The most valuable and prestigious Flat racing fixture to take place in Scotland, Ayr’s three-day Western Meeting, featuring the £200,000 William Hill Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday.
First run in 1804, the 1200m Ayr Gold Cup is second only to the Qatar Stewards’ Cup in terms of the prize money offered for a sprint handicap, and each year draws a highly-competitive line-up.
Richard Fahey took the big prize and hit the bookmakers hard with the gambled-on Don’t Touch in last year’s race and his Growl looks an obvious contender to give the Yorkshire trainer another success 12 months on.
The Listed William Hill Doonside Cup has moved from Saturday to beef up the action on the opening day of the meeting on Thursday. Staged over 2000m, it has been won in the past by smart performers such as Legerra, Island House and Anna Pavlova and is widely regarded as one of the best middle-distance races in Scotland.
This year’s renewal looks well up to par with Frankie Dettori heading north to ride Abdon for Sir Michael Stoute, although the David Lanigan-trained Almodovar is arguably the class act having finished third in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and then in midpack in the Juddmonte International last time out.
Highlights on the Friday include the William Hill Bronze Cup, one of two races for horses eliminated from the final Gold Cup field and an important clue-giver for punters looking for ideas as to how the draw advantage might play out in the big race 24 hours later.
There is also the Shadwell Stud EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes, a Listed race for two-year-olds over 1000m, won last year by the brilliant Quiet Reflection, whose Group One heroics this year won’t have done any harm to the reputation of this contest.
Smart juveniles Intelligence Cross and Mokarris are among the most interesting possible contenders for the £75,000 Group Two Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.
Intelligence Cross bounced back from a disappointing third at Goodwood with an impressive four and a quarter-length victory in a Group Three at the Curragh on August 28. Earlier in the campaign, the son of War Front was runner-up to Mehmas in the Group Two July Stakes at Newmarket.
Trained by Simon Crisford, Mokarris posted a smooth Listed victory over this course and distance in July, prior to finishing second behind Blue Point in the Group Two Gimcrack Stakes at York.
Newbury’s seven-race programme also features two Group Three contests, starting with the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup over 2200m.
The 19 entries include Group One winners The Grey Gatsby and Second Step, as well as Dartmouth, who raised the roof at Royal Ascot earlier this year when taking the Hardwicke Stakes.
Fast-ground lover Goldream, headlines 20 entries for the 1000m Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes – connections will be hoping for dry weather in the build-up to the race.