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Fahey targets third Ayr Gold Cup with Mr Lupton

Mr Lupton is out to bag his second major prize in the space of a week in Saturday’s QTS Ayr Gold Cup.

Richard Fahey’s sprinter was rated as high as 113 at one stage of his career, but a fairly slow start to the current campaign saw him fall to a mark of 98.

A third-place finish in last month’s Great St Wilfrid at Ripon suggested he was on the way back and he continued his resurgence with victory in the lucrative “Bold Lad” Sprint Handicap on Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh last Sunday.

With talented apprentice Billy Garritty booked for the ride to negate his 5lb penalty, Fahey is hopeful Mr Lupton can provide him with a third victory in this weekend’s Scottish showpiece following the previous triumphs of Fonthill Road (2006) and Don’t Touch (2015).

“He hasn’t done a lot since he came back from Ireland, just a couple of light canters,” said the Musley Bank handler.

“He seems in good form. It’s one of those – you just don’t know until the day, but we’re happy to run him.

“He’s been a star, a legend. It’s amazing. He was bought at a charity function. Out of the charity came a bit of good.”

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Fahey also saddles outsider Gabrial The Wire, of whom he added: “He’s a bit hit and miss. A fast-run six-furlong race should suit – it’s just if he’s quick enough to lay up early on.”

Tim Easterby was relieved Staxton made the cut, having decided against running him since winning the Great St Wilfrid last month.

He said: “He’s in good order and I hope he’ll run a good race.

“We took a gamble by waiting for this race. I could have run him somewhere else under a penalty, but I spoke to the owners and we decided we’d wait for this and thankfully he’s just crept in.

“He’s drawn down the middle (15) and I hope he’s got a good chance.”

Seven days on from claiming Classic glory in the St Leger at Doncaster aboard Joseph O’Brien’s Galileo Chrome, jockey Tom Marquand has high hopes of landing another major prize with the William Haggas-trained Nahaarr.

Tom Marquand is looking forward to teaming up with Nahaarr
Tom Marquand is looking forward to teaming up with Nahaarr (Edward Whitaker/PA)

The lightly-raced son of Dark Angel was a runaway winner at Newbury in July before finishing ninth when favourite for the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood.

“He’s a really good ride to have. I think we’ve got drawn pretty well in 13, so I’m looking forward to riding him,” said Marquand.

“He’s a horse with lots of ability. He didn’t handle Goodwood all that well in the Stewards’ Cup and I just hope this can be a bit of a bounce back from that run. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be.

“Fingers crossed things can go our way.”

The formidable combination of trainer Andrew Balding and champion jockey Oisin Murphy is represented by Stone Of Destiny, who bids to follow up his win in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster last Saturday.

Balding said: “He won the Portland well and although this is a little bit further for him, he is a good horse when everything drops right – that is the key to him.

“He needs a strong gallop to aim at, which is what he will get at Ayr, but he doesn’t want the ground too soft.

“The Portland was the aim, but we decided this was worth having a go at afterwards.”

David O’Meara fires a four-pronged assault, with top-weight Gulliver joined by stable companions Arecibo, Cold Stare and Young Fire, while Kevin Ryan has three runners in Bielsa, Hey Jonesy and Major Jumbo.

Jedd O’Keeffe’s Air Raid and the David Barron-trained Another Batt also feature in what is always a fiercely competitive affair.

Nine Runners To Consider In Saturday’s Big Sprints At Ayr

The two big handicaps on Saturday both take place at Ayr over 6f within 70 minutes of each other. With a total of 50 horses set to go to post across both the Ayr Gold Cup and Ayr Silver Cup picking winners, or even places, is not going to be easy.

I’ll be providing a shortlist of horses that have strong or hot form and are worth consideration for both races. In races like this there are always plenty of runners that have been laid out for the race so recent form isn’t necessarily the be all and end all but hopefully we’ll see some of these run well.

Ayr 6f Draw and Pace

A lot is always made of the draw in these cavalry charges but can we rule any runners out, or give extra consideration to others, based solely on the draw?

Looking at 16+ runner handicaps run at Ayr since 2009 on ground ranging from soft all the way up to good to firm, low draws have comfortably held the edge across all metrics.

The data offers some conflicting figures about whether middle is preferred to high or vice versa. It seems if you are drawn high, a particular area of the high draws and a certain run style is of great advantage.

High drawn front runners do particularly well. In fact in terms of PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) the most efficient and effective combination is high draw and speed. Prominent racers seem to have the same chance wherever they are drawn and then the more a horse is held up, the more it is an advantage to be drawn low.

