Charlton and Bin Suroor to the fore as southern yards target Doonside Cup
The William Hill Doonside Cup Stakes (3.35) is the feature contest on the opening day of Ayr's three-day Western meeting, and plenty of southern-based trainers are making the long trip north of the border for the Listed contest over a mile and two furlongs.
Saeed Bin Suroor, who has won four of the last eight runnings of the race, sends progressive handicapper Dubai Horizon, who is seeking to complete a hat-trick after wins over this course and distance and at Sandown.
He said: "It's a tough race but the horse is doing well and I’ve always liked him. Good, good to soft ground will be fine for him I think, and I want to give him a chance at Listed level."
The least exposed horse in the £65,000 race is Aspetar. The three-year-old, who is trained by Roger Charlton, has had only three starts and already has a Listed win to his name.
Charlton said: "We've been waiting for soft ground. We finally get it and it just happens to be over a mile and a quarter. He’ll probably come on for his race, but he's in good form."
Ralph Beckett is doubly represented with Air Pilot and last year's Cambridgeshire winner Dolphin Vista. He said: "Dolphin Vista likes this ground and I think he'll go well. His run at Epsom last month [second to Gabrial] was more than we'd hoped for."
"Air Pilot has a heavy penalty to carry but it was too good an opportunity to pass up."
Escalator has improved greatly for Charlie Fellowes this season, culminating in a third handicap success in the fog at Goodwood last month. The three-year-old tackles Listed company for the first time.
Fellowes said: "This is another step up but, as he's a three-year-old, he gets a lot of weight from the older horses and on that ground, it’s going to be a big positive.
"He’s got to take another step forward but, bar a small blip at Ascot, he’s a rapidly improving horse. He’ll run another big race."
Narella has struggled on her two starts for Roger Varian, but displayed ability last season when she was a Group 3 winner in Germany for Markus Klug.
Varian said: "We're on somewhat of a fact-finding mission with Narella but I think she'll benefit from the step up in trip. I think she wants cut in the ground, but I don’t know if she’ll act on heavy. She heads there in good order."
Morando, from the Andrew Balding yard who won this in 2012 and 2016, and Gabrial, who gave charismatic owner Marwan Koukash his 500th winner last month, complete the 11-runner field.
Century up for Goninodaethat
Ayr regular Goninodaethat, trained by Jim Goldie, will have a landmark 100th career run in the Wedding Congratulations to Billy & Margaret Handicap (4.45).
Congratulations are indeed warranted for the ten-year-old and his part-owners Goldie and Graham Adams, with all eight of the horse's wins coming at Ayr.
Adams said: "We've tried many plan Bs regarding courses, but none have worked. This will be his 64th run at Ayr.
"Jim Goldie, along with assistant and son George and the rest of the team, have done a great job with a quirky sort who takes off round a bend and could, in his earlier career, only be ridden at home if the wind was following.
“I've loved this horse since the first day I saw him in the winner’s enclosure at Hamilton. It's been great following him and trying to help English racing commentators pronounce his name correctly, with limited success.”
Belated return for Very Talented
Saeed Bin Suroor is represented much closer to his Newmarket base at Chelmsford by the returning Very Talented, who was last seen finishing third in the 2016 Cambridgeshire.
Connections have clearly been patient with the five-year-old, and he is a noteworthy runner in the Irish Lotto At totesport.com Handicap (7.15), especially in light of his Cambridgeshire entry.
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