First run in 1804, the Ayr Gold Cup became a handicap in 1855 and was run at Ayr’s former racecourse Belleisle.
That track closed in 1907, and when the race arrived at its new venue it became a sprint, run over a trip of six furlongs.
It’s no great surprise that a Scottish race has been dominated by northern trainers. With 25 going to post tomorrow, the likes of Nicholls, Fahey, O’Meara and Ryan will be hoping for that particular trend to continue.
Richard Fahey was successful 12 months ago, when his classy sprinter Don’t Touch continued his rapid rise through the ranks. That was Fahey’s second victory in the past 10 years. In that time Kevin Ryan has won the race on three occasions, and David Nicholls on two. David O’Meara was successful in 2014.
Though Don’t Touch landed the prize last year, three-year-olds tend to have a poor record in the race, with just a pair of victories in the past 20 years. Four, five and six-year-olds pretty much share the spoils in the Ayr Gold Cup, and with no three-year-olds even entered in tomorrow’s showpiece, that particular trend looks sure to continue.
Richard Fahey trains race favourite Growl, a four-year-old who has been wonderfully consistent in handicaps throughout the summer. As rain continues to fall all over the UK, Growl is proven on testing ground, having won well at Windsor in June. His last run in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood was eye-catching, when a fast-finishing fourth behind Dancing Star. A repeat of that performance should see him go very close.
Though the standard of contenders in the Ayr Gold Cup continues to improve, it remains difficult to win from the top end of the weights. Only two horses have won in the past 10 years off a handicap mark of more than 104. Both were trained by Kevin Ryan, with Advanced successful in 2007 on a mark of 109. Ryan has another fancied contender tomorrow with the 110 rated Brando.
Also a four-year-old, Brando has been running in Group company of late, and was by no means disgraced in the Nunthorpe last time out. He was second in the Wokingham Stakes at Ascot over this trip, though is now on a 9lbs higher handicap mark. He’s by Pivotal which suggests the ground will not be an issue. He’s won on soft in the past and is definitely a classy sort. Tom Eaves again takes the ride and knows him well. He should run a big race.
Absolutely So joins Brando at the top of the weights, and was just behind that rival last time at Ascot. He’s another classy sort who’s likely to be doing his best work late on. He’s better off at the weights with Brando, though whether he’ll act as well on the ground is questionable. He ought to be in the mix, though this is an incredibly competitive renewal.
David Nicholls has a number of contenders, and possibly his best chance will come with Orion’s Bow. Another by Pivotal, he was second in the Stewards’ Cup, though failed to build on that promise in the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon last time. He won the Scottish Stewards’ Cup on this sort of ground back in July, though this is infinitely more difficult, and he’s gone up almost 10lbs since that run. He’s tough to fancy after that Ripon performance.
Watchable is another classy and consistent sort, though rarely gets his head in front. David O’Meara will be hoping that this son of Pivotal will cope with conditions, having spent most of his career running on a sounder surface. He has the form to run well in this, and his handicap mark looks a fair one. His odds of 25s look generous, as long as he acts on the ground. I fancy he’ll go close.
Finally, a mention for last year’s runner-up Poyle Vinnie. Trained in Newark by Michael Appleby, he was a 50/1 shot when chasing home Don’t Touch 12 months ago. He’s 4lbs lower in the handicap and has form on testing ground. He’s a 20/1 shot this time around, but that makes him a fair each-way proposition.
Growl looks the obvious choice, and I’ll be having a few quid on him. But I also fancy Brando and Poyle Vinnie as each-way shots, and will be throwing a little cash at both. It’s a cracking renewal, and I wish those taking a punt the best of luck.