Ayr racecourse is located on the West Coast of Scotland, hosting both flat and jumps races. Their and Scotland’s most popular and valuable flat race is the Ayr Gold Cup, a big field handicap over six furlongs. The race forms the climax of the three-day Ayr Gold Cup Festival which runs from Thursday to Saturday in mid-September.
The Gold Cup takes place on the Saturday and, aided by Scotland’s only Group race the Firth Of Clyde Stakes, forms the country’s richest single raceday. Doonside Cup Day kicks off proceedings on Thursday, with Ladies Day on Friday and the big day itself on day 3.
There are eight races each day with a total of twenty-four over the course of the Festival meaning there is plenty of action for punters at Scotland’s most valuable racing meeting.
Ayr Gold Cup Day: Saturday
|1:20||Microtech Group EBF Nursery Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|1:55||Jordan Electrics Doonside Cup Stakes||Listed||1m2f|
|2:30||QTS Ayr Silver Cup Handicap||Class||6f|
|3:05||Scotty Brand Firth Of Clyde Fillies' Stakes||Group 3||6f|
|3:40||Ayr Gold Cup Handicap||Class 2||6f|
|4:15||Luxury Staycations At Western House Hotel Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|4:50||Brandinghub Signs & Print Handicap||Class 3||1m5f|
The Ayr Gold Cup is such a prestigious and valuable race that trainers and owners will plan the season of some of their leading sprinters around it. The 25-strong field for this year’s edition is as competitive as ever whilst the supporting races on the card will provide lots of entertainment and plenty of chances for punters to get the better of the bookies.
This is Ayr’s biggest day of flat racing and the highlight of this weekend’s action. With seven races to look at, can we uncover some value in the betting throughout the card?
1:20 Microtech Group EBF Nursery Handicap
Ayr, Class 2, 1m
It is by no means the biggest handicap of the day at Ayr but the Microtech Group EBF Nursery Handicap has the potential to be a very important race for those competing in it. Each of the juveniles in the field has shown some glimpses of good form so far and connections will be hopeful that they can compete at a higher level than this.
Those hopes are perhaps strongest for Pythagoras who slammed the competition in his nursery debut last time out suggesting that his future may involve competing in pattern company. Richard Fahey’s colt has been penalised for that win at Ripon but he should be fine off a mark of 89, especially as the step up to 1m will suit him very well. Pythagoras is the worthy 9/4 favourite so there isn’t any need to work out any more angles for the race as we fully expect the jolly to deliver the goods in the day’s opener.
Pythagoras to win at 9/4
1:55 Jordan Electrics Doonside Cup Stakes
Ayr, Listed, 1m2f
When analysing the form for the Doonside Cup it doesn’t take long before you hit on easily the best of it. That is Addeybb’s second to the highly impressive Lord North in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot. Tom Marquand did everything right that day on the six-year-old who utilised his stamina to tough out the runner’s up spot even if he didn’t quite have the class to get the better of the winner.
A repeat of that sort of run at Ayr would surely see Addeybb win this at what we think are solid enough odds of 13/8. That is despite the fact that he is giving away 7lb to his nearest rivals Fox Chairman and Lord Glitters for a pair of Group 1 wins in Australia earlier in the year. Of those challengers, Fox Chairman is the biggest threat but he may just lack the pace to serve it up to Addeybb at the business end of the race.
Addeybb to win at 13/8
2:30 QTS Ayr Silver Cup Handicap
Ayr, Class 2, 6f
The Ayr Silver Cup is the consolation race for the Gold Cup which tops the billing on the card a little later in the day. This may be a secondary prize but competition for a place amongst the 25 runners was fierce leading to the race being seriously oversubscribed.
That helps to condense the ratings of the runners and to produce a race in which winners can come from all over the betting as recent renewals show, with no winning favourites and only one winner going off at a single figure price. As such, we feel the best bet here is an each way play at something at longer odds.
