( Published 14 September, 2018) – Such is the popularity of the £200,000 William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, one of the top six furlong sprint handicaps in Europe, that the entries will be divided into a Bronze Cup set to be run on the Friday, and the Silver and Gold Cup run on the big day itself, with those who fail to make the cut for the Gold Cup going into the Silver Cup, and likewise further down the handicap the Bronze Cup.
This ferociously competitive event is one of Scotland’s two great horse races – the other being the Scottish Grand National – and is a race for which horses are often laid out for some months in advance of the big event itself. In the last four renewals fancied horses have carried off the prize each time with the biggest priced winner being the 11/1 shot Brando in 2016, while last year Andrew Balding’s Donjuan Triumphant (fourth in the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup last week) won at odds of just 13/2. Indeed, nine of the last ten winners have started at 18/1 or less, only 20/1 shot Highland Colori (also trained by Balding) bucking that recent trend.
With 201 horses still entered to run and only 25 set to face the starter on September 22, offering an ante-post selection is no easy matter but, if we latch on to the right one there is every chance we could very well beat the odds with something to spare by betting early.
To be fair, I’m of the view that you can rule out those below No.70 or thereabouts, meaning that the likes of Spanish City (67) and Rapid Applause (78), both fairly prominent in the ante-post market, have quite a task to make it into the starting line-up. So let’s concentrate on the top 70!
Drums Beating As Urban Gamble Continues
Only two three-year-olds have won the Ayr Gold Cup in the last 20 years but that hasn’t stopped punters latching on to the still unexposed Urban Beat, trained by former riding legend Johnny Murtagh at the Curragh in Ireland. Well beaten on his only juvenile outing, the son of Red Jazz has really got the hang of things this term, landing a heavy ground Navan five furlong maiden on his first start of the campaign before hacking up in a six furlong Curragh handicap (again on heavy ground) off a mark of 89 five weeks later.
He was subsequently sent to the London Sales where the 20,000 guineas foal reached 230,000 guineas but was eventually led out unsold. Whoever failed to bid would have been regretting a possible missed opportunity as Urban Beat justified favouritism off a mark off 97 in another Curragh six furlong handicap earlier this month, and who knows how much more there might be to come? He’s picked up a 5lb penalty for his latest success taking him to the verge of pattern race company on 102, and has been backed from 14/1 down to a top priced 10/1 at present with MansionBet.
Dean Ivory’s Flaming Spear (14/1 with 888sport) is another who is set to run under a 5lb penalty having scored in fine style at Goodwood three weeks ago in a £100,000 handicap. He will run off a mark of 109 and carries the colours of Brighton FC chairman Tony Bloom whose horses such as Withhold and Stratum have been enjoying a stunning running of success over the last few seasons and invariably attract strong market support.
Flaming Spear wins the Ladbrokes Bet £5 Get £20 Handicap in strong style for Dean Ivory and Adam Kirby pic.twitter.com/fzFR7umKyg
— Goodwood Racecourse (@Goodwood_Races) August 25, 2018
The question mark for Flaming Spear – aside of his massive weight – is that he has done his winning over the last two seasons over seven furlongs and a mile, and while you need a horse that stays well to win this race, you wonder if on a decent surface things might be happening plenty fast enough for him. He is a class act though, so a good run is more than likely.
Veteran Thirsk-based trainer David Barron won this race way back in 1996 with the massive grey Coastal Bluff who landed one of the biggest gambles in the history of the event when justifying 3/1 favouritism. This time he sends Gunmetal (16/1 with Betfred) into battle and this progressive five-year-old, like Coastal Bluff a strapping grey gelding, is a horse who has done little wrong this campaign developing into a very useful sprint handicapper. Trained until the end of last term by Charles Hills, Gunmetal won his first two starts this term for Barron, being particularly impressive in beating the decent Intisaab at Newmarket. Third in a red-hot Curragh handicap on his next outing, he didn’t seem to enjoy the Goodwood track when 11th in the Stewards Cup, but was only beaten little more than three lengths.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) August 18, 2018
Last time out the son of Clodovil absolutely bolted up in the valuable Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon (above), making every yard of the running. 7lb higher now, Gunmetal could be a potential Group-class sprinter next term and he should run a very big race at Ayr if handed a fair draw. The ultra-consistent Growl (14/1 with Totesport) was third in the Ripon race and has run well in a stack of big handicaps in recent seasons. He looks to be just in the grip of the handicapper though and may again find a few too good.
One of the most fascinating contenders is Michael Wigham’s Glenamoy Lad (14/1 with Bet365) who was very progressive last term, winning three times and improving a total of 17lb. He didn’t reappear until last month’s Stewards’ Cup for which he was steadily supported but spoiled his chance by breaking slowly before staying on well to finish 10th, beaten just three lengths. Likely to be fitter for that run the bookies are taking no real chances, but at No.58 in the list he is by no means guaranteed to get into the final 25 starters.
Godolphin’s Culturati (16/1 with 10bet) has been very lightly raced and won his only start in 2017 before being off the course for 13 months. He was all the rage on his seasonal reappearance over seven furlongs at York in July but blew up and probably failed to stay. Dropped back a furlong at York last time he ran a fine race to be fourth of 19 to El Astronaute (see below) and will run off the same mark at Ayr. Given the stop-start nature of his career to date there is every chance this five-year-old could still have more to offer and he is a very interesting candidate.
El Astronaute nabs the win in the opener at York whilst the #PriceItUp survives thanks to Culturati finishing 4th
One leg down three to go! pic.twitter.com/Pk5dxO8fe5
— OLBG.com (@OLBG) August 22, 2018
Global Applause (16/1 with LeoVegas) has been supported to complete a hattrick following his listed win at Doncaster earlier this week, but that came over five furlongs and he may not prove quite so effective over the extra furlong in a much bigger field, but Declan Carroll’s Justanotherbottle (20/1 with Paddy Power) caught in the very last stride by Gifted Master in the Stewards’ Cup, is entitled to plenty of respect. He wouldn’t have been suited by the small field in listed company at Doncaster last week and this fast-run event should spark him into a big effort. He should go well.
The trainer to follow though in this race in recent times has been Kevin Ryan, who has won the Ayr Gold Cup a remarkable four times in the last eleven years, most recently with 11/1 shot Brando two years ago. He has a number of interesting entries this year with Hey Jonesy, Terentum Star, Naadirr and Tommy Taylor possibly set to represent the yard, but it is Ryan’s MAJOR JUMBO who catches the eye most of all.
BACCHUS sorprende en raya al invicto DREAMFIELD del Godolphin para ganar el Wokingham Stakes. Primer triunfo en el meeting 2018 de Royal Ascot para su entrenador Brian Meehan, y 2° para su jockey Jim Crowley. Cortesía @Racing_UK pic.twitter.com/7hpkAqff1c
— Luis E. Caraballo G. (@luis_ernestocg) June 23, 2018
This four-year-old hasn’t been out of the first four in seven starts this term in good handicap company, winning at Newmarket in April. Among his other fine efforts he was runner-up to the very smart Caspian Prince in the Scottish Sprint Cup, third to Bacchus in the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot (see above), and was beaten just a neck by Kimberella in a listed event at Chester last time out. Best suited by a big field and a strong gallop, the 20/1 on offer each-way with bet365 about Major Jumbo looks a value bet and he just about gets the nod from me in a fiendishly difficult race.
Others to note in despatches at big odds are Silent Echo, Baron Bolt and Marie Of Lyon, all of whom would have claims if things go their way.
ADVICE: MAJOR JUMBO (20/1 each-way with bet365)
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.