Pyramid can solve tricky Ayr puzzle
Dandy Nicholls, who has won the Ayr Gold Cup five times in the last 10 years, once again tackles the sprinting highlight of the Scottish season with a powerful-looking team.
In all, 27 horses will go to post in the William Hill-sponsored showpiece, with Nicholls responsible for five, a number Richard Fahey betters by one. Both men have various genuine contenders, though Nicholls may have the pick in Victoire De Lyphar.
The three-year-old has won twice and been second in three starts for Nicholls, and hasn't been harshly treated by the handicapper. Beaten just a head at Goodwood last time, he is now only 4lb higher, so you'd have to fancy him to go close.
Nonetheless, he is short enough for a race of this nature at 15/2, and there is better value to be found elsewhere. While Nicholls' Striking Spirit has each-way prospects at up to 33/1, preference is for the similarly priced Parisian Pyramid.
A progressive sort, Parisian Pyramid's chances have apparently been dismissed because of his draw in stall four.
However, five of the last 10 winners of the race have broken from stall 10 or lower. Last year, the winner raced on the far side despite having been drawn in stall 15, with single-figure draws filling the next three places.
Kevin Ryan's gelding has plenty else to recommend him. In his last six starts, he has won two and been placed twice, with the valid excuse of being away from the pace on his only off day in the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood.
Earlier in the season at Goodwood, he beat Jonny Mudball by three-quarters of a length, and he is 6lb better off with that 10/1 shot now.
On his most recent start at Ripon, Parisian Pyramid went down by a couple of lengths to the course specialist Tajneed, a horse he meets today on 11lb better terms.
The main reason for the discrepancy in the prices is that Johnny Mudball and Tajneed (20/1) are perceived to be better drawn, but that is not necessarily the case. With Jamie Spencer in the saddle, Parisian Pyramid is fancied to defy his odds.
Nicholls, Fahey and Ryan are all well represented in the consolation race for the big event, the William Hill Silver Cup, but David Barron's Colonel Mak gets the nod here. Twice a winner as a juvenile, the three-year-old Makbul gelding took time to find his stride this season.
A runner-up finish at Newcastle in July on his sixth start of the campaign hinted at better things to come, and he duly followed that with a win at Leicester last month.
Colonel Mak gets a 5lb penalty for that success now, but he is clearly on the up once again. Off just 9st 4lb, he appeals at up to 16/1.
In the Listed Doonside Cup over 10 furlongs, the progressive Vesuve is fancied to have too much for the likely favourite Kings Gambit.
Second to Cesare on his first run of the turf season in July, this Godolphin four-year-old went on to beat the smart Smokey Oakey with the minimum of fuss in a conditions race next time.
He subsequently stepped up to Group Three company at York, when he finished a close fourth to Rio De La Plata, with Kings Gambit just in front of him in third.
The winner franked the form by going on to be beaten a head in the Group One Prix Du Moulin; with more scope for improvement than the two-year older Kings Gambit, Vesuve is taken to do likewise now.
Further south at Newbury, Tazeez looks a solid option in the Dubai Duty Free Conditions Stakes.
There are a few useful types in the small field of five, but John Gosden's six-year-old performs consistently at a high level, and the step back in trip to nine furlongs might work in his favour.
Best bet: Vesuve