Horses To Follow » Highland Acclaim

Highland Acclaim

Highland Acclaim ran a fair bit better than his finishing position in ninth place suggests in the Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday.

He emerged from stall 18, right next door to the winner, his stable companion Louis The Pious but, whereas James Doyle got Louis The Pious right over to the stands side from that position, right onto the stands rail, Sam James was happy to just move over towards the near side gradually. The net result was that, while Highland Acclaim raced in the favoured near-side group, he raced three or four off the apparent ‘golden highway’ on the stands rail.

Even so, he travelled well into the race in rear, he started to pick up from the two-furlong pole when his rider asked him to, and he probably would have been involved in the finish had he not run out of racing room just inside the furlong pole. James had to stop riding for a few strides, which effectively ended any chance he had of winning at that stage. When he got a gap, it was way too late, but he still finished really well through the final 50 yards, leaving the impression that he had plenty left to give.

David O’Meara’s horse is only three. He was one of just three three-year-olds in the Ayr Gold Cup, and these big sprint handicaps can be intimidating for the youngsters. Even so, it is interesting that his trainer was happy to allow him take his chance in the race, even though he also had the winner and one of the ante post favourites Watchable in it.

The Acclamation gelding is not an especially lightly-raced three-year-old, but he only joined O’Meara at the start of this season, and it took him a little while to find his rhythm. A winner at York on his fifth race of the season in June, he was impressive in winning at Newmarket in early August off a mark of 87, and he did well to get up late to beat Golden Steps in the Shergar Cup Sprint at Ascot later in August off a mark of 94, the pair of them clear. On his only run between then and the Ayr Gold Cup, he finished well on the near side to be part of a five-horse finish to a good handicap at Ascot, behind Safety Check, Redvers and Cornrow, off a mark of 98.

The handicapper has raised him another 2lb for Saturday’s run, but a mark of 100 could still under-estimate his potential. He is entered in a big seven-furlong handicap at Ascot on 4th October, and that is a viable option. He stays seven furlongs, and three of the best runs of his career have been at Ascot from just four runs there, including that run behind Safety Check over seven furlongs.

20th September 2014