Matt Brocklebank has unearthed big-priced alternatives to the obvious contenders in Ayr's feature handicaps, while he also has a strong Newbury fancy for Saturday.
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Mr Lupton is one of the elder statesmen in Saturday’s QTS Ayr Gold Cup Handicap but could take a bit of beating as he looks to follow up last weekend’s Curragh win in the ‘Bold Lad’.
A six-day turnaround including travel to Ireland and back isn’t ideal preparation but full credit to Richard Fahey for stating the Gold Cup was always plan-A, with last Sunday’s pot too hard resist en route to Scotland.
Billy Garritty effectively negates the full 5lb extra he’s forced to carry here and if you’re looking for a Group horse in the big weekend handicap then look no further as we know he’s already exactly that, having beaten Speak In Colours in the Greenlands Stakes last spring.
The spot of 8/1 still on offer at the time of writing doesn’t look the worst value at the top of the market but the one slight nag is that he was beaten eight lengths in the same race last year, which was his first appearance at the course.
With enhanced place terms on offer across the board, I’d rather chance one each-way and that is Fahey stablemate GABRIAL THE WIRE (40/1 Hills 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6).
He’s among 14 horses in the field who are fractionally ‘wrong’ at the weights based on their revised official marks after the entries were confirmed, but he’s also in the bracket of horses who would have missed the cut had they been dropped before the weights came out.
So it’s a catch-22 but, on balance, connections are no doubt delighted he gets a shot at the big one and he does look potentially over-priced on a number of factors.
The first is that Fahey has always felt a race like this would play to the horse’s strengths and it’s not hard to see why given that he stays further and is likely to get a good tow into it from just off the pace.
He won three handicaps as a three-year-old last season which isn’t an easy feat by any means and looked on a big upward curve on the last of those occasions when bolting up at Chester.
That's an interesting conundrum as his overall Chester record reads a more than respectable three wins and two seconds from 14 starts, but I’m far from convinced the tall, angular son of Garswood is perfectly suited to the place. The opposite could indeed be true, though his owner obviously insists he rarely misses a gig on the Roodee.
It’s away from Chester his best form has materialised this term, splitting Glen Shiel (now rated 116) and Comacho Chief (98) when third to Mobakker over six furlongs at Newcastle, before another fine effort when fifth to Chiefofchiefs in the Silver Wokingham at Royal Ascot.
He delivered on that promise to win narrowly at Musselburgh in July (runs off 3lb higher mark on Saturday), since when he’s not been quite so hot in a trio of runs back at his owner’s spiritual home.
However, it’s not a dissimilar prep to last year’s winner Angel Alexander, who came into the race following three runs at Chester, including being unplaced in the Listed Queensferry Stakes.
Gabrial The Wire actually shaped pretty promisingly when finishing on the heels of Major Jumbo and Emaraaty Ana off level weights in that race – this year won by Judicial, who has been one of the best yardsticks of the sprinting division all season.
He’s 10lb better off with Major Jumbo now (not including Megan Nicholls’ 3lb claim on the latter), while he’s also favourably treated (5lb swing) with one of the favourites in Roger Varian’s subsequent Newbury winner Nahaarr, who was only a length and three quarters ahead of him at the Royal meeting.
Drying ground is another plus for the four-year-old, though he does handle a bit of ease which will also help bring his proven stamina into play anyway, while Paul Hanagan returning to the saddle for the first time this season can only be considered a good thing too, seeing as he was 2-2 on him last term.
Barring the speedy Bungee Jump (stall 24), most of the quickest horses are drawn middle-to-low – including Another Batt (6), Hey Jonesy (8), Air Raid (14) and Major Jumbo (16) – so the selection doesn’t look inconvenienced in box five, and at 33/1 generally he stands out.
There’s a one-sided market for the principal consolation race - the QTS Ayr Silver Cup Handicap – and King’s Lynn could realistically have a stone in hand, having beaten Repartee and Toro Strike in the competitive sales race at last year’s St Leger Festival and returned with an eyecatching second behind Starman – who has gone in again since in Listed company at York - at the same track last month.
However, his price is off-putting enough and he also lacks any handicap experience, and it’s hoped some of the grizzled, old characters in here turn it into a bit of a dog-fight.
The favourite took a pretty strong grip at Doncaster and if it transpires he’s an out-and-out sprinter then he might just be vulnerable late on, especially with loads of early pace signed up in the shape of Arbalet, Magical Spirit, Admirality, Louie De Palma and Hyperfocus.
The bulk of them are drawn low towards the far side and, while King’s Lynn is there too in six, the fascinating one at a price has to be Bryan Smart’s NORTHERNPOWERHOUSE (25/1 bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5).
He’s improved a huge amount since cheekpieces were fitted last summer and has stepped up again this year following a gelding operation. He beat Arbalet at Redcar, then got no luck in running at York, before regaining the winning thread at Haydock last month.
The narrow margins of those two victories mean the assessor couldn’t be too cruel so he’s still just 2lb higher than for the last win, and it’s clear the experiment over a mile on bad ground seriously backfired at Thirsk most recently.
I can forgive him that and if the sun and wind continue to prevail north of the border into raceday then underfoot conditions could really fall his way too.
He hasn’t raced over this trip since he was second at Pontefract last July but, like Gabrial The Wire in the big one, I’d much rather have a stayer on side over what is widely regarded as one of the stiffest six furlongs in the land.
Throw out the last run where he had legitimate excuses and you’re left with a progressive performer with more to offer, who likes a battle, and should theoretically get the race run to suit from stall 11. At 20/1 and bigger he looks the one to be on, with the Smart yard in fair nick to boot.
The Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury has attracted a tidy little field and Prix Morny third Rhythm Master is clearly one of the leading form players, along with Devilwala, who would have won the Gimcrack quite nicely but for the presence of Minzaal, who was simply in a league of his own at York.
There’s seemingly a lot of hype surrounding Fivethousandtoone but Bahrain Pride beat him first time out and has since bolted up in the Two Year Old Trophy at Ripon.
Simon and Ed Crisford’s Kodiac colt could be the now horse and it’s reasonable to see he’s attracted support since the market opened.
It’s a race I can leave alone, though, especially with the 10-furlong Dubai Duty Free Handicap earlier on the card, in which THE CITY’S PHANTOM makes lots of appeal at 17/2 generally.
The son of Free Eagle was a bit big and backward last season but showed some potential when third in a Lingfield novice event on the turf last summer, and that race has produced 11 subsequent winners in total.
The City’s Phantom joined the list when making a bit of a mockery of his introductory mark (73) in a maiden handicap over this trip at Yarmouth on July 15, beating Nasraawy by a length and a half and the pair four lengths clear of the third.
The runner-up has since won easily at Salisbury before bustling up Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Pegasus back at Yarmouth on Thursday, so a 9lb rise looks perfectly justified for the selection, who once again has Hollie Doyle for company.
It’s not inconceivable he’ll go off much shorter given the rider’s loyal following at the moment, with the obvious danger – John Gosden’s Tenbury Wells – raised 3lb for being beaten at Sandown last time.
Posted at 1500 BST on 18/09/20
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