QTS Ayr Gold Cup Handicap | 6f | 3yo+ | ITV/RTV
William Haggas is not a regular visitor to Ayr. Indeed, he has had fewer than 100 runners at the course throughout his career, so it is a place his horses head to only after plenty of thought.
As such, the appearance of Nahaarr in the QTS Ayr Gold Cup is a notable one. The four-year-old is lightly raced and has captured five of his nine starts, yet if anything he comes into the race with something to prove.
Having been fancied for both the Silver Wokingham at Royal Ascot and the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood, Nahaarr failed to land either prize. However, sandwiched between those efforts was a thumping win in decent company at Newbury.
Despite only finishing ninth having been sent off the 3-1 favourite at Goodwood last time, Haggas has made the positive decision to head north to Ayr with Nahaarr, something he has done just five times in as many years.
Three of those five runners have won, while his two runners this season have finished first and seventh. The message is, if William Haggas goes to Ayr then he means business.
Tom Marquand, who secured the biggest triumph of his career when stepping in late to guide Galileo Chrome to victory in the Pertemps St Leger last weekend, is in the saddle again on Nahaarr as he bids for further big-race success.
Marquand said: "We could do with the ground to dry out a bit for Nahaarr but if it does he would go there with a good each-way shout in the race."
Haggas has never won the Ayr Gold Cup with his best result in the last decade being when Sholaan, in the same ownership as Nahaarr of Ahmed Al Maktoum, was fourth in 2012. High Standing in 2011 and Sainted, who was favourite in 2017, finished 12th for the trainer.
Bronze Cup points to favourable high draw
With the first two home in the Ayr Bronze Cup coming from high draws, it seems that the higher the stall, the better your chance of winning Saturday's Ayr Silver and Gold Cups.
The jockeys appeared keen to get away from the far side, with the group breaking and making their way as one towards the centre and near side of the course.
Roundhay Park, the winner, was drawn in stall 21 and kept a straight path under jockey Faye McManoman to defeat Dark Defender, who was drawn alongside in stall 22.
However, those drawn in the high figures were not miles ahead of their lower-drawn rivals and Never In Paris, who had broken from gate four, finished third, beaten just over a length.
Indeed, four of the first ten home were drawn in single figures. So while being drawn closer to what appears to be the favoured part of the course, from the perspective of the riders at least, is helpful, it is not a distinct disadvantage to have a lower stall on the straight course.
Roundhay Park’s trainer Nigel Tinkler said: "I'm in the same stall with Citron Major in the Silver Cup so I'm happy. I personally think you are okay in the high numbers because they've been coming up the middle, and the ground is probably a little bit better on this side.
"For the low numbers, they'll have been racing on that ground for three days by then. But obviously it's all about where the pace is."
What they say
David O’Meara, trainer of Gulliver, Young Fire and Arecibo
Gulliver is solid. He was undone by the draw last time and should give his running, but he’s got a lot of weight. Arecibo is talented and will travel well but he doesn’t always go through with his effort. We’re trying him in different headgear to see if that helps. Young Fire we’re experimenting a bit with in terms of trip. He won well over seven at Haydock and the horse he beat has won since, so the form is good. My only real concern with him is the trip.
Richard Fahey, trainer of Mr Lupton
He bounced back to form in Ireland last time and he's taken it really well. It's always a worry coming back quickly, but he seems happy.
Alastair Donald, racing manager for King Power Racing, owners of Bielsa, Stone Of Destiny and Rayong
Bielsa is a horse I don’t think we’ve seen the best of yet. He had a small wind op and then needed the run last time. This has been his big aim for the whole year. Stone Of Destiny could do with the ground drying up a bit. If it did it’s the type of race where things could fall right for him like they did last week. Rayong likes a bit of juice and I’d forgive his run at Chester as he didn’t handle the course. He’s a smart horse on his day.
Clive Cox, trainer of Wise Counsel
He was a course winner last year and just had a little setback after his first run this year. He ran well enough at Ascot last time when he was drawn out on a wing. We think he should appreciate the ground and we’ve put some cheekpieces on him for the first time too.
Colin Teague, trainer of Koropick
We’ve taken a chance on him but he’s a proven performer and it’s probably better than buying a yearling. To be fair to him he’s not been a problem at all and the engine is still there, but I’d have liked to have got a run into him as I think he’ll be rusty. He’ll have an all-weather campaign after this.
Roger Varian, trainer of Spanish City
He's always threatened to win a big one such as this and if the ground continues to dry out it will help his chances.
Jedd O’Keeffe, trainer of Air Raid
We could have done with the ground sloppy, wet and heavy but he'll go on it. He's in great form, he'll be fresher than most of them and I hope he's got an each-way chance.
Tim Easterby trainer of Staxton
He's in great order. The ground should be good for him as he doesn't like it too heavy or too firm. He ran a super race at Ripon last time.
Tim Palin, head of Middleham Park Racing, owners of Cold Stare and Lexington Dash
They didn't know which one to put the first colours on really as they both want different ground. Cold Stare won well at Goodwood and wants soft ground so hopefully it doesn't dry up too much. He should be okay over this trip but he could be better at seven. On the other hand, Lexington Dash could do with it drying out a bit. He has threatened to win a big one in the past but the only way I could see him winning is if stall one proves to be three lengths ahead of everything else.