Check out Matt Brocklebank's guide to Saturday's William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, with SIX places up for grabs with Sky Bet.
Wasted no time impressing his new boss when making it 2-2 for Richard Fahey at Lingfield in the spring, since when he’s been kept pretty busy and hasn’t always had the rub of the green. Took Listed honours in a small field at Chester last month and not disgraced in some tough races since, but winning a handicap from a mark of 111 at the age of seven doesn't exactly look likely.
Not a race ‘the boys in blue’ tend to target but this lad’s trainer seems hell-bent on popping a third Gold Cup in the trophy cabinet. Fahey may have been hoping for more leniency from the official assessor following some well-held, pace-setting efforts from Toscanini in high-class company over a mile earlier in the season, but the horse does come here 2lb well-in after a back-to-form neck second at York. Dropping to seven furlongs helped there, but is he quick enough for this sort of test? He’s certainly unexposed on the handicap scene.
Had the clock-watchers purring with some taking splits en route to sixth in the July Cup but couldn’t convert back in handicap company when fourth in the Stewards’ Cup. Well off that kind of level in two starts since, but still plenty to like about last year’s runner-up, who may yet land on another big one before his time in this sort of company is over.
Has an Ayr Gold Cup profile to die for, with a heap of classy Group form from his younger days when in the care of Richard Fahey. First signs that Andrew Balding had found the key to him when eyecatching ninth in the Stewards’ Cup and confirmation came at Haydock recently when a winner over seven furlongs. Will enjoy digging his toe into the Ayrshire earth and a 5lb penalty shouldn’t scare punters off completely.
Set for his 10th start of the campaign and it wouldn’t come as the biggest shock in the world if this were right up with his best having slipped to a mark just 1lb higher than when winning at Newmarket in May. The strong pace resulting from such a big field will play to his strengths and versatility regarding ground conditions is a potent weapon in the sprint handicap division.
“…he could be an Ayr Gold Cup horse,” remarked Paul Mulrennan after riding him to victory at the Curragh last summer. Well, he was 10th at 50/1 12 months ago and returns from a 3lb lower mark this time around. He lacks a bit of star quality, but might be one to outrun his odds to some degree.
Like his namesake (not the footballer, look him up), he saw plenty of traffic problems when eighth to Brando here last year, after which John Gosden said he was “unlucky” not to go close. Slightly strange then that he’s been kept to seven furlongs for last five starts but he won like a thriving horse at Goodwood last month and the penalty incurred leaves him 2lb ahead of the handicapper. Ran in a Group One as a juvenile and he's got the class to win here, but his style of racing tends to leave him a hostage to fortune.
Relatively small Newmarket yard has sent out just six winners this season, none of which have been aged above three. So not a great starting point for this six-year-old, who was a non-runner when arriving on a hat-trick here 12 months ago. Not in the same form this time around either, but he’s on a fair mark if somehow able to revive.
Meteoric rise to fame when completing five-timer in 2016 but a three-figure handicap rating put paid to further success in 2016. Hasn't had much luck on a couple of occasions for Tim Easterby this season, most notably at Newcastle in June, but while the assessor has relented slightly, it's hard to be confident this kind of slog will be much good for him.
Had a slightly quieter time of things this season compared to last but nothing wrong with the pick of his efforts, principally a running-on second in the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood. No issue with his handicap rating and surely a matter of time before a big one drops his way again, but long time (four years) since he last registered a handicap success.
Given a positive word on these pages by Fran Berry with Ayr very much in mind after he ran a cracker to be fifth in the Stewards’ Cup, when possibly not getting the clearest of passages. Backed that up when first of 11 on his side of the track in the Great St Wilfrid and a small rise in the weights won’t stop him giving another good account if in the same vein of form.
Has never been rated as high as he is now and while his third to Ice Age at Windsor suggested there may still be a little wriggle-room, he was below par at Doncaster on Leger day and has his work cut out in this even stronger company.
