A sell-out 12,000 crowd was in attendance at Ayr for Gold Cup Day. That was in sharp contrast to the 120 who were on course last year. Racegoers got to enjoy both the sunny weather and Scotland’s most valuable day’s racing of the flat season.
Inside today’s main piece, you can read my thoughts on Saturday’s action at Ayr and Newbury. Plus, I have a selection from day two of the Listowel Festival.
Ayr Gold Cup Day
Ayr’s Western meeting had a new main sponsor in the shape of Virgin Bet and the online sportsbook should have been delighted with the way their sponsorship went.
Scotland’s only Group race the Group 3 Virgin Bet Firth Of Clyde Fillies' Stakes was won by the strong finishing Nazanin, ridden by Hollie Doyle and trained by Archie Watson. Storming down the centre of the field on her own she caught the consistent Canonized in the shadow of the post. In the process of winning, she paid a handsome compliment to Cheveley Park fancy Zain Claudette who had beaten her on their previous two meetings.
There was plenty of market confidence behind Hala Hala Athmani who had created such a good impression when winning on her Carlisle racecourse debut. Sent off the 100/30 second favourite. The filly ran well for a long way but was just beaten by two more experienced fillies on the day and had to settle for third. A half-sister to Group 1 winning sprinter Hello Youmzain she was only beaten ½ lengths and the best of her has yet to be seen.
Race favourite Head Mistress lost her unbeaten record but was just a length behind the winner at the line. She had been expected to appreciate the step up to 6f. However, she didn’t see out her race as strongly as the first two.
Bielsa scores in Gold Cup
Bielsa has been a bit of a “cliff horse” for and likely a few of you. Hopefully you didn’t desert the 6-year-old on Saturday.
Having heard the Clerk of the Course and trainer Michael Dods say the fastest ground was down both rails. I was praying that jockey Kevin Stott would take advantage of stall 25 and stay on the stands rail. Thankfully I needn’t have worried as that was trainer Kevin Ryan’s plan. It was carried off to perfection as Bielsa did a solo on the stands rail to beat hot favourite Great Ambassador 2 ½ lengths.
The runner-up’s connections will have been delighted by his performance, as he beat those who raced far side easily. However, he was unlucky to come up against a well handicapped horse who race on the opposite side of the track. He remains capable of better next season and can make up in to a Group level sprinter.
As I said in Wednesday’s column. Bielsa was on “winnable mark when all the cards fall right” and they did on Saturday. It was a 5th win in the race for trainer Kevin Ryan and it was a 5th success on the gelding for jockey Kevin Stott. His record is now 5 wins from 8 rides, 6 placed. With all other jockey’s 0 wins from 8 rides 1 place. Hopefully owners King Power will keep him in the saddle for his next race.
Cox colt wings to Mill Reef success
Newbury’s feature race on Saturday was the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes for the juveniles. Wings Of War provided a second win in the race for trainer Clive Cox. A promising third in the big Sales race at York. The son of Dark Angel had finished a 1 length 2nd of 7 in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes two weeks earlier.
Long-time leader Hierarchy had looked like he was going to win when going a few lengths clear of the field between the final 2f. However, under a typically strong Adam Kirby ride the winner dug deep to lead inside the final 50yds.
Trainer had won the 2016 renewal with a son of Dark Angel in Harry Angel. Who went on to be the Champion 3-year-old sprinter. I’m not sure Wings Of War will turn out to be as good. However, as the trainer told the Racing Post: “Mentally, there's a bit more improvement to come”. He was little keen through the early stages of the race so needs to settle better if he’s to do even better next season.
Dhabab, the 11/4 favourite, looks to have scope for improvement as a 3-year-old and may need further but still ran a good race here in fourth.
Of the two I mentioned on Thursday. Maglev wasn’t the best away and was also keen and could only keep on at the one pace in 5th. The drop back to 6f probably didn’t suit the colt. Manaccan a winner on quick ground at Newmarket on his previous start would likely have preferred quicker ground. However, he remains open to further improvement when his sights are lowered.
It’s the second day of the Listowel Festival. The feature race of an eight-race card is the Grade B Lartigue Handicap Hurdle (3:50). A handicap hurdle for 4-year-olds only. It’s attracted a field of eighteen handicap hurdlers for a winner prize of €29,500.
The highlight of an eight-race flat card at Fairyhouse is the Listed Blenheim Stakes (4:37) for 2-year-old’s
Monday’s action this side of the Irish Sea comes from Leicester and Hamilton on the flat. There’s also a jumps action at Warwick and the evening card on the all-weather at Wolverhampton.
3:50 – Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Hurdle (Handicap) (Grade B) – 2m
The first four home in a Ballinrobe Handicap Hurdle 28-days reoppose here. Flying Scotsman won that day from Varna Gold, Glorious Zoff and Clever Currency.
Flying Scotsman had a head to spare of Varna Gold last time but the runner-up gets 4lb today. There should be more to come from him over hurdles but he does need to jump better than he did at Ballinrobe.
Varna Gold had finished a ¾ length 3rd of 20 in a handicap hurdle at the Galway Festival on his previous start. He may prove better at a bit further than 2m but there is handicap hurdle in him off his present mark.
Glorious Zoff seems to be getting better with racing over hurdles. He was 4 lengths behind Flying Scotsman last time but does get 5lb here. He could easily give Gordon Elliott, won this in 2013, his first big race success since returning from suspension.
Clever Currency seems likely to go from the front again and the slight drop in trip today looks a positive.
Besides Flying Scotsman, trainer Joseph O’Brien also saddles handicap debutants Persia and Palm Beach. The latterlooks competitively weighted on his win in a Kilbeggan maiden hurdle in May but he’s run poorly on both starts since albeit they did come on soft and heavy going.
Malina Girl is the least experienced of the 18 runners. She won a bumper at the 4th attempt last month before making a winning hurdle debut at Bellwestown 26-days ago. Clearly capable of better but this is a big ask on just her second start over the smaller obstacles.
3:50 – Varna Gold – 14/1 @ Bet365 (paying 4 places ¼ odds)
Good luck with your Monday bets.
John Burke is the tipster behind the long standing Victor Value service you can join him here – https://victorvalue.uk