It's Ayr Gold Cup day, and there will be any amount of chatter about the effect of the draw. So, with the Silver Cup also under scrutiny, here's my take on post positions...
Friday saw the pace on the near side (high numbers) in the early race on the straight course. That influenced the decision of middle drawn runners in the Bronze Cup to go high. However, Red Baron ran a gallant third in a solo on the far side, suggesting that there might be at least a fair chance the turf was riding as fast there.
Perception is as good as reality, though, and so it was that horses compromised their chances throughout the rest of the afternoon by losing ground tacking near side and/or falling over each other to claim 'the golden highway' against the rail, often finding insurmountable trouble in running, or burning their gas before the end of the race.
On the matter of perception, there has also to be a chance that the ground staff will "selectively water" the near side, especially under the running rail, in a bid to even things up. What they might end up doing is reversing the bias! Naturally, that is all so much conjecture on my part, and the Firth Of Clyde Stakes, due off at 2.05, will be instructive if probably not definitive.
My fear is that, unless that early sighter race (run over the Silver/Gold Cup trip) reveals over-watering, the middle-drawn horses will make a beeline for the near side, i.e. towards high, in both the Cups. That would give them a natural pace bias (twice as many horses equals twice as much chance to force the pace), whilst compromising an unknown number of horses as outlined above.
In other words, it's all a bit of a mess really.
Let's get to business...
2.40 Ayr Silver Cup (Class 2) 6f
As it happens, the majority of the pace is drawn high in this race anyway, with the likes of Majestic Moon, Ansaab, Mehdi, Newstead Abbey and Bogart all berthed in the 20's. As a consequence, I'd imagine there will be a fair old burn up between the high pace horses. The domino effect could be that those high drawn nags that rate their speed may be stuck behind the middle drawn horses coming across.
If that makes any sense at all, I'd be favouring a prominent racer drawn high teens to low 20s. Maybe.
How about some trendage? (Courtesy of horseracebase as usual)
3- to 5-y-o's have won 14 of the last 17 Silver Cups, at a 4.6% clip. Older horses have claimed the other three, at a rate of 2%. I'd favour the younger group: all fifteen of them.
11/17 winners since 1997 had run in the last 15 days. That's 65% of the winners, from 52% of the runners. We're down to ten.
15/17 winners since 1997 were trained in the North of England, or Scotland, with none having been trained in Newmarket. Seven left.
I'm fairly confident that middle to high will have it here, which would eliminate Angus Og, Yeeoow and Tatlisu from enquiries.
The remaining quartet are Bogart, Mehdi, Huntsmans Close and Lexington Abbey, with the first three named being drawn in the highest three stalls. Lexington has trap 22.
I do like Lexington Abbey (10/1 general), a three year old against his elders. He has been second on his last three runs, only the last of which was at six furlongs, and it is certainly possible that he's improving quicker than he's inching up the weights. 10/1 is hardly a standout value bet but he ticks plenty of boxes and could be ideally placed to pounce when the trailblazers begin to repay their oxygen debt.
Bogart (8/1 general) is a hugely likeable horse, and has a course and distance win as well as three big field sprint race victories, two of them on good to firm. As such, conditions look optimal, and he ran a cracker to be second in the Portland last Saturday, behind a horse that is clearly Group class. He races off the same mark of 93 here, is drawn 25, and is a deserving favourite.
He showed in the Portland that he doesn't need to lead, so if Amy Ryan can rate behind Majestic Moon or another, she could be claiming a great family prize, with Bogart trained by her dad, Kevin Ryan.
Mehdi has clearly been laid out for this, with a mark-sparing spin over a mile last week on just his second start of the season. He's three pounds below his last winning rating and has conditions very much in his favour. The problem, illustrated by a record of two wins from 22 starts, and none from his last sixteen, is that he's tough to get home in front. And, though I might regret it later, he's overlooked on that basis.
Huntsmans Close ran a cracker in third last week over seven furlongs. He was just about in front a furlong out that day, and his best performances have been over the Silver Cup range. But, like Mehdi, he's a horribly infrequent winner - just two from twenty - and I reluctantly move on.
