Donn's Articles » Ayr Gold Cup report

Ayr Gold Cup report 

Kevin Ryan had trained the winner of the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup three times before he readied his munitions and fired three shots at yesterday’s feature race.  And one of those shots, Brando, came home like a bullet under Tom Eaves to notch up number four.

The trainer said beforehand that he couldn’t split his three runners, but the market could, sending Brando off an 11/1 shot, by far the shortest of the trainer’s triumvirate.  And, as is often the case, the market proved to be an accurate guide.

If there was a concern about Angie Bailey’s horse beforehand, it was that he might be too fast to win an Ayr Gold Cup.  A six-furlong September race on holding, tiring ground, with 22 rivals around you, all manoeuvring for position and flat out for most of the journey, is not a task to be undertaken by the weak-willed or the short runner.  It is not a coincidence that many of the recent winners of the Western meeting’s feature had form over further than six furlongs.

Brando did not.  He had never been beyond six furlongs in his life and, actually, you could have argued that his best form was over shorter.  But he had run a cracker to just go down by a head to Outback Traveller in the Wokingham Handicap over six furlongs at Royal Ascot during the summer, and he saw the sixth furlong out well that day.

He saw it out well yesterday too.  Fast away and restrained by Eaves in mid-division and towards the far side through the early stages of the race, the son of Pivotal travelled well just behind the leaders to the two-furlong pole.  Moved towards the far side and asked to pick up by his rider at that point, he hit the front at the furlong marker and stretched his neck out willingly and kept on strongly all the way to the line. 

He got home by just over a length from the well-backed favourite Growl, who just came up short in his gallant attempt to provide trainer Richard Fahey with back-to-back wins in the race after Don’t Touch’s victory last year.  The Mick Easterby-trained Hoof It ran on well for third, with a rejuvenated G Force running a cracker for Irish trainer Adrian Keatley to take fourth place under Chris Hayes.

“This is one of the hardest races to win these days,” said a delighted Kevin Ryan.  “This horse was bringing proper Group form into the race.  That’s what it takes to win this race now, you don’t win it with a handicapper any more.”

With 9st 10lb on his back, Brando carried more weight than any of his rivals.

“He was the class horse of the race,” said Tom Eaves, who was riding his first Ayr Gold Cup winner and was recording his biggest win since he rode Tangerine Trees to land the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp in 2011.  “He needed a bit of luck, but it all worked out.  It’s great to win an Ayr Gold Cup.  This is the race that we all want to win up here.”

There was lots of talk about the draw all week.  The GoingStick readings suggested that the best of the ground might be from the middle to the far side, and that hypothesis was given further credence by the results of the races run on the sprint track on Thursday and Friday. 

Sure enough, yesterday’s William Hill Ayr Silver Cup, the consolation race for the Gold Cup, and run, as it was, 70 minutes before the feature race and over the same course and distance, was won by Roudee, who raced from stall eight of 25. 

The Tom Dascombe-trained gelding, booted to victory by the excellent Richard Kingscote, was chased home by Get Knotted, Nuno Tristan and Eccleston, who raced, respectively, from stalls nine, 12 and five, and the low-number sequence set the tone for the Gold Cup.

Coincidentally, Brando emerged from the same stall as Roudee, stall eight, with the next four horses home in the Gold Cup emerging from stalls six, seven, 11 and 10.  Both races were dominated by the low-drawn horses.

The only Group race on the day, the Group 3 William Hill Firth of Clyde Stakes went to the Bryan Smart-trained Delectation who put up a scintillating performance under a well thought-out ride from Paul Mulrennan. 

The rider appeared to deliberately miss the break on the Delegator filly, and that allowed him tack across from stall 13 – closest to the stands side and probably on the slowest of the ground – behind the field so that he could deliver his filly with her challenge on the far side.

It was a brave move on a filly whom he had ridden up with the pace on her only previous appearance on a racecourse when she landed her maiden at Thirsk last month.

Last through the early stages of the race, Delectation made her ground on the far side of the field, joined the front rank on the run to the furlong pole, and cleared away impressively.

Such was the margin of her superiority, it may not have mattered where she had raced on the track, but Mulrennan negated the possible impact of a potentially disadvantageous draw, and she was impressive in providing her trainer with his third victory in the Firth of Clyde Stakes.

 © The Sunday Times, 18th September 2016