Scott hopeful dependable Gilgamesh can rule the roost
Gilgamesh has been a mainstay on the handicapping scene this year and although you have to go back to May to find the four-year-old's last victory he is reported to be in good fettle and trainer George Scott expects him to run well.
Gilgamesh finished second at Newmarket last week over this distance – with the reoppposing Ripp Orf fourth – and the addition of cheekpieces appeared to have a positive impact.
He is drawn in stall ten, which looks a favourable position with seven of the last ten winners having come from the middle, and if he can overcome previous poor form at the track he should be in with a decent chance.
Scott said: “He's certainly got a race like this in him, but he needs everything to fall right. I think we'll ride him a little more positively; he ran a nice race at Newmarket last week under those tactics. His day will come and I hope it's this race."
Ivory and Bloom look to repeat history
Dean Ivory and Tony Bloom have fond memories of the Challenge Cup, having claimed victory with Librisa Breeze in 2016, and the market indicates the pair could be successful again with Flaming Spear.
The six-year-old produced a superb performance to win a big handicap at Goodwood, finishing ahead of the reopposing Cape Byron, and has shown there is plenty left in the tank since joining Ivory from Kevin Ryan’s yard at the start of the year.
It is worth noting Flaming Spear has had his struggles at Ascot and he finished 20 lengths behind Accidental Agent in last year’s contest.
Ivory, however, remains confident in his ability and believes that if he can remain focused he stands a great chance of taking the £112,050 first prize.
He said: “We won this with Librisa Breeze, so we've had it in mind. We know he's a bit quirky in the stalls – he's a bit quirky all round – but there's an engine there.
“You saw what he did on his last run and he's gone well at Ascot, so if it all goes his way we think he's got a good chance.”
Growl out to end 17-run drought
Despite going off at single-figure odds in some of this year’s big handicaps, you have to go back to November 2016 to find the last time Growl won a race, and even further back to find the six-year-old’s last handicap win.
He heads to Ascot at a bigger price this time and, having run at this distance just once in the last two years, when he finished seventh in the John of Gaunt Stakes, the son of Oasis Dream has his work cut out.
Trainer Richard Fahey admitted his runner has not been in the best form but is hopeful he can turn things around.
He said: "Growl was a bit disappointing last time as I thought he'd enjoy the ground at Ayr, but he just got a bit stuck in it.
"Paul [Hanagan] said he wasn't happy from an early stage, but he has seemed well in himself since and is obviously well handicapped on his best form."
Course form could be key for Cape Byron
After narrowly missing out to race rivals Ripp Orf and Flaming Spear in his last two runs, Cape Byron is out to make amends and go one better for trainer Roger Varian.
The four-year-old has been in great form since being gelded in the summer and, with proven course-and-distance form, looks primed to go close here.
Varian said: “Cape Byron continues to run well in feature handicaps and the demands of this course and distance play to his strengths. He remains on a workable mark and ought to be in the thick of things once again.”
What the others say
Mark Johnston, trainer of Cardsharp, Vale Of Kent and Lake Volta
Cardsharp is probably the class horse of the race and would have a serious chance on some of his form. Vale Of Kent is well capable of being in the shake up in a wide-open race, while Lake Volta is perhaps not greatly handicapped at the moment.
Richard Fahey, trainer of George Bowen
He can gallop all right and I think it's worth a go back up to seven furlongs with him for the first time in a couple of years.
Karl Burke, trainer of Raydiance
He'd want the rain to arrive. We’re hopeful it will, and if it does he’s in good order to compete.
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