Friday 23 March 2018

Growl ready to make some noise at Ayr

Graham Lee steers Lincoln (No 2) to victory in yesterday’s
five-furlong handicap at Ayr. Photo: PA
Graham Lee steers Lincoln (No 2) to victory in yesterday’s five-furlong handicap at Ayr. Photo: PA

Johnny Ward

Harbour Law's shock success in the St Leger last Saturday ensured that two of the Classics in Britain stayed at home this season - yet it is something of a hollow victory.

Galileo Gold landed the Guineas; he is only one from four since and was hardly a top-notch winner of the race. While it was nice that a trainer like Laura Mongan could win the Leger, the majority of people will recall it as the renewal in which an odds-on favourite somehow put his foot in a hole and unseated his rider.

Since Frankel, there have not been many stars in Britain, and you now expect Aidan O'Brien to dominate the Classics. It could, however, be that it is Frankel - whose results at stud have been pretty amazing - who'll play a key role in a revival in Flat racing across the water.

One of the former top trainers in England who has become something of an irrelevance at the top level is Michael Stoute, whose booking of Pat Smullen takes the eye in the William Hill Firth Of Clyde Stakes at Ayr. This is an interesting bit of placing by Stoute.

Smullen comes over after a pretty superb week of riding at Listowel. Does he ever make a mistake? His tactical nous is second to none and there is growing weight behind the idea that he is a better rider than Ryan Moore.

Moore, of course, is a long-time ally of Stoute, whose Partitia is a big runner in this Group Three. However, she has a stone to find on ratings with Bletchley. Jessica Harington runs the useful Drumfad Bay but a chance is taken on Delectation, which looked to have a nice touch of class when readily beating a consistent maiden on her debut at Thirsk.

The going is easy at Ayr, where the William Hill Ayr Silver Cup Handicap has 25 runners. This will not inconvenience last year's runner up George Bowen, which has dropped to 2lb lower and whose recent eighth-place Curragh finish belied the reality that he was only beaten a couple of lengths. He has a shout at 12/1.

The sole Irish raider is the Andy Slattery-trained An Saighiur, while it would be nice to see Fran Berry exorcise the frustrations of his first season riding in Britain aboard Intibaah.

The big race, the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, looks something of a minefield but it is no shock that Growl is so strong in the wagering all week. A son of the explosively quick Oasis Dream, he, like so many of that sire's progeny, stretches out seamlessly on soft. He's probably still well-handicapped.

Classic-winning trainer Adrian Keatley targets the race with G Force, which is well-treated at his best. He may threaten; his Navan third to The Happy Prince reads well.

Conditions will be wrong for fast-terrain horses at Newbury, where the feature is the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes.

It is tricky and the Moore-ridden Legendary Lunch is a tentative pick.

The Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup Stakes sees one of Stoute's man assets, Dartmouth, return to the fray. This son of Dubawi has limited experience of easy terrain but he has the class to give weight and a beating to these, The Grey Gatsby already ruled out despite being declared - for the second successive Saturday.

Watching brief...

There is not much more that can be said about Kevin Prendergast, whose longevity is utterly remarkable.

In what other sport would you have a 23-year-old winning a big event a day after another goes the way of a man aged 84? Joseph O'Brien lives a healthy lifestyle too and both men have admirable humility.

There was considerable market support for Aneen in the first on Saturday. She had most of the field in front of her as they came into the straight. Steered up the inner by Chris Hayes, she was afforded about as considerate a ride as one could give on a day such as last Saturday. Hayes knew he was not going to win but the way she picked up was really impressive for a debutant.

The Prendergast-trained filly is one to keep an eye on. Shortly after her run, her sire, Lawman, enjoyed Classic success in the form of Leger winner Harbour Law.

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