It’s worth noting that all horses drawn in the top third of the draw contribute to the high drawn data. However if we look at individual draw data we see some quite revealing stats.

The above shows that as far as PRB is concerned, the two highest stalls are way out ahead, albeit with limited data, whilst the remaining high stalls are all amongst the worst for PRB. So it seems a very high draw is fine, or even advantageous, whereas a middle to high draw can be a big disadvantage.

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Looking at these races run on just good to soft ground gives us less data but hopefully a further insight into how the bias will be this weekend.

No wins for the middle stalls looks a bit misleading here as the place percentages and PRB both confirm a middle draw can be slightly preferable to a low draw.

The PRB heat map on good to soft ground once again shows that if you are drawn high you almost certainly need to be on the pace. If you are drawn low then it is potentially more of an advantage to be held up. The runners will probably split into two groups and the far side group will almost certainly be bigger so it stands to reason that those held up from a low draw get a decent pace to aim at and are therefore slightly advantaged.

If I had the pick of the draw and didn’t have an out and out front runner I’d probably choose a draw somewhere between 7 and 14. Horses can run well from low, middle and high stalls here though and a ‘better’ draw should only be seen as an advantage of perhaps a few lbs rather than a guarantee of victory.

Ayr Silver Cup – 2.30pm

King’s Lynn

It’s easy to see why he’s been installed as the 4/1 favourite here. He won a Doncaster sales race last year as a 2yo beating Repartee and Toro Strike (both since rated in triple figures).

Of more relevance is his form this season. He’s had just the one start, a month ago, in a novice event. He was defeated by 2.5 lengths when sent off odds on which on the face of it is disappointing. However the winner of the race has since won at listed level and is now rated 111 so for King’s Lynn to get within 2.5 lengths, in receipt of 2lb but conceding race fitness reads well for a horse now running in a handicap off 94. Full Authority was 4.5 lengths behind King’s Lynn in that race, also giving the Andrew Balding runner 2lbs, and he has gone close in two handicaps since off 87 which again suggests King’s Lynn’s effort was worthy of a mark north of 94.

His draw in stall 6 looks near perfect and even if just reproducing his last run he should go close. Add in some improvement for that first run of the season and the fact he’s still had just three starts and he’s tempting, even at prohibitive odds.

Rathbone

At around 12/1 he looks a solid each way bet based on his form at this distance this season. In June he finished 3rd to Glen Shiel and Tabdeed at Newcastle and both those runners have gone on to win Group 3 races recently. Back in 4th was Treacherous who won his next two starts in handicap company. Remarkably he gets to run off the same mark of 90 here despite also finishing runner up at Ascot last time out, beaten just a head.

He’s drawn in stall 22 and is often held up so that does look a big negative based on past draw data. Maybe the Bronze Cup will show this to not be the negative the data suggests.

Aplomb

This runner tends to be overbet but an inconsistent, disappointing season means he is finally becoming a working man’s price (as big as 18/1 at the time of writing). For his entire career he has looked in need of 6f and cut in the ground. Last year when he got those conditions his form was 21120, the last run was a very rare poor run at the end of a long season. He’d probably had enough at that point.

This season started off promisingly. He was a running on 5th over an inadequate 5f on fast ground on seasonal debut (1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th all at least runner up since). He’s now 3lb lower. Off the back of that run he was sent off near favourite for the Silver Wokingham but he found drying ground against him and ran a respectable 7th. All runs since have come at less than 6f.

The bad news is he is 5lbs wrong here compared to his current, falling mark. He is still well handicapped on old form though and under optimum conditions from stall 10 he could outrun his odds.

Magical Spirit

It’s surprising to see this horse available at 28/1 for this. He does have a bit of an in and out profile but he has run well in both turf starts this season and seemed to benefit from a wind op last time out when a running on 4th at Haydock in deep ground. The 3rd that day, Danzeno, went close to winning the Portland Handicap on his next start and Magical Spirit was only half a length behind Danzeno on this occasion. He’s won at 6f before and the return to this trip should suit.

Show Me Show Me

The biggest question mark for this one, and probably the only reason he’s available at 33/1, is the trip. He should be well handicapped here based on his Royal Ascot 8th in which the 1st, 2nd and 7th have all won since and many others have run well in defeat. He’s now 7lbs lower despite running okay and being better than the bare form on his last two starts.

