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Sandown Selection

Morning all,

What a difference 7-days makes to the British weather. This time last week I was writing this column and it was sunny and 26 °C. Today it’s raining and 12 °C.  

Ok, so the racing this weekend isn’t as brilliant as it was last week. However, there’s plenty of competitive races for punters to get stuck into.

The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup (3.40) is the big betting race of the week and the ante-post favourite is the Ed Walker trained Great Ambassador who won a Listed race at York earlier this month.

There’s a good supporting card of races including Virgin Bet Silver Cup (2:30). The Group 3 Virgin Bet Firth Of Clyde Fillies' Stakes (3:05) and the Listed Virgin Bet Doonside Cup (1:55).

ITV are covering five races from Ayr and four from Newbury. There are three Group races at Newbury the Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes (2.50) and the Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes (2.15) and Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup (4.00) both Group 3 contests.

There’s also an afternoon fixture at Newmarket, where the feature race is the Close Brothers Cesarewitch Trial Handicap (3:15).  Catterick, Gowran Park and Wolverhampton complete Saturday’s action.

Inside today’s main piece I look at Saturday’s Ayr Gold Cup. Plus, I put today’s two Listed races under the microscope. 

Looking ahead to the weekend – Part 1

Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup

The Ayr Gold Cup is one of the three biggest 6f handicaps in the British flat racing calendar. The other two being the Wokingham at Royal Ascot and the Stewards Cup at Goodwood. The race is the highlight of Ayr’s three-day Western Meeting. Looking at the BBC weather site Wednesday and Thursday should be mainly dry. Some rain is forecast for the Friday but Saturday looks sunny and mainly dry. The going at Ayr on Wednesday morning was being described as good to firm. If the forecast is correct it shouldn’t be worse than good on Saturday.

Race trends

Since 2015 the race has been dominated by 3 & 4-year-olds. Of the last seven winners, there was a dead heat in 2018, six of them were from those two age groups. That’s a tick in the trends box for the ante post favourite Great Ambassador. The other good news for those who fancy the market leader is the fact that favourites are 3 winners from 6 runners +9 4 placed in the past six years.  However, the favourite does have one trend to defy. He ran in a listed race last time and such qualifiers are 0 winners from 19 runners 1 placed.

Given the small sample sizes not trends to get too carried away with but interesting nonetheless. There is one stat that does look more robust though:

Horses who made their racecourse debut over 5f have produced 0 winners from 133 runners in the past 20-years.

One of my leading race fancies Just Frank will be a ‘trends buster’ if he’s to win as he made his debut over the minimum distance. Fortunately, the horse isn’t aware of that trend and they're to be broken.

Some leading fancies:

That Listed race stat apart Great Ambassador ticks plenty of boxes and provided the ground is good he’s a worthy market leader.

Commanche Falls had the favourite one length back in third in the Goodwood Stewards Cup and at the revised weights he should finish ahead again and he’s double the price of the favourite at the time of writing.

Bielsa was back in 6th in the Stewards Cup. His run can be slightly marked up as he ran alone down the centre of the track that day. You must go back to October 2019 for his last win but he’s run plenty of good races in defeat since and is on a winnable mark when all the cards fall right. Trainer Kevin Ryan has saddled the winner of the race four times since 2007.

Fresh was 3 ½ lengths back in 8th in the Stewards Cup. He wasn’t the best away that day and ended up challenging more towards the centre. A stiffer 6f will suit and he was only beaten a neck in the Wokingham Handicap on his previous start.

Just Frank the racecourse debut trend aside must have a great chance. The 3-year-old put in a career best when making all to win at Thirsk last time. He looks well treated under a 5lb penalty and provided there is some juice in the ground he will be there or thereabouts. The 25/1 that was available last weekend has long gone and he’s now a best priced 14/1.

Interesting longshots

Ostilio has been slowly adapting to sprinting since joining the Paul Midgely yard and seems to be slowly getting the hang of it. He caught the eye again when a fast-finishing 4th of 11 in the Listed Beverley Bullet over the minimum trip.  The return to 6f will suit and there’s no doubting he’s a well handicapped horse.

