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AYR takes centre stage on the racing circuit this weekend and the Ayr Gold Cup (3.40) itself looks as competitive as ever.
Old Mr Lupton is bound to have his supporters after bouncing back to form with a cracking third in the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon and following that up with a clear-cut success in a valuable handicap at the Curragh.
I hugely respect his chance along with the likes of Bielsa (needs it to stay on the soft side), the well-handicapped Spanish City and Soldiers Minute. The last named will certainly appreciate going back up to a sixth furlong.
But the value wager for me has to be ANOTHER BATT for David Barron. This five-year-old has mainly raced over further in his career to date, but dropped to six furlongs for the first time in years he seemed to relish chasing a red-hot pace at Thirsk and won a shade cosily in the end.
A return to seven furlongs was no good to him last time in Ireland, but as long as the draw works in his favour and he does have plenty of pace around him, I expect a massive show under Connor Beasley.
We should get plenty of clues for the best boxes in the line-up when a full field go to post for the Silver Cup at 2.30.
With the top-weights running off marks of 93 this looks like a really good renewal of this event and although he hasn’t won over this trip since June 2019, ARBALET could well be suited by this six-furlong shoot out from pillar to post. If he is drawn on the “right” side (box No 2) then we could see him power home inside the furlong with his blitz finish.
Elsewhere at the West of Scotland track I have a strong fancy for the old man GULF OF POETS in the finale at 5.25.
The eight-year-old hasn’t really been at his best this season, but hasn’t quite been getting home over a mile plus and this drop back in trip could well be the answer. Of course, because he has been out of form, the handicapper has relented plenty, dropping him from a high of 99 all the way down to his current mark of 77 and he looks the each-way solution here.
There is a fair card at Newbury too and the pick of the races is the Group Two Mill Reef Stakes for juveniles at 3.25.
Second in the Gimcrack at York, Devilwala will relish the much stiffer track, but he may well have to settle for second best again behind BAHRAIN PRIDE. This Newmarket-trained raider is two from two in his career to date and was hugely impressive when landing the two-year-old Trophy at Ripon. That run came on quite soft ground, but going by his action and breeding there seems no reason why he shouldn’t be as effective on this quicker terrain.
Dirty Rascal is arguably the best-handicapped entry on the card in the seven furlong handicap at 4.30, but he has shown absolutely nothing in five starts this year and I cannot continue jumping over a cliff with him so the pick could well be EVENING SUN. Roger Charlton’s charge wasn’t suited by the testing ground last time out at Newmarket and this quicker ground, in tandem with a drop to seven furlongs, looks just the ticket for the son of Muhaarar who remains open to a bit more improvement up against mainly exposed seasoned handicappers.
Of the other group races I think that the Dubai International can finally see EQUILATERAL (nb) return to winning form after a series of disappointing efforts in better races, while I am quite sweet on the claims of ELARQAM in the Dubai Duty Free at 2.50 where Desert Encounter could be his main danger.
In the big handicap of the day at 3.15, over a mile-and-a-quarter, GOOD BIRTHDAY (nap) can finally return to winning form following a disappointing season. He is now back down to a mark of 90, which he ran off when third to Headman in the London Gold Cup Handicap over the same course and distance last year.
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