was joined on the line by Baron Bolt to force a dead-heat.
Ireland is again likely to provide the favourite in Buffer Zone, who runs under a 5lb penalty after his authoritative victory in a 24-runner Curragh handicap last Sunday.
Firmly in command after sweeping into the lead over a furlong out, the Ger Lyons-trained four-year-old ran on strongly to beat Make A Challenge by a length and three-quarters.
Raised 8lb by the Irish handicapper for that success, he is officially 3lb well in under his penalty.
Buffer Zone had previously finished a close fifth in a Group 3 and appears to have the right profile for this race.
He looks an improving type who has benefited from being gelded in the spring. Colin Keane takes the ride and the pair will start from stall 21.
O’Meara mob-handed for big sprint
David O’Meara, successful in the race with Louis The Pious in 2014, runs five in his bid for another victory in Scotland’s most famous Flat race.
The overall strength of the Yorkshire trainer’s team, which comprises Summerghand, Intisaab, Gulliver, Arecibo and Cold Stare, is illustrated by the fact that all are quoted at under 20-1 for this fiercely contested sprint, with Gulliver and Summerghand at single-figure odds.
Summerghand and Gulliver finished fourth and sixth in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood last month, and Gulliver has since run another cracker when third behind Buffer Zone at the Curragh.
However, arguably the most interesting of the quintet is Arecibo, the mount of O’Meara’s stable jockey Danny Tudhope.
Kevin Ryan has won the Ayr Gold Cup four times courtesy of Brando (2016), Captain Ramius (2012), Our Jonathan (2011) and Advanced (2007). He runs Major Jumbo and Hey Jonesy this year
A winner over five furlongs at the track in July, he has run a string of solid races in highly competitive sprint handicaps since, most recently when fourth to Oxted in the Portland last Saturday.
Tudhope is hopeful of a good ride. “I think there’s a big one in him,” he said. “He’s a bit tricky but if things fall right for him he’ll run well.”
Arecibo has been well backed with many bookmakers since declaration time.
Kingscote keen on Angel chance
Don’t Touch was the last three-year-old to capture the Ayr Gold Cup, landing a significant gamble in the process in 2015.
There are only two members of that age group this year and Richard Kingscote, rider of Angel Alexander, believes his mount has a decent chance.
The Tom Dascombe-trained gelding, winner of three 5f handicaps this term, is less exposed than many of his rivals and could also take a step forward for this return to a straight track, having competed mainly at Chester lately.
Kingscote said: “He’s got the profile for this race. It’s been the goal for some time.
"I’d have liked more rain, but he’s a pretty tough, solid horse and has got a nice draw up the rail so we’ll see what we can do.”
What the trainers say
Adam Ryan, assistant to Kevin Ryan, trainer of Major Jumbo and Hey Jonesy
Major Jumbo is a very consistent horse who always runs his race. He ran a blinder in the Haydock Sprint, and it’s always been the plan to go to Ayr with him. Hey Jonesy looks the ideal type for the Ayr Gold Cup. He’s nice and fresh and goes there with a live chance.
Roger Varian, trainer of Laugh A Minute
He’s coming back from a poor run at Hamilton but that wasn’t his true running as he’s a talented horse. I think the race will suit him and we’ve put the blinkers on to sharpen him up during the final couple of furlongs. He’s got a good profile coming into the race and I believe the big field will bring out the best in him.
Declan Carroll, trainer of Justanotherbottle
He runs well in these big races. He’ll like the ground if it continues to dry out, and we’re claiming 7lb off him as he’s gone back up the handicap after winning at Sandown. He’s a smashing horse and has done us proud.
Andrew Balding, trainer of Stone Of Destiny
Like most of these he needs everything to drop right for him in such a competitive race but we've always thought one of these valuable heritage handicaps could come his way if that happened.
Richard Hannon, trainer of Embour
He ran a great race in the Portland last week where he wasn’t beaten far. He sneaks in off a nice low weight and I certainly wouldn’t put you off him.