Another for the numerically well-endowed Richard Fahey team and surely not the least-fancied from Musley Bank. A welcome relief to see him return to winning ways at Thirsk last time as that came following a 12-race drought, but he’s since had five months off so plenty has to be taken on trust as he bids to make it third time lucky in the race (19th in 2014 and seventh in 2015).
Has more than a touch of class and immediately catches the eye so far down the weights for a race of this nature. Obvious negative is his long losing run and moderate recent form, which means he’s 3lb ‘wrong’ at the weights compared to his future rating. Not as ground dependent as some may think but others on an upward curve look better placed to play the starring roles.
Said to have had issues with his joints in the past but Mick Appleby worked his magic and the six-year-old, formerly with Godolphin, duly won first time out for him at Thirsk in May. Laid out for this since so a long absence to overcome but might be one best caught fresh and he’s an intriguing runner, at the very least.
Doesn't get much help from the assessor but that's due to his impressive consistency and he's held his form really well of late over seven furlongs and a mile. Last run over six furlongs came last summer and he's never won over a genuine sprint trip since his five furlong maiden. Soft ground holds no fears and should theoretically bring his stamina into play.
In good form this season despite his nine outings yielding just the one win and he's equally effective over six and seven furlongs. Got going too late in the day when third to Ice Age at the Curragh last time and may have to settle for a supporting role again here.
Has taken well to five furlong handicaps this season after racing over further when with John Gosden but gave the impression he would be fine back over six when second at York last month. Gets in here from the same mark so he's 1lb well-in, but the deep ground may just ask a bit much of him in the closing stages.
On a real roll now for a yard that has enjoyed a fantastic season. Carries 8lb extra following two wins since the weights were released but latest Curragh success came in a seriously competitive heat and he made it look easy. Looked to have benefited from high draw last time, though, and he could be a touch vulnerable late on if attempting to make the running once more in this.
Click on the image below to check out Sky Bet's Ayr Gold Cup odds (SIX places)
Onto his fourth trainer already and he's only had 11 career starts so clearly not been the easiest to harness. Has won on heavy ground but not certain this gruelling test over a stiff six furlongs will be right up his street.
Stable knows what's required in this event and he's back for another crack in better form than when down the field last year. Goes well fresh so a month off since winning at Ripon is no bad thing but he certainly lacks the potential stablemate Brando had coming into it 12 months ago.
Looked to have lost his way before smooth-travelling, comfortable victory over seven furlongs at Ascot in July, when the first-time blinkers looked to work wonders. Same headgear understandably retained and he sneaks in at the foot of the weights. Presumably been laid out for this meeting and could get away with dropping back to six furlongs with the ground so testing.
Fast-improving three-year-old and not many of that age group progress far enough to make the final cut for this event. Showed a bright turn of foot to claim his third victory of the season at the Shergar Cup but not convinced this young horse will have quite what's required to tough it out here on such demanding ground.
Useful performer on his day and no doubt six furlongs is his trip. Has never won a handicap though and while he looks perfectly well treated on the pick of his efforts, he doesn't look on the verge of landing a race of this nature if recent evidence is anything to go by.
Missed a couple of engagements in recent months so has only run once since May and that outing came in France when well held in Listed company. Plenty of questions to answer as she makes her belated handicap debut and not obviously well-treated. Also has a bit to prove when it comes to the stiff track on testing ground.
Matt Brocklebank's Verdict
A brilliant puzzle for punters and Toscanini could be the pick of the Fahey brigade ahead of the returning Stamp Hill. The handicap is so condensed that it's not like the Godolphin runner is conceding masses of weight to anything and his York effort suggested he's been brought back to the boil for this time of the year. Shanghai Glory's form is bombproof, Johnny Barnes will be thereabouts with a bit of luck in running and Ice Age could mount another bold bid from the front, but a chance is taken on DONJUAN TRIUMPHANT. He boasts some very classy back form, stays further than the bare six furlongs and arrives in good heart after a confidence-boosting victory at Haydock.
- Donjuan Triumphant
- Shanghai Glory
- Johnny Barnes
- Ice Age
- Stamp Hill