This is a step back up to 6f, which he hasn’t convinced at yet in three starts. However two of those came as a 2yo and the one run at this distance as a 3yo came in a Group 3 for which he was sent off 28/1 and at that time Richard Fahey’s runners were mostly needing, or improving for their first runs of the season. He has often been outpaced at the half way point over 5f so there is hope he can stay this fair and from stall 4 he should run well if staying.

Ayr Gold Cup – 3.40pm

Staxton

Last two wins have come at Ripon, where he tends to do well, and both races have worked out nicely. The first of those victories saw him beat a dual subsequent winner whilst the 4th has finished runner up on both starts since and the 5th has won since. Five winners have emerged from his latest win including the 3rd and the 4th. He’s another 6lbs higher and hasn’t performed brilliantly here for the past two years but he’s better handicapped than the last two attempts and he does hold Mr Lupton (favourite at the time of writing) on the bare form of their recent meeting too and has a decent draw in the middle.

Mr Lupton

He was 3rd to Staxton on his penultimate start in that aforementioned warm race and went two places better to win a big field Curragh sprint next time out. Mr Lupton is 1lb better off with Staxton for a 0.75 length loss and now has the 5lb claim of Billy Garritty so has claims of reversing placings over this different course. Stall 11 looks pretty much perfect for him.

Barbill

A winner on his seasonal debut in a race that couldn’t be much hotter. The 2nd was runner up in the Stewards’ Cup on his next run at the distance, the 3rd and 4th have both won twice since and the 5th has also won since.

He’s now 10lbs higher, which makes life a lot more difficult but the 3rd is now rated a stone higher and the 4th won easily last week off a 6lb higher mark so it’s not beyond him, especially as he was a running on 6th in the Portland Handicap a week ago after being badly hampered at the start of the race.

From stall 12 he appears to have an excellent chance here.

Bungee Jump

This runner has almost certainly lost his form based on his last two runs but it’s interesting that this front runner is drawn in the second highest stall here – an angle that has done well in the past. On his seasonal debut he beat subsequent winners into 2nd and 3rd and he held his form well for his next two starts. He’s gone up 8lbs in the ratings this season but if he returns to form and if front running on the near side rail is an advantage (neither are guaranteed) he’d surely have as much chance as anything so 50/1 perhaps underestimates him, for all he is a very risky proposition.

Final Thoughts

Two very difficult races but if given two selections in each race I'd go for King's Lynn and Magical Spirit in the Silver Cup and then Barbill and Mr Lupton in the Gold Cup. The best bet between the two races is potentially Barbill each way at 25/1 (price correct as of Friday afternoon) given pretty much everything appears to be in his favour here.

Mr Lupton heads Ayr Gold Cup field after Irish win

Ante-post favourite Mr Lupton is among a maximum field of 25 declared for the QTS Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday.

Richard Fahey’s well-seasoned sprinter showed his well being when taking a 22-runner handicap at the Curragh last weekend. He will race from stall 11.

Stone Of Destiny (drawn 19), winner of last week’s Portland Handicap at Doncaster, bids to complete a big sprint double for Andrew Balding that was achieved by his father Ian with Lochsong in 1992.

David O’Meara has four runners, headed by top-weight Gulliver (20). Young Fire (4), Cold Stare (21) and Arecibo (25) while Major Jumbo (16), Hey Jonesy (8) and Bielsa (22) make up Kevin Ryan’s three-strong team.

Staxton (15), trained by Tim Easterby, made the cut thanks to a 5lb penalty for winning the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon.

Richard Hannon’s Lexington Dash (1) was the last of the 25 to get in.

Group One winner Addeybb is set to face six rivals in the Jordan Electrics Doonside Cup.

The William Haggas-trained gelding won twice at the top level in Australia earlier in the year and was second to Lord North in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

The six-year-old drops back into Listed company for the first time since the Royal meeting in 2019 and has a 7lb penalty to concede.

Lord Glitters, trained by David O’Meara, is the other Group One scorer in the field, having lifted the Queen Anne Stakes last season while Fox Chairman and San Donato have form at Group level.

Rose Of Kildare gave Mark Johnston his first Scotty Brand Firth Of Clyde Fillies’ Stakes success 12 months ago and the Middleham trainer relies on Perfect Times this time.

A competitive field of 15 includes Umm Kulthum, She’s So Nice and Scarlet Bear, who were third, fourth and fifth respectively in the Group Two Lowther Stakes at York.

Scarlet Bear has since finished third in the Group Three Dick Poole Stakes at Salisbury earlier this month when Illykato was fourth.

