Another bumper weekend of sport lies ahead, with a full list of Premier League fixtures and the Rugby World Cup continuing in full flow. Racing fans aren’t left out though, far from it in fact. The ITV crew heads to both Ayr and Newbury to beam nine cracking contests into your homes.
The seasonal highlight of the Ayr Gold Cup takes centre stage at the Scottish track, with Group 3 support coming in the shape of the Firth Of Clyde Stakes. Down at Newbury, the Dubai Duty Free tops the handicapping bill before the headline act of the Mill Reef Stakes. Nine races on offer means nine betting opportunities, and here we provide our best value punts in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips, starting up in Scotland.
1:15 Virgin Bet Daily Price Boosts Handicap
Class 2, 1m
We have some 1m handicapping action to kick off the entertainment, with the Nigel Tinkler-trained Isla Kai (4/1) sitting atop the market. He’s up 4lb for a win in a similar event at Ripon last time out but looked value for more than the ¾l winning margin that day and shouldn’t be far away. Course and distance winner Revich (11/2) is another for the shortlist, getting in off the same mark as when beaten only ½l into third in the 2022 edition of this.
The aforementioned duo boast obvious claims, but this has been a tricky race to call in recent years, with four of the last eight winners returning a double-figure SP and no winning favourite since 2016. As such, we favour an each-way punt, and the one to catch the eye is the relatively lightly raced Sirona (14/1) from the yard of Charlie Johnston.
Talented enough to romp home in a Listed event at Cologne last season, she hasn’t been so good since but took a step back in the right direction when flying home for second at Newmarket two starts back. Pulling her chance away when upped in trip last time out, this drop back to a mile looks a sensible option, with the stiff finish likely to play into her hands.
1:30 Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes
Group 3, 5f
Just the five go to post in the opening sprint event of the day. Of that quintet, Thunderbear (9/1) seems unlikely to handle the soft ground, whilst Designer probably has too much to find on ratings (11/1). The other three are tough to split.
Sense Of Duty (11/8) is the most intriguing runner, with the William Haggas filly heading into the race seeking a five-timer. However, those wins have come over 6f, and the most recent was a massive 455 days ago. Yet to race on anything worse than good, she looks risky at so short a price.
The consistent Raasel (3/1) arrives on the back of a decent second in a Listed contest at Doncaster but thrives when given a strong pace to aim at, which seems unlikely here. All of which leaves the Andrew Balding-trained Nymphadora (7/2). Twice a winner in Listed company, she may need a career-best effort but handles soft ground well and could dictate the pace under Oisin Murphy. She gets the vote in a tricky betting heat.
1:50 Virgin Bet Daily Extra Places Doonside Cup Stakes
The late withdrawal of the classy My Prospero has caused a major shakeup in the market for this Listed event. For those seeking an each-way punt, Bateman’s Boy (9/1) makes some appeal on his first start for Kevin Ryan, as does the nicely bred Luckin Brew (10/1) from the Ralph Becket operation.
However, in the absence of My Prospero, this may now be at the mercy of the Karl Burke-trained three-year-old Royal Rhyme (13/8). A perfect three from three on going containing the word soft in the description, he looked well up to Listed level when hacking up in handicap over this trip off a mark of 95 at Goodwood, and can take this next step up the ladder in his stride.
2:05 Dubai Duty Free Autumn Cup Handicap
Class 2, 1m5½f
A slog through the Newbury mud awaits the contenders in this event for the stayers. Currently described as heavy, conditions may ease slightly by race time. Even so, this still looks like providing a thorough test of stamina for the seven runners.
As the only last-time out winner in the field, Valsad (5/2) duly heads the betting. Impressive as he was that day, that success came over 1m4f on the all-weather. His most recent effort in a 1m6f turf handicap saw him beaten off a mark of 84, and he must race off 91 here. Take a chance instead on the Ian Williams runner Oneforthegutter (13/2) at almost three times the price. This one arrives bang in form, having gone down by just a short head in a 1m6½f event at Doncaster eight days ago, and is only 1lb higher ahead of this assignment.
2:25 Virgin Bet Ayr Silver Cup Handicap
Class 2, 6f
The Ayr Gold Cup is such a popular race that even the consolation event is oversubscribed, resulting in a maximum field of 25 for the silver version. The admirable Gulliver (7/1) and hat-trick-seeking Rathbone (15/2) are battling out for favouritism and can go well but, with additional places on offer, we prefer an each-way punt at a bigger price.
