Ayr Racecourse will kick off their showcase Virgin Bet Gold Cup festival this afternoon with valuable prize money on offer and sell-out crowds expected to descend on the southwest coast this weekend.
Widely regarded as Scotland’s premier racecourse, the venue will play host to three-days of ultra-competitive racing with the main highlight being Saturday’s prestigious Ayr Gold Cup showpiece, run over the flying six furlongs.
Established in 1804, the race is open to horses over 3yo+ and designed for sprinters with a prize fund of £75,000.
25 runners will come thundering down the home straight in front of the packed grandstands with northern trainers, including Glasgow-based Jim Goldie holding a strong hand in this year’s renewal.
In the early years of the race’s history it was restricted to horses bred and trained in Scotland before it became a handicap, allowing powerful Southern yards to send runners up to Scotland.
You need to go back to Roman Warrior in 1975 for the last Scottish-trained winner of the Ayr Gold Cup – will that hoodoo finally be broken on Saturday?
The race often throws up an incredibly exciting finish, none more so than in 2018 when 28/1 outsider Baron Bolt and 5/1 favourite Son of Rest could not be separated in a dramatic dead-heat finish.
Who are the main contenders to look out for ahead of the 2021 running of the Ayr Gold Cup:
GREAT AMBASSADOR – Ed Walker (5/1)
Southern raiders have a brilliant recent record in the race, winning the past four renewals and this year’s favourite is trained by an up-and-coming Lambourn-based trainer Ed Walker.
A close-up third in the Unibet Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood in July, the four-year-old gelding made amends in a smaller field at Newmarket next time out before winning a four-runner Listed event at York, so he arrives in Scotland in really good form.
COMMANCHE FALLS – Michael Dods (12/1)
The leading Northern hope this year trained in County Durham by Michael Dods. Arrives in the best form of his career having won six of his last nine starts., including valuable prizes at Goodwood and Hamilton Park. This speedy four-year-old seems to relish big field sprints and is tailor made for this type of contest. Would prefer a bit of rain to fall in the build-up.
BOOSALA – William Haggas (14/1)
Representing Scottish-born trainer William Haggas and running in the yellow and black colours worn by last year’s winner Nahaarr, this lightly raced youngster is a fascinating runner having only raced three times before, winning on two occasions. He powered clear to win impressively at York in July 2019 but will have to defy a lengthy nine-month absence. His lack of big-race experience could be a slight concern, however connections clearly think he has star potential to throw him at the deep end for his first run of the season.
JUST FRANK – Les Eyre (12/1)
A very exciting two-year-old last season who blitzed a 30-runner field to win a £150,000 Tattersalls race at Newmarket but has proved a difficult horse to train. He has raced too keenly this year but bounced back to form when winning again at Thirsk last month. Raised 5Ibs for that success but creeps in at the bottom of the weights, so he looks to be a dangerous contender.
BIELSA – Kevin Ryan (16/1)
Yorkshire trainer Kevin Ryan has been responsible for four of the last 14 winners of the race and he will bid for a fifth course and distance success with the six-year-old, who runs in the blue and white silks of Leicester City owned by King Power Racing. Has run some gallant races in defeat of late and has been saved for this race, arriving fresh after a six-week break.
Also on Saturday’s card, the Group 3 Virgin Bet firth Of Clyde Fillies’ Stakes always produces a promising winner, destined to go on to better things and the unbeaten Head Mistress will aim to complete a hat-trick of wins for Irish trainer Ger Lyons.
Racegoers will also be eager to catch a glimpse of Scotland’s flagship horse of the 2021 Flat season in the Listed 1m2f Virgin Bet Doonside Cup Stakes as Euchen Glen lines up for Jim Goldie.
The experienced eight-year-old has run in some of the strongest middle-distance races in the UK, winning twice at Sandown Park this year against some the most expensive Southern-based horses in training.
Goldie told Racing TV: “He’s a fantastic horse and the Doonside Cup is a special race for us, being at our local track. His owner will be in attendance and hopefully he can run a big race.
“The day he won the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown was fairly significant for Scottish Racing. I’m still not sure what his ideal trip is because he’s won over two miles but he’s also very good over 1m2f.
“We also have Be Proud running in the Bronze Cup on Friday and have earmarked Call Me Ginger for the same race.
“He won really well last time and would like a bit of cut in the ground. He would be our biggest chance.”
The action gets underway on Thursday at 1.50pm, with 24 races spread across each of the three-day festival. ITV Racing will also be showing live coverage of Saturday’s action. For all the latest news, follow @ScottishRacing on Twitter and Facebook.