Fozzy Stack’s Sloane Peterson is the sole Irish raider.

Danzeno set to bypass Ayr Gold Cup date

Leading Ayr Gold Cup fancy Danzeno is likely to miss the race, trainer Mick Appleby has confirmed.

The consistent nine-year-old has been towards the head of the ante-post lists for the big betting race of the weekend after finishing second in the Portland at Doncaster last week.

Danzeno has never run in the race before and Appleby is favouring a contest at Nottingham instead.

Appleby said: “He was unlucky not to win at Doncaster the other day, it was just unfortunate something came out the other side and beat him.

“He is in the Ayr Gold Cup and though he definitely gets in, he is more than likely not to go and we have near enough decided that.

“I think it is more likely that we will go to Nottingham the week after, as there is a 0-105 handicap there. He has done well this season and held his form well.”

Summerghand heads weights for Ayr Gold Cup

Stewards’ Cup winner Summerghand heads the weights for the QTS Ayr Gold Cup following the five-day acceptance stage.

Fourth in the six-furlong handicap showpiece 12 months ago, David O’Meara’s smart sprinter is rated 1lb higher this time – but is burdened with 11lb more having to carry 9st 13lb.

Should he take his chance, Summerghand would at least be in calmer waters as he contested the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock last time out, when eighth to Dream Of Dreams. Among other possibles for O’Meara are Gulliver, Young Fire, Cold Stare and Arecibo.

Stone Of Destiny, trained by Andrew Balding, has a 5lb penalty for his victory in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster on Saturday, while the Kingsclere trainer can also call on King’s Lynn, owned by the Queen.

The three-year-old shaped promisingly when second to the exciting Starman at Doncaster last month, on his first start since September.

Mr Lupton bagged a valuable prize at the Curragh on Sunday and is in line for a quick reappearance for Richard Fahey, with Tim Easterby considering the race for his Great St Wilfrid Handicap scorer Staxton.

Mick Appleby’s Danzeno, the William Haggas-trained Nahaarr and Atalanta’s Boy, from David Menusier’s stable, are just a few of the others in contention after 162 hopefuls stood their ground.

There are the Silver and Bronze Cups as consolation races for those who miss out on the big one.

Ayr Sprint Cups and the Draw…

Ayr's Western meeting is headlined by the Gold Cup, a very high class six furlong handicap. Such is its popularity that the meeting also hosts not one but two consolation races, the Silver and Bronze Cups.

What that means is a reasonable body of big field evidence from which to conjecture about the draw. Geegeez Gold also has some pretty neat tools to support those ruminations.

First, we need to establish the likely going. With a largely dry forecast, the ground should be somewhere between good and good to soft by Saturday, when the Silver and Gold Cups are hosted. Today, the official going is soft, good to soft in places. We'll use the history of all big field six furlong sprints since 2009 at the track.

 

Ayr 6 Furlong Draw (Overall)

Here's how the high/middle/low split looks in six furlong races of 16 runners or more since 2009 at Ayr:

All 16+ runner 6f races at Ayr since 2009

All 16+ runner 6f races at Ayr since 2009

 

As you can see, low is marginally favoured over middle, which in turn is favoured over high. That's based on place percentages across a sample of almost 600 runners.

 

Ayr 6 Furlong Draw (Good, Good to Soft, Soft only)

Because we have a reasonable (relative to other course/distance combinations) sample size, we can restrict our going range to something closer to this weekend's reality. In this image, I'm looking only at soft to good ground:

Ayr big field 6 furlong races on good, good to soft, or soft ground

Ayr big field 6 furlong races on good, good to soft, or soft ground

 

Here we can see that low is still favoured, though not by as much, with high some way behind. All of these views show the place percentage, which allows for a slightly largely sample of placers than winners. Focusing only on winners would show a similar 'low and middle dominating high' perspective.

 

A More Granular Look...

So that's cut and dried then, no? Low to middle favoured. High can win but historically not so much. Sadly, it's not quite as simple as that. Look at this race-by-race breakdown of the draw positions of the placed horses in 16+ runners six furlong races run at Ayr on ground ranging from good through to soft, since 2009.

 

Ayr 6f place draw breakdown, 16+ runners

Ayr 6f place draw breakdown, 16+ runners

 

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What is striking - to me - is how 'random' the spread of stall positions is. But look more closely and you might be able to discern a 'cluster' effect: groups of proximitous stalls appearing in the same result.

