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There is very little on the official figures between all of the eight runners for this valuable sprint prize. The view that the top handicappers are very little – if not at all – behind the sprinters at graded level has been cemented by the new 107 mark given to last weekend’s Portland Handicap winner, Hurricane Ivor. With the likes of Tis Marvellous and the keen running Atalis Bay set to line up, we shouldn’t be short of end-to-end pace which will suit the Town Moor hero.
However, back from a break, the Queen’s runner KING’S LYNN looks the answer to this Group Three contest. You could argue that this gelding has been rather disappointing since his eye-catching and unlucky in running seventh in the King’s Stand Stakes, but on vastly different ground he again made good late gains when placed in the Wokingham Handicap.
Those two races probably left their mark on the selection, and he seemed to just run flat in the Hackwood Stakes over 6 furlongs here. Back to a stiff 5 furlongs, with a good end-to-end gallop, freshened up by a two-month break and with a bit of give in the ground, he gets the nod over Khaadem.
I have been a huge fan of Sam Cooke and felt that all he needed to return to winning form was a solid pace from flag fall. He finally got that set-up at Ascot last time out and although the winning margin was only a neck, I believe that he was merely dossing out in front. He clearly has his chance again off a 5lbs higher mark.
However, more of a concern is the drop back to a mile-and-a-quarter and with Pivoine possibly better on a quicker surface and Dawaam (first time visor) seemingly held by the handicapper, I reckon that the lightly-raced William Haggas’ trained three-year-old could hold all the aces in this valuable affair.
ARAMAIC couldn’t have been more impressive at York when he brushed aside Pivoine and Co. The time figure wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but he created a really good impression on the eye.
I loved the way that the son of Le Havre travelled through that Knavesmire contest and although this looks a much more severe test, he could still be very well treated off a handicap mark of 94. Aramaic could have bigger fish to fry by the back end of this turf season.
There was a time when you could guarantee that the Ayr Gold Cup would be run on hock deep ground, but whether it is down to global warming or just luck with the weather, things have changed plenty in the past 10 years. Despite some forecast scattered showers, it looks like the lush West of Scotland turf will be no slower than good and may even be on the fast side of that description.
That will be music to the ears of Ed Walker as his Garrowby Stakes winner Great Ambassador, who is clearly at his best on a faster surface. He shaped as though there was still more to come at York and the return to a big-field rush will not hinder him. However, a mark of 106 requires by far a career best effort and although that it entirely plausible, he has been well found in the market alongside the likes of Steward’s Cup winner Commanche Falls and Walker’s other runner Popmaster.
There is plenty of value to be had elsewhere though, and although the draw is once again a conundrum, I am going to stick my neck out in the direction of a well-handicapped outsider. Paul Midgley’s charge OSTILIO looks as though his turn was close at hand following a return to form behind Tis Marvellous in the Bullet A Sprint Stakes at Newbury – slowly away and finishing nicely from off the speed.
Tried at up to 7 furlongs this year, this 6 furlong trip is arguably his best trip on top of the ground. Dropped from a rating of 108 down to 96 now, he could readily outrun his double-figure odds.
If you wanted one drawn on the opposite side of the track (low), then the one to catch my eye is the Andrew Balding-trained FIVETHOUSANDTOONE. This lightly-raced sprinter has the mark of being trained specifically for this race, as the yard won it in 2013 and 2017. He has three lengths to find with Great Ambassador on that York form, but he lost a front shoe that day, ran way too freely and is now 4lbs better off at the weights with that rival.
All the money, and indeed all the talk for the past week, has been about the favourite Dhabab and it is hard to crab his credentials, despite this being a below par Mill Reef renewal. Of course, his run in the Superlative Stakes was well-and-truly cemented by Native Trail in Ireland last weekend and the drop to 6 furlongs looks the correct decision from connections.
But, I am quite sweet on the claims of the Exceed and Excel colt trained by John Ryan. Following two educational runs at Ayr and Yarmouth, MANACCAN stepped up radically with a smooth as silk success in a novice at Newmarket, where he readily pulled four-and-a-half lengths clear of Wajd.
The third has since won nicely and the booking of William Buick bodes well for this lovely-moving youngster. He is the value call over the market leader and the Richard Hannon-trained Gubbass.
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