Summerghand and Great Ambassador among Ayr Gold Cup hopefuls

Summerghand heads a mammoth 163 entries for the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup following the five-day confirmation stage.

David O’Meara’s popular seven-year-old sprinter has to carry a 5lb penalty for winning the Listed Hopeful Stakes at Newmarket last month.

Ante-post favourite for Saturday’s famous handicap is Great Ambassador, who also has a 5lb penalty following his victory in the Garrowby Stakes at York – another Listed event.

His trainer Ed Walker could be two-handed if Popmaster is among the 25 guaranteed a run at the 48-hour final declaration stage. There are the Silver and Bronze Cups for those below in the handicap.

Michael Dods would like to see some rain to help Commanche Falls’ cause. The four-year-old has been kept for this race since lifting the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood.

“We’ll have a lot of entries, but we are looking at the ground,” the County Durham trainer told Racing TV.

“They are forecast rain on Friday, so we are thinking Saturday could be quite nice ground.

“We’ll have Commanche Falls in the Gold Cup and we have other entries – the likes of Pendleton, Blackrod – but really we are monitoring the ground.

“Commanche Falls likes to be off the bridle and finish. He did it well in the Stewards’ Cup.

“It’s not an easy call for the weight he’s got in the Ayr Gold Cup. But he’s in good form, and some rain would help – because he comes late, and we wouldn’t like the pace horses to get away.”

The most notable absentee on Monday from the initial entries was the Andrew Balding-trained Chil Chil, who was third in the Haydock Sprint Cup on her latest start.

Commache Falls is Stewards’ Cup hero

Commanche Falls continued his impressive progression through the ranks when winning the Unibet Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood.

Trained by Michael Dods, who excels with sprinters, the four-year-old has made giant strides this season.

A winner at Ayr in April off a mark of just 84, he has also won at Ripon before taking the Scottish Stewards’ Cup last time out.

That win earned him a 6lb penalty – but as the handicapper only saw fit to raise him 5lb for that narrow win, he was effectively racing from 1lb wrong at the weights.

Usually in such a competitive race that could be crucial, but Commanche Falls (10-1) is clearly improving at a rate of knots still.

He initially looked to be on the wrong side of the track as Major Jumbo carried the far side into an early advantage.

With a furlong to run both groups appeared neck and neck, but Connor Beasley had only been biding his time and Commanche Falls burst clear to win by a neck from the fast-finishing Gulliver. Great Ambassador was third, with Total Commitment in fourth.

Dods did not make the long journey to Goodwood from his Darlington base, but said: “It was some performance as we were a bit worried about the ground. He has won on soft, but at that level we thought he needed better ground.

“To do that with a penalty was unbelievable, he would have got in without it but you don’t know that at the time and the Hamilton race was a nice one to win.

“It’s great for the owners, it’s great for Connor and great for everyone, these are the races you want to be involved in.

“He’s a half-brother to Dakota Gold, but the two do things completely differently as he would prefer to go forward while this lad likes to be off the bridle at halfway and come through horses. For them both to be at the level they are is unbelievable.

Connor Beasley returns on Commanche Falls
Connor Beasley returns on Commanche Falls (John Walton/PA)

“He seems to be improving with every run this season, it’s incredible what he’s done so we’ll see where we go. He’s won a very competitive race nicely today so we can look forward to the future with him.

“He’ll be entered for the Ayr Gold Cup, but he’s surprised us a bit today really – we thought if he was in the first six or seven we’d be delighted in those conditions. I’ll have a chat with Connor, but Ayr would be the obvious target depending on his weight.

“He’s an exciting horse who hasn’t had a lot of racing so we can look forward to the future with him.”

David O’Meara said of Gulliver: “Gulliver has run really well. The ground was absolutely perfect for him, he loves it slow.

“He was getting there all the time late on. Slow ground really played to his strengths and Adam Kirby gave him a great run.

“He has run a blinder and there was no hard-luck stories. I just thought he was running out of time late on.

“The Ayr Gold Cup could be something we think about.”