If the low side can get into this - perhaps as a consequence of the 2.05 falling to a far side runner - then it might be Tatlisu (16/1 general). Indeed, had he drawn ten stalls higher he'd have been a bizarrely confident selection. Mercifully for my sanity, or at least the outward facing aspects of it, he's got box seven.
The case for him is his consistency. Ignore the Curragh run last time. He was drawn on the wrong side - first five home drawn 19, 16, 15, 9, 20 of twenty, Tatlisu drawn 6 - and if he can get a tow from perennial early leader, Repetition, he could at least win the race on the far side.
Prior to his Curragh blip, he'd placed in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap, the Stewards' Cup consolation race, and the Scottish Stewards' Cup. And before that he won a class, distance and going handicap beating Muthmir. His form is bomb proof, and I wish he'd scored better with the draw. I'm going to have a tiny bet on him anyway, and I recommend you follow him in future starts, as he still looks well handicapped despite a rise of ten pounds without winning.
Those are my three against the field, and I'm backing them win only, whilst including them in a placepot perm will give me something to cheer should they 'only' make the frame.
3.50 Ayr Gold Cup (Class 2) 6f
More of the same, only slightly better nags, an hour and some minutes later. Interestingly, perhaps, this looks far less of a balls out (well, most of them have already suffered that ignominy) dash. And, as if to thicken the plot still further, what pace there is is in the low gates. Hmm, this'll confuse 'em! (Unless, obviously, I'm wrong...)
Let's first see if there are any sensible trends to help us mute some of the punting noise.
Only one of the 71 3yo's to race in this since 1997 could win, while four- to six-year-olds claimed all of the other sixteen renewals in that time. That's 94% of the winners from 69% of the runners. Sixteen remain after eliminating the youngest and oldest.
16 winners (94%) since 1997 had raced between 8 and 60 days ago, from 80% of the runners. Just eleven left, as five raced within the past week, including favourite Watchable.
Messrs. Ryan and Nicholls have won eight of the last fourteen renewals between them, which is some feat despite heavy representation. They saddle Hamza, Blaine and Barnet Fair of the remaining eleven.
Back to the draw, and this might be interesting. If things pan out as I suspect they might, with high housed horses winning the Silver Cup, the odds on low drawn nags in the Gold Cup itself are likely to expand. This may be excellent news for those of us contrarian t(h)inkers who have reason to believe speed lives elsewhere. Here's the Geegeez Gold pace map, by draw. Remember, a high pace score - maximum 16 - means a front running sort.
So I'll chance my arm far from the madding crowd and go low. I'll take an early price, best odds guaranteed, and I'll leave the rest to fortune's fickle fingers.
The first one I like is David O'Meara's Watchable. He just got home from the perma-unlucky Zalty on the Curragh, and even allowing for a good draw it was a fine effort, following on from two fine placed runs over Ascot's seven furlongs in hyper-competitive handicaps.
A mark of 103 will be challenging, but this lad is thriving on racing and can again make the frame at least, assuming low lands a blow.
Hamza drops down from Group class, where he's been competitive enough to grab third the last twice, and into a handicap for the first time since running mid-div in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot. That was a better run that it looked - he was third of nine in the group on his side - and he will make a bold bid from the front, especially if unbothered on the lead, a scenario which is more likely than the field size implies.
And Alben Star is another super-consistent sprinter. Second to Tropics in a Listed contest last time, he was previously placed in the Stewards Cup, the Scurry Stakes and the Wokingham. He races off the same mark as the last day with a two pound rise offset by five pound 'bug' Jack Garrity deputizing for three pound claimer George Challoner. He's a prominent runner by trade, and will probably try to track Hamza into the final fractions.
If I'm wrong - entirely possible - and the winner is drawn high, then so be it. You can't win them all, and in races such as these, it is usually more about bragging rights than bullish bets. I'll be splitting my small stake three ways, win only once more. And I might even have a 3 x 3 double for thrupenny thrills.
NOTE: Betfair Sportsbook and Ladbrokes are paying SIX places on this race; most other bookies paying FIVE places. Check the place terms if you'll be betting each way.
Who do you fancy? Leave a comment and let us know. Good luck!