Saturday: 3.40 Ayr
Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Handicap | 6f | 3yo+ | ITV/RTV
Ed Walker has grand plans for Great Ambassador but is under no illusions about the size of the task facing his exciting sprinter.
Listed success in the Garrowby Stakes at York last time means Great Ambassador carries a 5lb penalty and has to run off 1lb higher than his revised mark, while Walker is also a little concerned about being drawn lowest in stall one.
"Great Ambassador is proving to be a very good sprinter," said the trainer. "The quick ground has been kind, the draw probably less so. He's ten pounds higher than when arguably a bit unlucky with the draw in the Stewards' Cup. It's a stiff task but he's going the right way."
Walker won the Garrowby with Starman last year before going straight up to the highest level and it might not be long before Great Ambassador joins the subsequent Group 1 winner in the big sprints.
"Hopefully this will be his last run in a handicap," Walker said. "I think he's very smart and could probably be competitive at the highest level next year."
The trainer has a significant second string to his bow in progressive three-year-old Popmaster, who has won two of his five starts since being gelded in May. Popmaster wears blinkers for the first time and is the mount of Hollie Doyle.
"He's done very little wrong since being gelded as he frustrated me earlier in the season when just finding a way to get beat," said Walker.
"He can run a really good race, especially with the blinkers on. He's a really promising sprinter for next year when he'll be more mature."
The trainer added: "It's a great race to be involved in and to have two live chances, but it's seriously hard to win as you not only need the best horse but the best handicapped horse. With luck in-running, the draw and pace, so much needs to go right."
Excitement building for Eyre team
Les Eyre is struggling to contain excitement levels at his Beverley yard with Just Frank a leading contender for the £150,000 contest.
Victory would rank highly for the 77-year-old, who won the 1997 Ebor with Far Ahead, after a long time trying to crack Scotland's premier Flat race.
"It's a very big day, I won the Silver Cup a few years back and I've been trying to win this race for about 30 years," he said.
Just Frank has already landed a big pot in a two-year-old sales race at Newmarket last October, and boosted his prospects with a first win since then at Thirsk last month.
"All the kids in the yard are jumping up and down with excitement and I don't blame them as he's in great nick," Eyre said.
"We've tried to build him up, with this being the pinnacle, and he couldn't have done it any better at Thirsk last time. He tends to come to hand at this time of year and the draw [stall 18] looks okay."
What the rest say
David O'Meara, trainer of Summerghand and Gulliver
We're claiming off Summerghand [with Sean Kirrane's 5lb] as he's got a load of weight, but he's in good form and he'll run well. Gulliver ran a blinder in Ireland at the weekend and doesn't mind running back quickly. The stiff six furlongs will suit him down to the ground.
Michael Dods, trainer of Commanche Falls and Pendleton
It was a very good run by Commanche Falls at Goodwood but on that form, the favourite [Great Ambassador] would look very hard to beat unless it rains, because he didn't like the ground there. We're drawn next to each other and Commanche Falls is in good form, but he races off 105 and they can't keep doing it in these big sprints. A bit of rain would help as he's a late finisher and wouldn't want the prominent racers to get away. Pendleton's first two runs this season were good and then he got bogged down on the wrong side at Royal Ascot and the ground was too firm for him at York. A bit of rain would help him and he's a good horse.
Lawrence Mullaney, trainer of Snazzy Jazzy
This has been his target since the day we bought him. He's been running over five furlongs but six is his trip. I'd love it to be soft ground and if they get some rain he should run a mighty race. He's very well and I couldn't be happier with him.
Alastair Donald, racing manager to King Power Racing, owners of Fivethousandtoone and Bielsa
Fivethousandtoone should run well at a big price – he meets the favourite Great Ambassador on much better terms than at York last time, where he lost a shoe. Bielsa would be suited by some rain, which is forecast. If the ground eases he should be bang there.
Tim Easterby, trainer of Sunday Sovereign and Count D'orsay
Sunday Sovereign is drawn high and in good order. He won well at Chester last time and I'd expect him to run a big race. Count D'orsay has snuck in at the bottom. He's never won over six but shapes like he gets the trip and if he does, he'll have a good chance.
Richard Hills, assistant racing manager to Shadwell Estate Company, owner of Motagally
This race should be perfect for him, but this type of big handicap is so hard to predict. He's well entitled to be there and he won't be far away if he brings his best form. It's amazing the ground looks like being quick up there, which will help him.
Adam Ryan, assistant to Kevin Ryan, trainer of Hey Jonesy
He has his own way of doing things, but won the Wokingham last year and remains a dab hand in these big-field handicaps.
Phil Makin, trainer of Lahore
He goes into it far better handicapped than he did last year when he ran well to finish sixth off nearly topweight. He's not in the same form and needs to recapture a bit of it. He likes these big-field handicaps and a drop of rain would suit.
Paul Midgley, trainer of Ostilio
I'm chuffed we've got in and a little bit of rain would be good. He looks like he's running into form and, with a bit of luck, he shouldn't be far away.