Highland Acclaim to make bold bid for Ayr Gold Cup.
There aren’t many handicaps more difficult to solve than the Ayr Gold Cup, as evidenced by the existence of not one, but two consolation races, and it’s no place for the faint-hearted punter.
The dwindling influence of mid-summer form, the changeable effect of the draw and the variable influence of pace are other headaches for those in search of a winner, so it’s no great surprise to find that favourites have a poor record.
One factor which has seen general agreement this year is that the track is currently favouring those who race close to the stands rail, and the winner of Thursday’s 5f handicap made all the running against that rail to underline the notion.
History has a habit of making fools of those who make such sweeping statements, but as we write, Expose has just landed the Bronze Cup from stall 27 of 27, so it’s hard to ignore the mounting evidence.
The importance of recent form seems less of a factor in this contest than in may big handicaps, possibly due to the cyclical nature of form amongst sprinters, and possibly because this race is viewed as a primary target by the likes of Dandy Nicholls, Kevin Ryan and Richard Fahey, meaning that their runners are trained to peak only as autumn approaches, so it’s hard to rule much out on the basis of modest recent efforts.
Of more importance is historical form in similar races, particularly at this time of year, and those who have done their winning in small fields or at a more modest level are easy enough to oppose.
Stamina tends not to be a factor in most 6f contests, but short runners have a poor record in the Gold Cup and winners need to see out the trip thoroughly.
The last four winners have been typical in that regard, and all were winners over at least 7f, so it makes sense to focus our attention on those who are better at 6f than shorter, and ideally capable of winning a valuable pot over further.
It also makes sense to throw out those who are past their prime; accepting the fact that a few veterans can hit the frame, the majority of winners are horses performing at their peak.
No 3-y-o has won since Funfair Wane in 2002, and it’s tempting to suggest the race is too trying for the youngsters, but there have simply not been enough runners in recent years to justify such a comment, and if anything they may be underestimated as a group.
Applying the above rules will minimise the risk of throwing out the winner while making the numbers easier to handle. Our horse racing expert’s notion of a workable shortlist in the betting is as follows:
- HEAVEN’S GUEST
- LOUIS THE PIOUS
- MASS RALLY
- RENE MATHIS
- HIGHLAND ACCLAIM
- EASTERN IMPACT
The top pair fit the bill on most counts, and have both won valuable 7f handicaps earlier in the season. Both sit high enough in the weights as a result, while Mass Rally would have made more appeal had there been rain around.
Rene Mathis is drawn right in the middle, which may or may not be to his advantage, and that’s also rue of Eastern Impact, who has a lot of weight for a 3-y-o. The more I look at the race, the more we like the chances of Highland Acclaim.
He represents a yard in fine form, has excellent and progressive form under the forecast conditions, is drawn high, and stays 7f. Many will consider him too young to win a race of this nature, but as I’ve said before, we don’t believe there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that’s true.
The BetBright Verdict
Win or Each-way Selection: Highland Acclaim @ 11/1
Each-way Alternative: Heaven’s Guest @ 18/1
The race goes off at 15.50 on Saturday afternoon at Ayr Racecourse.
Check out all the odds in the betting for the Ayr Gold Cup now in our horse racing section!