Still, some punters will side with King’s Lynn who is the clear favourite at a general price of 4/1. That is a bold call for a horse with just three runs under his belt, although he does come into the race with some good form having finished second to Starman, a subsequent Listed winner, in his sole performance as a three-year-old.
Generally though, you want to be siding with a hardy type who can put up with the hustle and bustle of a race like this. Rathbone fits that bill as he is an experienced four-year-old who competed in this race last year. He is 2lb better off this time around and has had wind surgery since so could run at big race at 12/1.
At an even bigger price, Magical Spirit has a better chance than his odds of 25/1 suggest. Kevin Ryan’s four-year-old made a pleasing return to action earlier this month following wind surgery and should come on for that run, perhaps to lay down a serious challenge at Ayr.
Rathbone each way at 12/1
3:05 Scotty Brand Firth Of Clyde Fillies' Stakes
Ayr, Group 3, 6f
For many people in the sport, this weekend marks the end of summer racing and the start of the autumn. That is not good news for horses who do their best work on firm ground but on the flip side it opens up opportunities for horses who have so far found the going a little tough.
Lullaby Moon is one such horse. The two-year-old has had an unsettled start to her career with two different owners and each of her three runs being run for a different trainer. Things really clicked for her last time out at Goodwood on the sort of heavy ground that she really wants and although that win came in only a modest fillies’ maiden, she should improve for it.
The good ground she’ll encounter at Ayr is about as firm as she wants it but won’t necessarily stop her from taking another step forward. As such, the 12/1 available about Lullaby Moon looks a fair price for an each way bet in a race where we expect her to be involved at the business end.
Lullaby Moon each way at 12/1
3:40 Ayr Gold Cup Handicap
Ayr, Class 2, 6f
The Ayr Gold Cup is the big race of the day and one of the most intriguing betting heats of the season. More than 160 horses were entered for a place in the race before final declarations saw that number cut to the maximum field size of 25. That shows just how badly connections of sprint handicappers want their horses to get a place in the race and why the Ayr Gold Cup is so competitive year after year.
The last 10 winners of the Ayr Gold Cup have ranged from a 5/1 favourite to a couple of 28/1 shots so it makes sense for punters to have a couple of options. From the top of the market, it’s Stone Of Destiny who makes the most appeal at a price of 9/1.
Andrew Balding’s five-year-old assured himself of a place in the field with a win in the competitive Portland Handicap at Doncaster last time out. He was raised 5lb for that win and yet still looks fairly well off with 13 horses carrying more than him on Saturday. His chances will improve the stronger the opening gallop is and 6f will give the excellent Oisin Murphy plenty of time to produce him at the right time.
A little further down the betting and Spanish City looks a good each way option at 20/1. The seven-year-old has had a quiet season but was much more like his old self last time out in a similar handicap at Ascot. He will make his usual late charge towards the line and could do enough to nab a place.
StoneOf Destiny each way at 9/1
4:15 Luxury Staycations At Western House Hotel Handicap
Ayr, Class 2, 1m
After the big handicap of the day comes another handicap, this time run over 1m and with far fewer runners. That does not mean that the Luxury Staycations At Western House Hotel Handicap will be an uncompetitive event as there are several in with a real chance of winning.
Irreverent is a very interesting option with connections taking a wise decision to run him over 1m again. He was unable to hang with the pace of the first three home last time out over 7f on ground that was a little too soft for him. The longer trip on better ground should suit him perfectly and could well see Irreverent earn his first win for over a year at 5/1.
Irreverent to win at 5/1
4:50 Brandinghub Signs & Print Handicap
Ayr, Class 3, 1m5f
We step up in trip once again for the penultimate race on the card, the Brandinghub Signs & Print Handicap. This staying handicap features six runners including Elysian Flame who is having his first run since competing in a hurdle in March.
Michael Easterby initially ran the four-year-old on the flat before making the switch to National Hunt racing. A return to the jumps looks to be the plan over the winter but this is more than just a warm up race. He certainly has the stamina and experience to land this contest at 11/2.
