IT’S the biggest Flat meeting of the year in Scotland and the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival from Thursday until Saturday looks set to be an absolute treat for Scottish racing fans.
With at least 22 races over the three days and a remarkable record total of £587,000 in prize money, the festival will do Scottish racing proud.
Yet the biggest question in racing on this side of the border still remains – will this be the year we get a Scottish-trained winner of the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup?
The biggest Flat race in Scotland is set for Saturday at 3.50pm, when a maximum field of 27 horses goes to post to contest the richest sprint handicap in Europe with first prize money of £155,000, up from £120,000 last year.
In addition to the big race on Saturday there will be the William Hill Ayr Silver Cup, the William Hill Bet On The Move Doonside Cup and the William Hill In the App Store Firth Of Clyde Stakes, with all four races being shown on Channel 4.
It is 38 years since a Scottish trained horse won the Gold Cup and, for the first time in many years, there are two with realistic chances, despite being high in the weights.
The two saddled by Renfrewshire trainer Jim Goldie, pictured, Jack Dexter and Hawkeyethenoo are standing dishes in group races now, and in his last race, the former won the Group 3 Betfred Chipchase stakes at Newcastle to earn joint top weight in next Saturday’s big race.
Jack Dexter has improved massively since winning the William Hill Bronze Cup over course and distance last year, but for the four-year-old to shoulder 9st 10lbs – the same as Goodwood Stewards Cup winner Rex Imperator – is asking a lot, though he should get his favoured soft ground.
Hawkeyethenoo, like Jack Dexter, is owned by the Johnnie Delta Racing syndicate, and last year’s Stewards Cup hero is a solid each-way chance.
The biggest dangers to these two should be the likely favourite, the Richard Fahey-trained Baccarat, but watch out for Spinatrix, an each-way shot whose trainer Michael Dods has aimed her at the Cup.
Friday is Ladies Day with the judging of the “best dressed” competition by football pundit Robbie Savage, who will also make Thursday’s draw for the allocation of stalls for the Gold Cup, which may well be instructive as trainers vie to choose the best location for their charges.