1:25 Ayr – 1m Millar Callaghan Engineering 20th Anniversary EBF Nursery Handicap (Class 2 handicap for 2 year olds, winner: £12,450)
This is a good little nursery handicap with Cheveley Park, Michael Tabor and Hamdan Maktoum all duly represented, testament to the strength of these races at the Ayr Gold Cup Festival. No real major trends here and it is an open looking race, however slight preference at this stage lies with ATHEEB. He has shown natural improvement in all his 3 career starts thus far, 6th, 2nd (neck behind subsequent Curragh winner Stone Circle who beat 25 rivals there recently) and then he won when last seen, needing every yard, looking as if there was much more to come in the future. He has a fascinating pedigree being by the speedy Muharaar out of a Montjeu mare called Lady Francesca. He cost £120,000 as a yearling and is a half sibling to RPR 103 achiever Bartholomeu Dias. He tackles the mile today which looks a logical next move based on what I have said above and the impression he created on me. Also, he represents the powerful axis of Sir Michael Stoute / Hamdan Maktoum, with Sir Michael being a rare visitor to the Scottish track. In his lifetime he is 20 wins and 24 places from 83 runners so just about one in every two horses of his that come here, tend to place. Player.
ATHEEB @ 3/1
2:40 Ayr – 6furlong William Hill Ayr Silver Cup Handicap (Class 2 handicap for 3yo+, winner: £37,350)
As per the first race of the day at Ayr we are very much taken by the presence of Sir Michael Stoute here with a runner for Hamdan Maktoum more so when that horse has all the form in the book and is very well handicapped versus a bunch of older horses who are arguably well past their prime. ALKARAAMA won off 88 over 6furlongs two starts back and he backed that up off a 6lb higher mark recently when coming 2nd to TPP dual NAP & TPP good ting “Swindler”, a rapidly progressive horse who we think a hell of a lot of. That form line alone would entitle ALKARAAMA to a great deal of respect; he just smacks of a rising force here versus horses who are very experienced but arguably have little room for manoeuvre off their current marks, at this stage in their careers. ALKARAAMA is a very expensive purchase too from the 2016 Keeneland sales, he is actually a $600,000 purchase by War Front out of a Speightstown mare. This will be just his 7th career starts and that he is already rated 96 shows how good he can be in time. He smacks of a winner in waiting in a race like this. I will have a punt.
ALKARAAMA @ 4/1
At a price, there is a danger horse who could be interesting if recapturing her very best form shown to date, which actually includes a Group 1 “place” (4th of 22 in the 2018 Commonwealth Cup). The horse is called RED BALOONS @ 25/1 who actually is the ride of Danny Tudhope, interesting. I know for a fact that Richard Fahey used to think the world of this horse around this time last year, hence why in 10 career starts thus far she has run 5 times in stakes company. In fact, this is her first run in a non-stakes race since 23rd Aug 2018 when she took the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes. Subsequent efforts in stakes company have not been luckless; she achieved blacktype at York this year in the Summer Stakes behind Royal Intervention (3rd of 16) but two subsequent efforts have seen her come down the field in listed races up North. She now drops back to a handicap off a mark of 93 and it will be just her 11th start.
Red Balloons @ 28/1
3:15 Ayr – 6furlong William Hill Firth Of Clyde Stakes (Group 3 for 2 year old fillies, £36,862 prize for the winner)
A competitive renewal of this Group 3 race where valuable blacktype is up for grabs and we have a sporting fancy in here who is a really consistent filly, she is super genuine, and she very much deserves some black type/group place to her name. She goes by the name of ROSE OF KILDARE. She sums up the Johnston never-say-die spirit, she is very gutsy and game. LTO she was sent off favourite and came 4th of 8 at Goodwood but she carried a massive 9-7 whereas the top 3 all carried 8-9 or less. That she was only beaten 2 lengths is testament to the traits mentioned above. She had previously come 3rd of 20 in a big nursery handicap at York. That was off 87 and her last run the 4th of 8 was off 94. She remains on 94 today. She is , in my opinion , a “safe each way bet” in the sense that she will almost definitely run her heart out. I must confess she may, just may, be a slightly bit vulnerable for win purposes, but at 7/1 or so I think she is definitely the each way bet of the race. To counter that, if she is vulnerable, to what? Al Rasmah and Aleneva the once raced fillies scare me a bit, they could be anything.
ROSE OF KILDARE @ 7/1
4:25 Ayr – 1m2f William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Handicap (Class 2 for 3yo+, rated 0-100, winner takes £15,563)
THE TRADER was intended to run at Newbury yesterday in a race won by our NB Shailene and I think he would have gone close there, but MJ sees fit to redirect The Trader over here to Ayr where he has a terrific winning chance I thought, at around 9/2. As most Johnston horses are, he’s been kept up to his work this year, and has raced 4 times since the 1st of August so no breaks here. The handicapper has him where he wants him in a mark in the low 90s, which is his mark more or less. He doesn’t tend to go off big prices and he actually comes here on the back of a neck 2nd behind Kitaabaat in a Doncaster match up over 1m4f just 6 days ago. It was his first run over as far as that (1m4f) and it arguably wasn’t a thorough, proper test in such a tactical race. He drops back to 1m2f, “his trip”, and Joe Fanning takes the ride. I thought that he had a cracking chance and, like Rose of Kildare who runs earlier on the card, he will in all likelihood give us a proper run for our money.
THE TRADER @ 5/1
Pierre Lapin & Forest of Dean write ups to follow
2:55 Newbury – PIERRE LAPIN 11/4 NAP attack – Put forward a highly promising debut back in May, similar to Cloak of Spirits, in the same ownership but with Hannon. She failed in her bid to get group place/win after her winning debut but PIERRE can definitely go well here. Funnily enough I was sat next to a good judge that day and he said this horse looked very, very good, like the real deal good – he is after all a half sibling to sprint king Harry Angel. PIERRE won as he wanted by 3lengths+ and he was subsequently introduced into the Coventry market at 10/1 and that price shortened all the way through, however, he bypassed all those assignments and this will be his 2nd start, here in the Mill Reef, 4 months on from his debut, a race his half sibling Harry Angel won in style back in 2016 after his debut, which is what Pierre intends to do here. They’ve taken their time here with this one, and I think he’s a good ting.
Wheras Harry is by Dark Angel, Pierre is by Cappella Sansevero, a relatively unknown stallion who won a listed and group 3 race for Ger Lyons in 2014. He stands for just 4k. This is a real chance for Pierre to prove his fathers worth! Come on PIERRE LAPIN.
3:30 Newbury – FOREST OF DEAN 7/4 is 5lb ahead of the handicapper and John Gosden is just doing his “due diligence” for the horse in running him early rather than waiting for the Cambridgeshire particularly because he is ultimately “well in” / “well handicapped” off 105 when his real mark is 110. Gosden has not ruled out running him in the both, so hold on to your Cambridgeshire tickets for now. However today, his claims are crystal clear. He has decisively destroyed his opposition in top handicaps at Goodwood and York recently last time beating Johnny Drama with plenty in hand; 5lb well-in under his penalty and there is surely more to come.