Mudlovers in their element for softest running in seven years
William Hill Ayr Gold Cup (Heritage Handicap) | Class 2 | 3yo+ | 6f | ITV4/RUK
For the first time in two years we will actually see the Ayr Gold Cup taking place at Ayr after Haydock stepped in to host last year's race the week after it was initially scheduled.
The Andrew Balding-trained Donjuan Triumphant landed the spoils that day after officials had been left with no choice but to rearrange the meeting due to severe waterlogging on a section of the track.
There are no such cancellation issues this year, but we can certainly expect plenty of juice underfoot for the 25 runners set to go to post.
Low draw unfavoured in previous soft-ground edition
The last time the Ayr Gold Cup was run on going officially described as soft was in 2011 when Our Jonathan was victorious.
The course proved to be a tricky one for those housed low that day, with the first six home being drawn 12, 16, 9, 15, 22 and 19.
Whether or not that has a bearing on the outcome of this year's race remains to be seen, but the statistic must bode well for the first two in the betting. Son Of Rest is berthed in 17 and Growl will break from 13.
Son Of Rest clearly well treated
The Fozzy Stack-trained Son Of Rest is clear favourite and it isn't difficult to see why. He rattled home to finish second in the Group 1 Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh last Sunday, a big step forward on previous form, and connections were quick to pinpoint the Ayr Gold Cup as the next port of call.
The handicapper reacted to the display by raising him 10lb in the ratings, but he remains eligible to race off his old mark of 101 here. With the ease in the ground very much in his favour, everything looks in place for a big run providing the race doesn't come too soon.
Fozzy Stack said of the four-year-old: "He's arrived there safely. He came out of his Group 1 run last weekend in good form and as he went up 10lb for running second in the Flying Five it looked an obvious race to go for. He handles soft ground well."
Ryan a man to watch at Ayr
Kevin Ryan certainly knows what it takes to win the Ayr Gold Cup having done so in 2011, 2012 and 2016 with Our Jonathan, Captain Ramius and Brando.
Ryan probably wouldn't have anything with the class of Brando – subsequent winner of last year's Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest – lurking in his team this year, but he does go in to the race with four live hopes to enhance his outstanding record in the ultra-competitive handicap.
His team is headed by Major Jumbo, with Finley Marsh claiming a handy 5lb off his back, and Ryan said: "We've been very happy with him all year. He's been greatly consistent and we've deliberately kept him fresh for this."
Terentum Star, running in the same ownership as Major Jumbo, will have the assistance of Kevin Stott in the saddle and Ryan said: "He loves soft ground so this should be right up his street."
The trainer added: "Naadirr also likes soft ground and seems fresh and well in himself and remains in nice form at home.
"Tommy Taylor is a good-actioned horse so we'll see how he does on this ground. He put in a nice performance at Ascot on his last run so deserves to take his chance."
What they say
David Easterby, assistant to Mick Easterby, trainer of Perfect Pasture
Perfect Pasture has a big weight but will relish the ground and distance. Unfortunately it's too early to know whether we are drawn on the right part of the track though, so we'll see.
Richard Fahey, trainer of George Bowen, Growl, Kimberella and Brian The Snail
Growl is admirably consistent and seems to cope with soft ground well, despite mainly running on quicker going all year. George Bowen has had a great season and is paying the penalty for it; he'd clearly need a career-best to win. Kimberella ran a really good race last time behind Limato and could be well handicapped. Brian The Snail is something of a morning glory horse and has been disappointing. He's the only horse of our four who could have a fair bit in hand, but he just isn't showing it on the track.
Eve Johnson Houghton, trainer of Ice Age and Goring
Ice Age has never run a bad race for us. He keeps creeping up the handicap but the 7lb claim of Scott McCullagh will help. He should enjoy the juice in the ground. Goring has shown very useful form on the all-weather, but he does like soft ground as well so the conditions should bring him into the equation with a bit of luck.
Adrian Keatley, trainer of G Force
He travelled over well and the ground softening up will suit him well. He's in good form and if he can run as well as he did when finishing fourth in the race two years ago he should give a good account.
Roger Fell, trainer of Muntadab
The ground will 100 per cent suit; it can't be soft enough for him and he's had to suffer somewhat on quick ground all summer. We'll ride him handy and see where we can go from up the middle.
David O'Meara, trainer of Summerghand
We'll learn a bit about the draw beforehand but he's drawn up the middle, which could be the place to be. He's had a great season already, winning five times and improving over 20lb, and he wasn't beaten far at the Curragh last weekend. He's still in good form.
Michael Dods, trainer of Get Knotted
He's well but might not want extreme ground. He really wants seven furlongs, but you probably have to stay seven furlongs to win an Ayr Gold Cup. He might not have the class but could be well drawn in 16.
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