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There’s a distinct lack of young, progressing performers lining up in this year’s Ayr Gold Cup and Buffer Zone leaps off the page.
The race went to Ireland (dead-heat winner) last year and it looks highly significant man-of-the-moment trainer Ger Lyons decides to run last weekend’s Curragh winner Buffer Zone under a penalty in the big one in Scotland.
He moved through that race like a serious horse in the making and, after 11 career starts and just since switching to Lyons and being gelded, he looks open to a massive amount of improvement.
The draw looks quite favourable as stall 21 right next to likely speed horse Major Jumbo is a decent place to be on the face of it, though admittedly there is pace high, low and up the middle.
Conditions are also absolutely fine for the thriving son of Bated Breath and he’s strongly fancied to brush off the 5lb penalty.
He looked to turn a corner when winning at Newmarket last time and had possibly been finding the proper summer ground a bit too quick previously. He's one to note for the autumn anyway. He looks a fair price here getting a good chunk of weight from the favourite, Desert Encounter.
Weekend Racing Briefing
He overcame trouble in running to win on debut at Haydock and the form is working out very well. He’s highly regarded by the Roger Varian team and looks ready for this step up in class.
The five-year-old has become dangerously well handicapped and has slipped to a mark six pounds below the one from which won for Marcus Tregoning at Goodwood last June. He’s slowly run himself into form for new trainer Tony Carroll this season, shaping well on the July Course and at Yarmouth last month.
Crucially for a horse who is best when up with the pace there aren’t many who want to contest the lead with him in this field and the booking of Cieren Fallon is another significant boost to his chance. He’s shaped as though ready to win again recently and this is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of his plummeting mark.
The England international has now attempted the most shots without scoring in the Premier League this season (16 shots, one on target), failing to net with his last 28 attempts and last scoring against Huddersfield in April. What is important is that he is still trying, with an average of over three shots per game, and persistence will eventually pay off.
If he is deployed in his favoured position by Rodgers, this is the sort of game he can step up in and at 7/2 anytime he is worth a small play for the early kick-off.
You would expect City to show a good reaction from their shock loss at Norwich and they did in midweek at Shakhtar, so it will take some display from the Hornets here to even take a point.
The best way for City to put their nerves to bed is by netting early on, and they usually do at home.
They did so in their last win here against Brighton (two minutes) and scored 12 goals in the first 10 minutes last season. At just over 3/1, it's a good way to find value from a match where City are expected to put last week's nightmare to bed.
The attacking midfielder continues to shine in England's third tier and has hit the ground running this season. Maddison has featured in eight games so far, scoring five goals and assisting a further six. All of the goals were scored in three of their last four outings.
While Ivan Toney may have eight goals on his tally, and a price of 2/1 is out there for a goal in 90 minutes, the track record shows that the reasoning is there in squeezing that extra bit of value by going for Maddison instead.
RUGBY WORLD CUP
Logic and recent form tells you that there is nothing between these sides in the last 12 months, with the scores standing at 82-82 in their last three games between each other.
And you suspect the fact that they haven’t dominated the talk coming into this tournament for once, after a series of unconvincing results in the recent Rugby Championship (and the 36-0 defeat of Australia wasn’t as dominant as the score-line suggests), will be all the motivation they need.
There is surely no justification of New Zealand, however good they are, in them being seven-point favourites against the Boks on neutral soil in their current form, and I have bet accordingly.
The former Sevens player has made a big impact in France since joining Toulouse from domestic rugby in 2017, and he has scored five tries in six starts (10 games in total) for South Africa since making his international debut against Australia in September last year.
He is one of only three wingers in the Springbok squad, he is effective on either flank, and he can also play full-back too, thus giving him another reason to be on the bench when not starting.
If he stays fit and his side do as well as I expect, and he gets game-time in all of the four pool matches, then I dread to think of what this elusive stepper will do to the Namibian and Canadian defences, as well as the Italians.
Bottas has managed to fly somewhat under the radar since his last victory, in Azerbaijan in April, which isn't really how you want to be describing a Mercedes driver's season. It's hard to see Bottas breaking his drought under the Singapore floodlights this weekend given Hamilton's record on this street circuit and Max Verstappen's likely challenge in the Red Bull, but he can net his 12th podium from 15 races at a shade of odds-on.