The William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, Scotland’s premier flat race, has attracted yet another stellar field to contest this year’s £180,000 renewal. The race is run over a stiff six furlongs and often requires a horse who comfortably gets 7f to come and take the spoils. The sub-plot to the race has been which horse can end the drought for a Scottish-trained winner – it was 1975 the last time that happened – and Jim Goldie has made it his mission to deliver for the home crowds. His popular sprinter Jack Dexter will come in for huge support at a track where Goldie often delivers a haul of winners and it would raise the roof should Jack get his nose in front. A fascinating mix of unexposed types will meet hardened sprint stars, with the likes of unbeaten three-year-old Don’t Touch all the rage in ante post markets. But this big field cavalry change presents a real challenge and his low draw in stall 8 is far from ideal. At Thursday’s draw, all those out the hat first opted to go high with 2013 winner Highland Colori getting the pick of the draw and opting for stall 19. Along with the favourite, Richard Fahey saddles the likes of Rene Mathis and Heaven’s Guest and it could well be the little Irishman celebrating on Saturday night.
1. Jack Dexter – Rated 108. Current Best Price 12-1
The subject of a sustained gamble this week and it’s not hard to work out why. The hugely popular six-year-old will carry the hopes of a nation as he bids to become the first Scottish trained-winner of the race since Roman Warrior in 1975. The crowd at Ayr love nothing better than getting stuck into a Goldie horse and he will likely go off even shorter than 12s. Whether I can be having that is another matter. His form at Ayr has never been particularly outstanding (only one win here) and he’s one of these horses that, for me, always tends to find one too good. His seven length defeat behind Muhaarar at Mewmarket’s July meeting reads pretty well in this context and would entitle him to be in the mix but once again I fear he’ll be doing all his best work late on and find something else to beat him.
2. Heaven’s Guest – Rated 107. Current Best Price 20-1
I really like this one for Richard Fahey. A hugely popular horse for connections who’ve enjoyed some great days with the five-year-old. He’s finished fourth in this race the last two years, leaving the distinct impression his turn could come. But it’s his last two pieces of form which really have me excited (2 length defeat to Adaay and 3 lengths to Fadhayyil). It strikes me he has once again been targeted at this race by the shrewd Fahey and those two runs in a higher grade will have sharpened him up nicely for the job in hand. Granted the necessary luck in running (and he has options from stall 15), I think he’ll run a huge race.
5. Tanzeel – Rated 104. Current Best Price 14-1
A real lurker in the pack for Charles Hills and boasts some very decent form indeed. Connections plumped for the very outside stall in 25 and it looks like Paul Hanagan will try and chart a bold course to glory. His penultimate run at York in July confirmed he was a gelding truly on the upgrade before he seemed to come slightly unstuck on the softer going last month. But he finished a full seven lengths back on Heaven’s Guest that day and we are getting a far bigger price on the Fahey runner. It doesn’t convince me that Tanzeel’s time has come.
10. Golden Steps – Rated 103. Current Best Price 14-1
Very much a buzz horse with Frankie Dettori struggling to hide his admiration after jumping off him at Goodwood last time. Dettori had been scheduled to head for Ayr and ride again but due to other commitments the mount has gone to Martin Harley. Would Golden Steps be a few points shorter in the betting with Dettori aboard? I think he would. You can argue that he’s not achieved anything at the top level yet but when Dettori enthuses about a horse like he did about this one, you have to take note. Whether he will handle the hustle and bustle of the 6f Ayr straight is open for debate, but his big field handicap win at Goodwood last time out should provide confidence. One to enter calculations for sure.
12. Toofi – Rated 102. Current Best Price 16-1
Smartly bred French gelding who has been talked up a fair bit in the lead-in to the big race. But the form doesn’t exactly match the hype considering he was beaten last week by Hoof It (who is a far bigger price for this) and was behind Heaven’s Guest in that York race won by Fadhayyil. It’s possible he finds improvement past them here and gets on the premises but the price is skinny enough for me and I don’t see nearly enough to be making me part with any cash. If you were making a case for him, you could easily do similar for seven or eight others.
20. Don’t Touch – Rated 101. Current Best Price 7-1
The hot, hot favourite for Richard Fahey who sends his unbeaten three-year-old into battle on the back of an ever growing reputation. It would be easy to try and pick holes in the form, but that much is obvious. What is not so obvious is how much improvement we’re about to see. History tells us that three-year-olds don’t usually come to this race on the back of four wins and hack up, so Fahey must be confident in what he has. And that tells me a lot. The money behind the horse all week is another pointer towards a huge run. But this is such a unique race that I could not have such an unexposed type carrying my cash at 7-1. It’s very possible he goes and scoots up but anyone wading in at 7-1 is welcome to take that chance.
Verdict: I believe HEAVEN’S GUEST provides the real value in this race. A horse who has consistently been on the scene in this race in recent years and looks to have been primed for another big run this time. At 20/1 he rates a striking each way bet.
Selection: HEAVEN’S GUEST
Stake: 1pt each way @ 20/1 (SkyBet, Paddy Power, BetVictor. Quarter odds first five)