Talking Horses: Speedy Just Frank will be hard to pass in Ayr Gold Cup
The Ayr Gold Cup is always one of the Flat season’s most compelling challenges for backers but this year’s race may boil down to the simple question of whether anything will pass the front-running Just Frank.
Les Eyre’s three-year-old produced a career-best when dropped back to six furlongs for the first time since May at Thirsk last time out, making all the running and clearing away from his field in the closing stages to stop the clock in a notably strong time.
Ostilio, Bielsa and the Stewards’ Cup winner, Commanche Falls, are among the more obvious dangers in a typically competitive renewal, but 10-1 for another front-running success could look very generous if Just Frank (3.40) gets away to his usual fast start.
Ayr 1.55 Juan Elcano was outclassed in the International Stakes at York last month but his Royal Ascot success on similar ground in this grade is the best recent form on offer and anything close to that level here should be sufficient.
Newbury 2.15 Khaadem snapped a two-year losing run when dropped to five furlongs at the St Leger meeting this month, but that was a weak race where the second-favourite disappointed and he might make the market for Tis Marvellous. He has hit career-best form at the age of seven on his last two starts and may not need to improve again to record a first Group Three race win since his juvenile days.
Ayr 2.30 Magical Spirit is back at six furlongs after finishing a close – and running-on – third in a warm race at Ascot last time. He was an easy all-the-way winner of this race off a 6lb lower mark last year but Kevin Ryan’s gelding can sit just off the pace too, so a draw alongside the likely front-runner, Bergerac, looks ideal.
Newbury 2.50 Al Aasy has been the beaten favourite on his two most recent starts, including at odds-on last time, but he is still hard to get away from dropping back to Group Three company at the track where he scored twice earlier in the campaign.
Ayr 3.05 Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Scot’s Grace at Kempton last time, when Kevin Philippart de Foy’s filly was repeatedly denied running room in the final quarter. She still managed to finish just three lengths behind the winner and is a big price at around 5-1 to make amends.
Newbury 3.25 A fascinating and competitive handicap, with Mo’Assess possibly the value bet at around 6-1 against likely favourite Aramaic. Saeed bin Suroor’s colt was a neck in front of Aramaic in an all-weather novice in August and followed up in impressive style a fortnight later. An opening mark of 93 may well prove lenient.
Newbury 4.00 Dhabab was less than two lengths behind Native Trail, last weekend’s Group One National Stakes winner, in the Superlative Stakes in July, form which makes him a worthy favourite here at around 2-1. Gis A Sub, who improved to finish second to Lusail in the Gimcrack at York, is the obvious danger.
Ayr 4.15 A steady pace counted against Dance Fever at Goodwood last time but there should be a stronger gallop here and the step back up to a mile for the first time since an excellent second at Ascot last July could also be in his favour.