Richard Spencer’s nine-year-old Bernardo O’Reilly (16/1) may not be quite the force of old, but he has been showing definite signs of life of late, most notably when flying home for fourth in a Racing League event two starts back. Again hitting the line well when denied any sort of run last time out at Windsor, he has been eased a further 1lb by the handicapper and is beginning to look on a nice mark. At his best in a big field with a strong pace to aim at, he has been placed on two of his previous four outings over course and distance and can hit the frame again.
2:40 Dubai Duty Free Handicap
Class 2, 1m2f
The three-year-olds dominate the betting for this prestigious handicap, with Balance Play (7/2) and Totnes (4/1) occupying the top two positions in the market. The hat-trick-seeking Totnes arrives in the better form of the two, with Balance Play looking to bounce back from a no-show at York. The third youngster, Le Mans (7/1) falls into the “could be anything” category on just her fourth career start and looks a danger to all.
It is, however, one of the older brigade for us, with the Roger Fell & Sean Murray-trained, Toshizou (9/1) beginning to look dangerously well handicapped off a mark of 86. Boasting a rating of 98 in his pomp, he appeared to be slowly coming to the boil before failing to stay 1m4f on his two most recent starts. Back down in trip, he’s now 4lb lower than when flying home from an impossible position to finish fourth at Epsom in June and may be up to going a couple of places better.
3:00 Virgin Bet Best Odds Daily Firth Of Clyde
Group 3, 6f
The first of two quality sprint events for the juveniles serves as the penultimate act at Ayr, in a race where it’s tough to rule out any of the eight contenders. The unbeaten Great Generation (9/2) and hat-trick seeking Raqiya (15/8) bring the most eye-catching profiles to the table, whilst Pretty Crystal (13/2), Navassa Island (6/1), and Dorothy Lawrence (6/1) have run well in this grade already.
Raqiya would be our pick of the fancied contenders, but this race is no stranger to a surprising result, with five of the last eight winners returning an SP of 11/1 or bigger. Archie Watson was responsible for one of those shock results when saddling Nazanin to victory in 2021, and we fancy he may repeat the trick with Imperiality (20/1).
This improving sort looked a little tapped for toe in two 5f quick ground events but took a big step forward when tried over this trip on slower ground last time out. Likely to be faced with similar conditions here, and heading in the right direction, she looks a very big price indeed to hit the frame – at the very least.
3:15 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes
Group 2, 6f
The top juvenile event of the season at Newbury has been won by a number of smart sorts in recent times, including future Group 1 performers Ribchester and Harry Angel. Whether we have anything of that calibre in this field remains to be seen, but we have an intriguing line-up nonetheless.
Richard Hannon’s Haatem (11/2) tops the ratings, having landed the Group 2 Vintage Stakes earlier in the season, but bombed out when dropped to this trip at York and needs to bounce back. Eve Johnston Houghton’s Mister Sketch (11/4) is understandably the one the market has latched onto, having stormed 9½l clear at Salisbury, but seems likely to be faced with significantly slower conditions here.
With the ground likely to be riding on the soft side, the one to be on is Red Zone Hero (7/1) from the yard of Michael Dods. This son of the speedy Starspangledbanner is a perfect two from two on soft ground, including when much too good in a Doncaster handicap last time out. This is a significant step up in class, but he may get his own way in front and could prove tough to pass in the slow conditions.
3:35 Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Handicap
Class 2, 6f
Last but not least we have the big race of the season at Ayr, as 25 runners spread right across the track in this 6f dash for the line. As ever, we have a fascinating list of contenders, including the past two winners of the race, Summerghand (12/1) and Bielsa (14/1), who are both on reasonable marks and make some each-way appeal. The Charles Hills runner Orazio (8/1) has already claimed two big handicaps this season and can go well, whilst Juan Le Pins (8/1) looks interesting stepping down from Listed company.
Significantly (10/1) is unpenalised for a narrow defeat at Doncaster and joins an ever-lengthening shortlist, which also includes Mr Wagyu (14/1), who finished fifth off 9lbs higher 12 months ago. However, the one to get the vote is Richard Fahey’s last time-out winner, Ramazan (14/1).
As one of only two three-year-olds in the field, this one is open to more improvement than most and ran well at this meeting last season. A winner at the distance, we also like the fact that his recent successes have been coming at 7f, as this invariably turns into a thorough test at the trip.