Going For Gold
Statistics against Jim Goldie's stable-star in historic contest
By Jonathan Doidge. Last Updated: 13/09/11 2:54pm
Hawkeyethenoo (nearest): Scottish hope
The William Hill Ayr Gold Cup is traditionally one of the toughest sprints on the racing calendar and Saturday's renewal is no exception.
A total of 241 horses were entered for this year's race, a contest which was first run way back in 1804. A maximum field will line-up this time over the six furlong trip, although a quick dip into its history reveals that the race was originally contested over two miles and was confined to Scottish-trained horses only.
The Marquess Of Ailsa's Dazzle won the first two runnings, and the distance had been reduced to 1m 3f before changing again in 1907, to its current three-quarters-of-a-mile trip.
That significant drop in distance came about because the Duke Of Montrose wanted his horse, Raeberry, to have a better chance of winning. Even so, victory went the way of Charis.
Trainer Jack Jarvis won the race three times either side of the Second World War, and more recently North Yorkshire-based David Nicholls completed a hat-trick with Bahamian Pirate, Continent and Funfair Wane (2000-2002).
Nicholls has since lifted the cup on a further three occasions, Funfair Wane repeating the feat in 2004, and then both Regal Parade (2008) and last year Redford adding to his tally.
One anomaly on the roll of honour is the lack of Scottish success in the race since Nigel Angus saddled Roman Warrior to victory under Johnny Seagrave in 1975.
Jim Goldie has prepared the host nation's sole representative, Hawkeyethenoo, for a second crack at the race on Saturday and he would love to end the hoodoo.
The five-year-old went off at 8/1 last year but could finish only 15th and his trainer is hoping for better things this time.
"He's in great order but if we listen to the statistics we have absolutely no chance," he said.
"If we couldn't win it last year then we shouldn't win it this year, but we've freshened him up. He's only had three runs this year. Obviously it's a race we would dearly love to win to get the monkey off our backs."
The gelded son of Hawk Wing had enjoyed a rapid rise up the ratings in the past two years from a mark of 63 for a five furlong Ayr win to his current perch of 104 and the trainer thinks there could be more to come.
"I think he is still improving. The Ascot race (in July) was over seven furlongs and I think that day he travelled too well and just didn't get home. We've freshened him up and left him purposefully for this race so he'll be there and as spot on as we can get him if the elements are in his favour."
The horse's CV suggests that a sound or fast surface would be preferable at the weekend, though the trainer sees things differently and has no worries over the return to the six furlong trip.
"I spoke to the clerk of the course and I think the ground might be dead on Saturday and not genuinely soft. I'd prefer it if it was just nice good to soft ground.
"I wouldn't even be concerned if he was dropping back to five (furlongs). He's very sharp. To win over seven was a great ride from Gary (Bartley) who switched him off beautifully and he will be on board again on Saturday. Last time he came out a bit sharp and probably just ran with the choke out a bit so I don't think the six will bother him hopefully."
A year ago Goldie's stable star was drawn alongside the eventual winner, so there could be no excuses with that part of his challenge and if he has the choice this time he will be going high.
"Last year Frankie went high and we went low and he was obviously right and we were wrong."
Hawkeyethenoo is a best-priced 16/1 for the big race for which Macs Power and Pepper Lane are the 12/1 joint favourites.