Famous for being the home of the Scottish Grand National, the biggest track north of the border also stages an impressive selection of competitive flat contests. The pick of which is this fast and furious sprint handicap held over a trip of six furlongs.
Having first been run in 1804, this historic contest is now well over 200 years old but does look a little different from those early editions, which took place over a rather more demanding distance of two miles. Held over the current trip since 1908, the race has become so popular that the 25-runner limit doesn’t come close to satisfying demand. Those who don’t make the cut must make do with the consolation of a place in the lineup for either the Ayr Silver Cup or the Ayr Bronze Cup, which take place at the same meeting.
Offering £175,000 (2023) in total prize money, the race is always one of the most targeted events of the late flat season, leading to a hugely competitive field of runners and riders – and a bumper attendance at the track.
Ayr Gold Cup 2023: Runners & Riders
- Summerghand – Daniel Tudhope
- Rohaan – Ben Curtis
- Fast Response – Brandon Wilkie
- Northern Express – Paul Mulrennan
- Desert Cop – PJ McDonald
- Montassib – Cieren Fallon
- Orazio – Jim Crowley
- Gweedore – William Pyle
- Aberama Gold – Mark Winn
- Escobar – David Allan
- Gorak – Mikkel Mortensen
- Albasheer – Hollie Doyle
- Ramazan – Oisin Orr
- Bielsa – Rowan Scott
- Juan Les Pins – NON-RUNNER
- Lethal Levi – Clifford Lee
- Magical Spirit – Tom Eaves
- Mr Wagyu – Jason Hart
- Aleezdancer – Shane Gray
- Probe – Frederick Larson
- Paws For Thought – Robert Whearty
- Significantly – Joe Fanning
- Mondammej – Cam Hardie
- Lequinto – Connor Beasley
- It Just Takes Time – Dougie Costello
A Fair Track but Going Key to Chances
Ayr’s 1m4f left-handed, oval track stages some of the biggest Scottish races of the season – both on the level and over jumps – with the flat and National Hunt action taking place on the same track. Featuring a pair of long sweeping bends and two four-furlong straight sections, the course is not unduly tricky to ride. Predominantly flat throughout, the most significant undulations come in the downhill section around the home turn and the slight incline up the straight.
The Ayr Gold Cup starts via a chute, which leads into the straight, meaning the runners do not tackle a bend. Recognised as one of the fairest tracks in the land, both hold-up performers and trailblazers are able to show their best, although the prevailing ground conditions can result in a pace bias. On good or quicker going, frontrunners hold the edge, but should the rains arrive, those ridden more patiently often come to the fore in the closing stages.
Not only is Ayr the biggest racecourse in Scotland, but it is also regularly recognised as the best, having been awarded the title of the Best Racecourse in Scotland and the Northeast on numerous occasions. Those attending Ayr Gold Cup Day can expect excellent racing entertainment and a high-quality experience in the stands.
Ayr’s Three-Day Affair
In common with the majority of tracks, Ayr goes out of its way to make a special occasion of its biggest flat race of the season. The Ayr Gold Cup acts as the headline act of a three-day meeting in mid-late September each year, running from Thursday through to Saturday.
It is handicapping action all the way on the opening Thursday before Friday sees an increase in quality courtesy of the Listed class Harry Roseberry Stakes and Scottish Sprint EBF Fillies’ Stakes. The classiest event of the meeting comes on Saturday in the Group 3 Firth of Clyde, before the betting ring throngs with activity before the Ayr Gold Cup gets underway.
Famous Names on the Roll of Honour
Whilst “only” a Class 2 handicap, many previous winners have gone on to display their speed at a much higher level. Donjuan Triumphant (2017) landed the British Champion Sprint in 2019; Regal Parade (2008) bagged the Haydock Sprint Cup in 2009; Continent (2001) was crowned the European Champion Sprinter in 2002; Coastal Bluff (1996) and Bahamian Pirate (2000) both subsequently won the Nunthorpe; and, most famously of all, the brilliant Lochsong (1992) dominated just about every major sprint on the calendar in 1993 and 1994.
Trends Suggest Not Too Young But Not Too Old
Open to all runners aged three and older, those falling into the four-to-five bracket boasted the strongest record in the opening quarter of the 21st century, with 16 of the 24 winners between 2000 and 2023 falling into that category. Only three three-year-olds prevailed over this period, whilst the admirable Summerghand was the only winner aged older than six when coming home in front at eight years of age in 2022.
Given just how competitive this event is, it can be difficult for trainers to sneak an unexposed sort in at the foot of the weights. Nevertheless, those with a relatively light burden fared best over this 2000 to 2023 period, with 16 winners carrying 9st2lb or less on the day.