It’s the sprinters who catch the eye this week on what promises to be a high-quality Saturday of racing. At Ayr, the Ayr Gold Cup tops the bill with 24 horses battling it out over six furlongs for the Ayr Gold Cup. There are fewer numbers but even higher quality animals on show at Newbury with the Group 3 Legacy Cup Stakes and the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes.
Both Ayr and Newbury have excellent supporting cards for their main events resulting in a bumper ITV Racing Saturday with nine races. We’ve been through them all to pick out the best of the betting value in the search for some winners in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:55 Virgin Bet Doonside Cup Stakes
The Listed Doonside Cup is the first of the nine ITV Racing contests of the day. Kevin Ryan is hoping that the day will get off to a very pleasing start for his year with Juan Elcano the 5/4 favourite to win on this drop down to Listed company. The relatively unexposed four year old is the rightful favourite but does have some tough horses to beat.
The reliable Euchen Glen will give his all but would have a better chance were a bit of rain to fall at Ayr. Maydanny won’t mind the good to firm ground but he struggled to make the step out of handicap company last time and is proving hard to place. Juan Elcano may have been outclassed in the Juddmonte International at York but this is a very different race at a lower level and his class can tell.
2:15 Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes
Group 3, 5f
Charlie Hills is a very experienced trainer who has coaxed many out of form horses back to their best over the years. At some stage, he would be forgiven for thinking that he had run out of options for Khaadem though. The five year old had been nowhere near reaching the form he showed a year earlier so Hills and his team tried all sorts including running him over seven furlongs. Nothing seemed to work until the application of blinkers and a drop down to the minimum trip brought some magic out of Khaadem as he won the Scarborough Stakes at Doncaster.
Khaadem is related to some very good sprinters such as Battaash and Harry Angel but it’s only now that the big five-furlong sprints have really opened up as options for him. He is quickly back to work to prove his credentials on Saturday when King’s Lynn, Tis Marvellous and Hurricane Ivor are among his opponents in the World Trophy Stakes. It’s a big ask to win a Group 3 so soon after winning a Listed race but Khaadem could be about to go on a run of big wins and a similar performance to Doncaster would make him tough to stop at odds of 10/3.
2:30 Virgin Bet Ayr Silver Cup Handicap
It’s another sprint up next with this consolation for the Ayr Gold Cup. Connections of the winning horse will have £25,000 to help ease their disappointment at missing out on a place in the big race but predicting who those connections will be is no easy task. The last five winners of the Ayr Silver Cup went in at 18/1, 12/1, 11/1, 20/1 and 18/1 so it’s a race made for each way punters.
Rathbone is one of a few who catch the eye at generous prices for this one. Kevin Ryan’s five year old did not fire at Thirsk last time but his draw wasn’t ideal and it was difficult for any horse to make an impact behind Just Frank who won from the front. A high draw this time around should be better for Rathbone who remains off a career-high mark of 95 but is running as consistently well as ever. A place is within Rahtbone’s grasp at a nice price of 20/1.
2:50 Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup Stakes
Group 3, 1m3f
Al Aasy started the season with a couple of Group 3 wins. Both of those successes came by at least four lengths and it looked just a matter of time before William Haggas’s four year old made his breakthrough at the top level. However, he was outbattled by Pyledriver when he really should have won at Epsom and then failed to see out his effort at Newmarket.
Those performances threw up doubts about Al Aasy’s attitude and connections promptly gelded him. This is his first run since and although the market is supportive, Al Aasy looks too short at odds on, especially with Foxes Tales lurking just behind him at 11/4. Andrew Balding’s three year old made the step out of handicap company with real class when winning a Group 3 at Haydock. He had the looks of a progressive horse that day and in receipt of six pounds from Al Aasy, the younger horse can land a win against the odds.
3:05 Virgin Bet Firth Of Clyde Fillies’ Stakes
Group 3, 6f
Saturday could be an excellent day for Kevin Ryan up at Ayr. Hala Hala Athmani is the next in a line of horses who could provide a huge win for the Hambleton-based trainer. While there is always a lot to be learned about juveniles, Ryan knows the family of Hala Hala Athmani very well having had tremendous success with her half brother Hello Youmzain.
Like that Group 1 winner, Hala Hala Athmani’s career started her career with a win at Carlisle but her performance on debut was arguably even better. It certainly marked her out as a high potential individual and connections have jumped at the chance to get her some black type on Saturday. Winning a Group 3 against some more experienced rivals would be a major feather in her cap and Hala Hala Athmani is well priced to do just that at odds of 5/1.
3:25 Dubai Duty Free Handicap
King Leonidas is a very interesting entry in the Dubai Duty Free Handicap. The four year old has only run three times and is yet to be seen in competitive action this season. He has clearly had all sorts of problems at home but the Gosden yard are on the job and he retains the backing of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum.
Victory on debut and then on his first run as a three year old suggested that this son of Kingman could be smart. He failed to follow up on that promise in the Jersey Stakes at last year’s Royal Ascot but can belatedly remind everybody of his class as he makes his handicap debut at odds of 8/1.
3:40 Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Handicap
Class 2, 6f
Kevin Ryan has yet another horse capable of earning a big prize with Bielsa well drawn up against the rails in stall 25. The six year old has consistently run well this season but must be better than ever if he is to finally break a winless run of 10 races.
While Bielsa makes each way appeal in this 24 runner sprint, it is Popmaster who looks the best bet to win outright. Ed Walker was a little concerned that his three-year-old would not get a place in the race earlier in the week. In the end, he made it in fairly comfortably and at 20th in the weights, he must have a big chance. His high draw in stall 20 is another positive as is the booking of Hollie Doyle for the ride. A price of 9/1 is generous on Popmaster so don’t be surprised if he goes off a few points shorter.
4:00 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes
Group 2, 6f
Gubbass showed that he has a lot of speed and a lot of heart when beating 21 horses in the Super Sprint Stakes at Newbury in July. It looked as though he would head to Royal Ascot on the back of that win but Richard Hannon cautioned connections against taking that route as he was growing. He was unable to cope with a pretty slowly run race at Goodwood over six furlongs but was then much better when a good fifth in the Group 1 Prix Morny.
It was just a slight lack of pace that cost Gubbass at the top level but the run was very encouraging for connections and for anybody considering supporting him at 9/2 for the Mill Reef Stakes. This is a slight drop down in calibre compared to his run in France and Gubbass can take advantage with a third win of his burgeoning career.
4:15 Virgin Bet Handicap
Class 2, 1m
The final race of this long, exciting day of racing is the competitive-looking Virgin Bet Handicap. Each of the 11 horses in the field has a chance of doing something very good in this one-mile contest from Dance Fever at the head of the market right down to Fame And Acclaim towards the bottom of the betting.
Fame And Acclaim might actually provide us with a nice return to close the day out. After being done for pace on his drop down to seven furlongs, Les Eyre’s four year old disappointed over his favoured mile trip last time out. He has been eased in the weights for that showing and should be better after a month off to freshen up. There is every chance that 14/1 will prove to be a generous price.