 

Holy Clusters, Batman!

Last year, the Gold Cup first four were in stalls between four and nine; and the Silver Cup saw three of the first four home in adjacent boxes two to four. Indeed, in the image below we can see how prevalent this place clustering actually is.

 

Ayr 6f big field place clustering

Ayr 6f big field place clustering

 

Note the red comments, where three or all four placed horses came from a small portion of the draw. This starts to look anything but random. And yet, we still have the challenge of establishing, ahead of time, where these 'pockets of success' might be. The crucial thing is that, over the course of seven years, they have - on different occasions - been spread across the track.

 

What About Pace?

So perhaps there is no discernible draw bias. Is that possible? In the below table, I've added some early pace information. Below the table, I'll explain what it means.

 

Effect and location of early pace in 6f big field Ayr sprints

Effect and location of early pace in 6f big field Ayr sprints

 

This was somewhat labour intensive, and is a little bit subjective, in terms of using pace comments to determine those with early dash in the races. However, as a totality, I think there are some interesting findings.

The green numbers in the placing boxes are placed horses that had early pace in the race. The stall positions, quantity, and placed quantity, of early pacers are in the three right hand columns.

Of the 460 runners to contest these 19 races, 76 filled out the first four placings (16.5%). The 131 early pacers (28.5% of the runners) managed to claim 29 of the 76 top four placings (38%), which is a third higher than random.

So we can be reasonably confident that early pace is generally favoured in these races, something borne out by Gold's pace tab:

 

Performance, by run style, of all 6f races at Ayr since 2009

Performance, by run style, of all 6f races at Ayr since 2009

 

The table below the blobs shows a clear linear relationship, especially on place percentage, by run style. Early leaders are almost twice as likely to win than random, while those held up perform significantly below expectations. Of course, the 'tail end Charlie' group includes a lot of no-hopers in open race company, which over-emphasizes the point but, nevertheless, a prominent/front rank early position is generally advantageous.

Although the data are far from unequivocal - sadly, pigeonholes rarely work effectively when trying to solve the biggest racing puzzles - it would seem that pace is a more important commodity than draw, although being drawn close to some 'community pace' looks a solid advantage.

 

Who's going to win? Bronze Cup

This is the bit where I put my money where my mouth is. Using the info above, as well as the Instant Expert and various other bits and bobs, I'll offer a suggestion or two. Keep in mind that the scope for egg on face here is high, so caveat emptor!

Pretty much all of the early zip looks to be low, as you can see here:

Ayr Bronze Cup: pace looks to be low

Ayr Bronze Cup: pace looks to be low

 

Here's what the Instant Expert makes of the form in the book:

Instant Expert's view of the Bronze Cup

Instant Expert's view of the Bronze Cup

 

Ocean Sheridan, drawn nine, and a fan of softish ground, has shown he can handle big fields and is a distance specialist. He represents a northern trainer who targets the meeting, and should run a big race at around 10/1.

Giant Spark has an obvious chance, one which is very well accounted for in a quote of 5/1.

At bigger prices, Marjorie Fife's Best Trip could blaze a trail for a long way, and come out best of her three entries. 25/1 should give a run for your money at least.

A good egg on face avoidance strategy is to take one from 'the other side' just in case (!), and Adrian Keatley's Anonymous Lady has plenty of juice in her quote of 25/1. Keatley showed yesterday he's in fine fettle, and has a belting overall record at the track.

Adrian Keatley's Anonymous Lady may be drawn on the wrong side, but she has a decennt profile otherwise

Adrian Keatley's Anonymous Lady may be drawn on the wrong side, but she has a decent profile otherwise

 

Who's going to win? Gold and Silver Cups

Here at geegeez, we try to teach people to fish, as the old adage goes, and we have top of the range rods and bait inside Geegeez Gold. So it is that, with a nod of encouragement, I invite you to do your own angling for a tasty fish supper in Saturday's races. If you come up dry, don't carp about it though (groan)!

Good luck,
Matt

 

p.s. Geegeez Gold is £30 monthly but, for the next few days only, you can secure a huge discount by signing up as an annual subscriber. £197 gets you twelve months' access here: http://www.geegeez.co.uk/invest-in-gold/

Please note: Annual subs will rise for new annual subscribers only to £249 from next Monday, 19th September. If you're on a trial, or have already upgraded to Annual, you will be unaffected by the price rise and will be 'grandfathered' in on the soon-to-be old rate for the term of your subscription. (NB it is your responsibility not to let it lapse!)

 

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