I don’t know if, the Andrew Balding trained, Fivethousandtoone will line up. However, if he does, he would be an interesting runner. A smart juvenile he finished runner-up in the Mill Reef Stakes 12 months ago and was only 4 ½ length behind St Mark’s Basilica in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes. The 3-year-old hasn’t been at his best so far this season. However, his 3-length 3rd of 4 behind Great Ambassador at York was a step back in the right direction.

Verdict: I will be interested to see what draw Just Frank gets but I’m annoyed I missed the 25/1. At the time of writing I'm leaning towards Commanche Falls and ‘cliff horse’ Bielsa but that could change depending on draw and going.

If you want my final Ayr Gold Cup selections and the rest of my tips from Ayr & Newbury. You can get them here.

More on Saturday’s big races in tomorrow’s column.

Wednesday racing

The Listed EBF Stallions John Musker Fillies’ Stakes (2.15) at Yarmouth is the feature race of today’s action. There's also Listed action at Sandown in the Chasemore Farm Fortune Stakes (3.30). Beverley and Sligo also host afternoon fixtures and there is twilight jumps card at Kelso.

The field sizes for the two Listed races have stood up well and they look decent races and worth looking at in more detail. There are also several interesting handicaps at both Sandown & Yarmouth. All in all, a much more better days racing than Monday & Tuesday.

Yarmouth

2:25 – The bookies ‘early bird’ favourite is the Martyn Meade trained Technique. The 3-year-old hasn’t won this season but has run several good races in defeat. She ran Zeyaadah to a head in a Group 3 at Newcastle and finished a head second in Salisbury listed race last month.

Sweet Believer has won three of her last four starts. Her last two wins have come in handicap company and she steps up into pattern company for the first time. Has 6lb to find with Technique on Official Ratings but she’s going the right way and deserves to take her chance in Listed company. Her stablemate Auntie Bridy isn’t out of this either. A useful juvenile when with Jim Bolger last season she wasn’t at her best on her first three starts for William Haggas but her 1 ½ length 4th of 11 in a valuable York handicap last time was a step back in the right direction. If she can build on that promise, she’s a contender.

Ville De Grace a Kempton maiden winner on her racecourse debut. She shaped with promise when a 2 ¼ length 5th of 17 to Alcohol Free in the Group 3 Fred Darling at Newbury on her seasonal return. Not so good at York the following month. Much better back from a 3-month break when a 2 ¾ length 3rd of 10 behind the useful Saffron Beach last month. It’s a first run beyond a mile for the 3-year-old and there is stamina in the pedigree to give hope she will be suited by it.

Sandown

3:30 – Sir Busker is the best horse on ratings has placed in Group 1 company over a mile. The 5-year-old has been running in Group races on his last four starts. A mile his optimum distance and he won’t be far away here. However, he does need a strongly run race to be seen at his best and he’s not certain to get it here.

Mostahdaf a winner of his first three starts including a soft ground Listed contest over C&D in May. Was well beaten in the Group 1 St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot when last seen in action but the quick ground may not have ideally suited him that day. His half-sister Nazeef improved with racing and was a double Group 1 winner at four on soft/heavy ground. Get’s his ground and likely to be popular with punters.

Perotto has improved from handicap company, won the valuable Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, into pattern company. Not disgraced when a 2 ¼ length 5th of 9 in the Group 2 Celebration Stakes at Goodwood last time. He will appreciate the drop-in class here but I’m not sure he wants the ground too soft. Like Sir Busker he might be at his best in an evenly run race.

The softening of the ground will suit the improving Rhoscolyn. Improved to win three handicaps in May/June and was an excellent second in the valuable Golden Mile Handicap at Goodwood two starts back. Not at his best on good to firm when a 3 ¼ length 3rd of 6 behind Toro Strike in a Group 3 back at Goodwood last time. Looks worth another chance to show he’s up to this level on soft ground.

Wednesday selection:

Sandown

3:30 – Rhoscolyn – 15/2 @ Bet365 & Paddy Power.

Good luck with your Wednesday bets.

John

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