Things We Learned » Alexander on top

Alexander on top 

Sometimes the winner is the one to take out of the race.  Sometimes the winner is the one who might be most under-rated in the future. 

Last Saturday’s William Hill Ayr Gold Cup was a case in point.  Angel Alexander was not considered by many.  From a draw that looked to be higher than ideal and on ground that looked to be faster than ideal, Tom Dascombe’s horse was allowed go off at 28/1, yet he ran out a worthy winner.

It is not certain that his high draw was an automatic disadvantage, but the evidence suggests that it wasn’t a positive anyway. 

In the Silver Cup earlier on the day, the first two home were drawn five and two.  In the Bronze Cup the previous day, the first four home were in the lowest half of the draw and all four raced on the far side.  In the 17-runner nursery on the same day, the first six home were all drawn nine or lower.  In the 16-runner listed fillies’ race, the first three home were drawn one, two and six.

These things can be self-fulfilling.  It is probably because of those results that 18 of the 24 riders chose to go far side in the Ayr Gold Cup.  It was probable, therefore, that the winner would emerge from the far-side group.  But Tom Dascombe told Richard Kingscote to go straight up the near side if he could and, with Tom Eaves set to go straight and fast on front-runner Major Jumbo from a high draw, he knew that he would at least have company for a while.

Of course, you run a greater risk of encountering traffic problems if you race in a group of 18 than if you race in a group of six, but it is also more likely that you will have racing company for longer if you race in the larger group.  Swings and roundabouts.  

Angel Alexander is a prominent racer, and he made all the running when he won at Chester in July.  But that was from stall one at Chester.  An Ayr Gold Cup, straight and expansive, is different.

He hit the front on the near side group on Saturday a furlong and a half out, and that is a fair way out in an Ayr Gold Cup.  He had nothing to race with for the last 200 yards, and he had to do a lot of running on his own from there to get home.  It was an impressive performance.

The Dark Angel gelding is not especially lightly-raced, but he is only three and it is rare for a three-year-old to win an Ayr Gold Cup.  The last one to do so was Don’t Touch, in 2015, and Richard Fahey’s horse won two of his first three races the following season as a four-year-old, including the Listed Cathedral Stakes at Salisbury, and attained a high rating of 114, 13lb higher than the mark off which he had won the Ayr Gold Cup. 

The handicapper raised Angel Alexander by 5lb for Saturday’s win to a mark of 106, and that looks fair.  Saturday’s performance was a career-best, and there is every chance that he can do even better.  He could do better too on softer ground.

Boris revels in conditions 

Tom Dascombe had a good couple of days.  At Ayr on Thursday, he won a two-year-olds’ novice stakes with Morisco and, less than an hour after he won the Ayr Gold Cup with Angel Alexander, he won a three-runner older horses’ novice stakes at Catterick with Mogsy.

Then on Monday, he sent Sir Boris to Fairyhouse for the Listed Ballyhane Blenheim Stakes, and he won that too. 

It was a game performance too by Sir Boris.  Declan McDonogh bounced him out of the gate, he led his four rivals, wide around the home turn, and he bagged the stands rail.  It looked like Soul Search was coming to claim him when she mounted her challenge towards the centre, but Tom Dascombe’s horse battled on well for McDonogh along the stands rail, and he forged on to win by a length and a half in the end, the front pair nicely clear of Zarziyni. 

Sir Boris was a 14/1 shot, he had plenty to find on official ratings with Soul Search and Zarziyni, but he is tough and he obviously loves those soft conditions.  He has now won three of his five races, all three wins gained on soft ground.

The Due Diligence colt does not hold any lofty entries, but he will remain of interest if he races again this year on soft ground.

Similar scenario

It was a similar scenario too at Gowran Park on Thursday: the feature race, won by a British challenger, ridden by Declan McDonogh.

Four White Socks wasn’t in the original line up for the Group 3 Denny Cordell Lavarack & Lanwades Stud Stakes, scheduled for last Saturday, before the thunder and the lightning arrived.  She was supposed to run instead in the Listed Doonside Cup at Ayr last Thursday, but she was taken out because of the ground.  Ayr’s loss, Gowran’s gain.

She appeared to appreciate the soft ground all right on Thursday.  And, just as he did with Sir Boris at Fairyhouse on Monday, Declan McDonogh took his horse wide into the home straight and sought out the stands rail.  He got there too on the run to the furlong marker, at just about the same time as he got to the front.  His filly picked up well and ran on strongly all the way to the line to win by over three lengths, eased down.

It was the Lope De Vega filly’s first run for Joe Tuite, and it was just her second win.  She won a 10-furlong novice stakes on fast ground at Goodwood last summer for Luca Cumani and she raced twice on the flat for Harry Fry this season – her first run in the Munster Oaks at Cork in June – before joining Tuite. 

Like Sir Boris, she was allowed go off at 14/1, which was not unreasonable, given that she had plenty to find on ratings with the top-rated fillies in the race.  She is still a lightly-raced filly, and she is another who will be of interest again on soft ground.

Cracking Middle Park

It’s a cracking Middle Park Stakes today.  Earthlight and Mums Tipple and Siskin have been pencilled in for a while.  You just hoped all week that they would all get there and, thankfully, they have.  But now add Monarch Of Egypt and Threat and Lope Y Fernandez and Golden Horde, and it’s an even better race than it looked like it was likely to be earlier in the week.

The last two winners of the Middle Park Stakes, Ten Sovereigns and US Navy Flag, both won the July Cup the following season as three-year-olds, as did previous winners Dream Ahead and Oasis Dream.  That said, Middle Park winners can succeed at the highest level stepped up in trip, as Johannesburg proved when he followed up by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2001.  Also, Ad Valorem won the Queen Anne Stakes as a four-year-old in 2006, two years after he had won the Middle Park.

But that’s all for the future.  For now, for today, we have one of the best Middle Parks that we have had in years, and we have one of the most intriguing juvenile races of the season.

Exciting times

It’s difficult not to start to get exciting when you hear and read reports on Presenting Percy and Battleoverdoyen and Altior and Samcro and Lostinstranslation and Vinndication and Cyrname and Anibale Fly and Champ and Sizing John and Delta Work.

© The Irish Field, 28th September 2019