Elysian Flame to win at 11/2
5:25 Download The Gribbens Taxi App Now Handicap
Ayr, Class 3, 7f
The final race of the day at Ayr comes in the shape of a fairly modest 7f handicap. Connections of a couple of these will hope that their charges can kick on to compete at a higher level than this next season including those associated with Ascension.
Roger Varian’s three-year-old had some very pleasing outings as a juvenile. He hasn’t set the world alight this season but earned his first win of the campaign last time out and can build on that by completing the double at 9/4. He is definitely the one for us but a slight caveat is that with this sort of race watching the market is always a wise move.
Ascension to win at 9/4
A Complete History of the Ayr Gold Cup Festival
For over two centuries, the coastal town of Ayr has hosted its very own Gold Cup. From a modest beginning, it has grown into Europe’s most valuable flat handicap contest and a massive betting event.
Every September the race takes centre stage as part of a three day festival, aptly if unimaginatively named the Ayr Gold Cup Festival. The entire festival has existed almost as long, first as a two day affair but now a highly-anticipated three day contest running from Thursday to Saturday.
1804 – Ayr sees Gold
The two mile Ayr Gold Cup makes it first ever appearance, taking place on the former racecourse at Belleisle. A horse by the name of Chancellor claimed victory in the inaugural running and did so again the following year. To mark this achievement, the current Ayr Racecourse has named a restaurant in his honour!
It is worth noting that the race organisers initially limited the race to Scottish thoroughbred racehorses only. While an international event today, this has not always been the case. Not only this, but to begin with the race operated as two separate heats of two miles rather than just being a single contest.
1824 – Festival foundations laid
The first ever properly organised race meeting was organised at Ayr in 1771. It is only in 1824 however that we see the beginning of what we know today as the Gold Cup Festival. The Western Meeting, as it was known then, was created by the local Western Meeting Club who only formed earlier the same year. To begin with, and for many years later, the festival was a strictly two day affair.
1838 – Festival begins to thrive
The Western Meeting proved to be an instant hit with trainers and punters alike. 14 years after its first appearance, it offered a huge £2,000 in total prize money, not far from £250,000 in today’s money. It even included a two-year-old only event, which was the richest of its kind in the whole of Britain.
1855 – Handicap status introduced
For the first time, the Ayr Gold Cup was run as a handicap event. This decision was not a controversial one but the race itself very much was. Thomas Aldcroft was the jockey who ended up first past the post but he made the mistake of dismounting prior to the winner’s enclosure. This error led to his disqualification with the race instead awarded to John Dory, a rather fishy tale.
1869 – Dawson wins yet again
Ayr regular Tom Dawson’s superb record in this race continues as he scoops his 15th win courtesy of Good Hope. This would turn out to be his final taste of success in the Ayr Gold Cup, a full 34 years after saddling his first winner. This is a record that seems highly unlikely ever to be beaten, with the late David Nicholls by far the most successful in recent times with six wins between 2000 and 2010.
1891 – A dazzling display
The Duke of Montrose-owned Dazzle wins the Ayr Gold Cup for a third consecutive time, becoming the first horse ever to manage the feat. To this day, no other horse has managed to win the contest on more than two occasions and it is some time since any horse has managed even the double.
1907 – New Gold Cup location
In the early years, racing at Ayr took place at a course situated in Belleisle, now the site of the Seafield Golf Course. In 1907 though, the course moved to its current home on Whitletts Road. The biggest change to the race itself from the move saw the Gold Cup reduced in distance, down to six furlongs from over a mile.
Many claimed the decision was made to benefit the Duke of Montrose as his horse, Raeberry, stood a better chance over a shorter trip. Unfortunately for the Duke, this was not enough for Raeberry to secure the win with Charis ending up on top.
