This is arguably the highest-class renewal of the Ayr Gold Cup in living memory, but our preview has still found a nice each-way selection (3.45pm Saturday on More4).
Ten years ago an official rating of 93 was sufficient to earn a place in the Ayr Gold Cup, but this year only horses rated 98 or higher have made the cut. In fact, the whole field is separated by just 12lb.
Growl (6/1) is the only horse in the field on offer at single-figure odds after finishing an eye-catching fourth in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood seven weeks ago. From an unfavourable draw in stall 26, the Oasis Dream gelding was briefly denied a clear run inside the final furlong before quickening best of all to finish fourth, 1¼ lengths behind the winner Dancing Star.
A 2lb rise in the weights for that performance is hardly insurmountable, particularly as he has winning form over six furlongs on soft going. He must have a decent chance of emulating Don’t Touch, who won the race for his trainer Richard Fahey (pictured) last season.
Final Venture (20/1) has improved out of all recognition this season, winning four handicaps over five and six furlongs and being raised 31lb in the weights as a result.
He is 7lb higher in the weights than when just pipped by Alpha Delphini over five furlongs at Ascot in July. He proved his well-being when fourth of 10, beaten in a blanket finish behind the same horse on 5lb worse terms, in the Beverley Bullet three weeks ago.
He has done all his winning on good and good to firm going, which slightly tempers enthusiasm. However his form on soft ground is not altogether conclusive, so it would be dangerous to write him off simply because of underfoot conditions.
Brando (16/1) has a similar profile to Final Venture as he is a progressive four-year-old who has graduated to Pattern company after showing much-improved form in handicaps earlier in the season. The pick of his handicap form came in the Wokingham Stakes over six furlongs at Royal Ascot. He finished second there, beaten a head behind Outback Traveller off a handicap mark of 101.
Brando remains 9lb higher in the weights, but his subsequent defeat of Monsieur Joe in the Coral Charge over five furlongs at Sandown was another fine effort. He has since run respectably in the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh and the Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
Obviously, there are plenty of other alternatives but a shortlist of three progressive four-year-olds – two of whom, Growl and Brando, hold entries in the British Champion Sprint Stakes at Ascot in October – will do for this preview. Growl has clearly been laid out for the race but may lack value at the odds on offer. So we will side with Brando.