Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings for the Ayr Gold Cup (15:35) are headed by the Charlie Hills-trained four-year-old Orazio (121), who has already been sent off favourite for the Wokingham and Stewards’ Cup this season and let his supporters down both times.
Orazio didn’t run badly when sixth at Royal Ascot, just seeming caught out for pace under the firmer conditions, but he then disappointed when finishing down the field at Goodwood back on softer ground – too soft, maybe, as he’s not proven on heavy going – where he travelled well but was rather caught in no-man’s-land on the outside of his group with no cover. Before that Orazio’s improved form in the spring, when he won at Newmarket and Ascot, certainly marked him out as a smart and progressive sprinter and just the type to win a big handicap.
For those who do want to take Orazio on, there are no shortage of candidates to choose from. Last year’s third Juan les Pins (119) should be high on any shortlist having finished in front of Orazio at both Royal Ascot (where he was third) and Goodwood before hitting the frame in listed races the last twice. Significantly (118) was well backed for the Stewards’ Cup, in which he finished sixth, and then improved on that when pipped on the post by Annaf in last week’s Portland at Doncaster. Kevin Ryan’s string could be in better form, but rain would aid the chances of Aleezdancer (117), who won on heavy ground at Doncaster earlier in the season and was back to form when fifth in the Stewards’ Cup last time.
Last year's Ayr Gold Cup winner, Summerghand (114), has looked right back to his best on his last couple of starts, first dead-heating with Albasheer (114) in a valuable handicap at York's Ebor Festival and then looking unlucky not to finish closer when fourth in a similar event won by Big Gossey at the Curragh last time, doing well under the circumstances to get as close as he did having been forced to come around a wall of horses. Both Summerghand and Albasheer – who met trouble of his own when finishing hot on the heels of his old rival at the Curragh – are handicapped to go well again despite each being burdened with a 5 lb penalty for their York exploits.
Bielsa (114) won this race two years ago and, though struggling to a mid-division finish last year, he isn't one to underestimate from the same mark as when last seen finishing third in the Stewards' Cup. One place behind Bielsa at Goodwood was Mr Wagyu (115), who confirmed his wellbeing by faring best of these when third in the race won by Big Gossey at the Curragh last time. Third and fifth in the last two renewals of this race, too, he should continue to give a good account.
Rohaan (120) won back-to-back editions of the Wokingham in 2021 and 2022 and lines up here from a 5 lb lower mark than when successful at the Royal meeting last year. His two handicap runs so far this season have been over five furlongs, but he'll have his optimum conditions today, a well-run race over six.
Northern Express (116), on the other hand, is unproven under these conditions as he drops back to six furlongs for the first time in his career. A consistent and smart performer, Northern Express has been a fixture in valuable handicaps at up to a mile for the last couple of seasons and produced one of his best efforts this term when fourth in the International Stakes at Ascot in July. The way he travels through his races suggests he's well worth a try at this sort of trip, whereas Montassib (115), last seen finishing eighth in the International, seems less likely to be suited by the drop back to sprinting, for all that he's come down to a workable mark.
The Jennie Candlish-trained Probe (116) produced a career best when winning a big-field handicap at Newmarket in May and on his previous start he'd been beaten just a length behind Orazio over the same course and distance. Orazio has clearly improved since, but Probe meets that rival on 7 lb better terms today and he's been freshened up following a mid-season dip in form. By contrast, Stewards' Cup winner Aberama Gold (115) has thrived on a busy campaign and was in action only last week, albeit that was one of his lesser efforts when down the field in the Portland.
The three-year-old Ramazan (114) and Fast Response (111), the sole filly in the line-up, are a couple of others to consider. Ramazan is only 3 lb higher in the weights than when scoring at Chepstow last time and the drop back to six furlongs shouldn't be a major issue for a horse who ran well in a nursery over this course and distance 12 months ago, while Fast Response is joined in the line-up by stablemate Lethal Levi (114), both running for Karl Burke who has the 'Hot Trainer' Flag to denote that his yard is in top form. Fast Response is very effective with ease underfoot and it will be interesting to see what she can do now returned to a handicap following a productive campaign in listed/minor pattern company.
Timeform Analyst's Verdict:
A superb renewal of the Ayr Gold Cup and once more it could go the way of David O'Meara's most likeable veteran Summerghand who shows absolutely no signs of slowing down at the age of nine and can swoop late to repeat his fine 2022 victory. Significantly just failed in Doncaster's Portland and seems sure to be in the mix once more along with last year's third Juan Les Pins. Orazio remains with potential and also can't be ruled out. Bielsa, Northern Express and Ramazan complete the shortlist.
Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings:
119 Juan Les Pins
116 Northern Express
116 Paws For Thought
115 Aberama Gold
115 Mr Wagyu
114 It Just Takes Time
114 Lethal Levi
114 Magical Spirit
111 Fast Response
110 Desert Cop
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