1967 – Friendly approach pays off
Legendary racing commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan, known as the ‘voice of racing’ enjoyed some success on the course at Ayr. One of the best horses he ever owned, Be Friendly, secured Ayr Gold Cup success in 1967. Patrons of the racecourse today will notice there is a bar named to commemorate the horse’s victory.
1975 – Last Scottish success
Perhaps surprisingly, this once all-Scottish affair has not seen a Scottish handler train the winner for several decades. The last winning horse to fly the white saltire was Nigel Angus’ Roman Warrior in 1975. It was the shortest of journeys for Roman Warrior to make with his training ground, Cree Lodge, located across the road from the racecourse. Coincidentally, Roman Warrior is the heaviest horse to win this race, doing so with a whopping 10 stone on his back.
As you may have noticed by now, Ayr has a habit of honouring special winners with some form of hospitality suite (!) and Roman Warrior is no exception. Today visitors to the course can eat at the Roman Warrior Restaurant situated within the Princess Royal Stand.
1992 – Too much gold demand
The intense interest in this race led organisers to create a consolation race for horses that did not quite make the cut. The sensibly named Ayr Silver Cup helped soften the blow for trainers and owners whose entries lacked a weight high enough to feature in the showpiece event. When even this race became too popular, the Ayr Bronze Cup was founded in 2009. Two overflow races for an even that currently supports 27 runners goes to show just how popular the Ayr Gold Cup is.
The introduction of the Silver Cup also caused a change in the schedule. The Gold Cup, traditionally run on a Friday, moved to Saturday with the Silver Cup filling the vacant spot.
2004 – Clyde handed group status
The six furlong Firth of Clyde Stakes enjoys a promotion from Listed status to Group 3. It has held this improved status ever since, meaning it is the only group race you will find in the whole of Scotland.
2008 – First Carson win
There are few races holding such prestige that fail to see either Lester Piggott or Willie Carson on the list of winning jockeys. These two all-time greats never did strike gold at Ayr but Willie’s grandson, William, managed to do so when riding Regal Parade in 2008.
2013 – Marvellous Murphy
Still only a teenager, Oisin Murphy enjoyed an afternoon of racing any veteran jockey would have savoured. The young Irishman rode four winners on Ayr Gold Cup day including the star of the show itself. The combined odds of the four winners totalled a huge 9,260/1. His three other winning races included the Ayrshire Handicap, Jordan Electrics Ltd Handicap and the Microtech Support Handicap.
2014 – Hunter stripped of cup
Sky Hunter claims victory in the Doonside Cup, on the final day of the Ayr Gold Cup Festival. The 9/4 favourite would eventually be stripped of his victory though after testing positive for a prohibited raceday substance, omeprazole. Hunter’s trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, was handed a £1,000 (that’ll teach the millionaire!) fine from the British Horseracing Authority due to a lack of regard to the usage of dose rate of the substance.
2017 – Forced cancellation
Ayr is no stranger to a bit of rain but torrential downpours in September are not a common sight. Unseasonably wet weather hit the course days prior to the Ayr Gold Cup meeting in 2017, forcing the cancellation of the entire meeting.
Haydock Park came to the rescue to spare the Gold Cup itself though, hosting the race just a week later with a reduced 17-runner capacity. The classy Irish-bred Donjuan Triumphant lived up to its name by coming home in front.
2017 – Fillies contest introduced
The Gold Cup Festival planned the introduction of a new race, the Arran Scottish Fillies’ Sprint Stakes. Open to filly and mares aged three and above, it is a Listed sprint contest over just five furlongs and 110 yards. The inaugural running of the event took place at Musselburgh in October due to the aforementioned waterlogging.
2018 – Bolt from the blue
Over the years, there have been an abundance of closely contested Ayr Gold Cup renewals but none where the horses could not be separated. This finally changed in 2018 as 5/1 favourite Son Of Rest and 28/1 outsider Baron Bolt crossed the line at exactly the same moment. With absolutely nothing to separate them, even with the aid of a precise photo finish, the Ayr Gold Cup witnessed its first ever dead heat.