THE terrible weather up in Scotland means the ground is going to be very soft for tomorrow’s card and that rules out many of those in the field for the biggest betting race of the day, the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup (3.30pm). Large field sprints are never easy to call so I’m going to split my stakes with MAAREK and REGAL PARADE.
Maarek has been very consistent over the last year, only out of the frame once in his last eight starts, and has put up a string of good efforts in better company. Last time out he won an Irish Group Three in fine style and he has the promising claimer Mark Enright taking 5lb off his top-weight burden. He was a close-up fourth in the Silver Cup last year and should go close at a best-priced 14/1 with Coral.
The latter won this race four years ago in similar conditions and, although a veteran at eight, retains his enthusiasm for the game. Milton Bradley may yet coax one more big run out of the dual-Group One winner and, with a great draw and a competent jockey in Dale Swift, he could surprise at a general 25/1.
At Newbury COUGAR RIDGE (2.35pm) should be able to land a poor renewal of the Mill Reef Stakes. The Irish raider was unlucky not to win last time out and the twice-raced colt should be able to account for a largely exposed field.
BLUE SURF (3.10pm) was put up in this column a couple of weeks ago for the big heritage handicap at Ascot but Amanda Perrett’s gelding could only finish 11th of 19th that day. However, we can draw a line through that race as it was total carnage when the big field turned into the straight, with nearly all the fancied runners meeting serious trouble.
Blue Surf was well backed that day and, still a relatively unexposed horse, he must go close against a largely out of form line-up. Kirthill won a competitive handicap at York off top-weight last time out but has never put back-to-back wins together. Expense Claim was very progressive for Andrew Balding earlier in the season but has been found out at a higher level since and looks vulnerable to my selection.
I also like the look of a couple of horses running in Berkshire today. WENTWORTH (3.40pm) has been found an ideal race to follow up his maiden win. He had no luck in-running on his first start but made amends for that defeat with an impressive display at York, where he again found himself short of room but won going away in the end. The step up to a mile will suit and Wentworth has been working with the best two-year-old talent Richard Hannon has at home.
The Dubai Duty Free Cup looks open and I can’t resist SAIGON (4.50pm) each-way for James Toller. This horse might not have been in the winner’s enclosure since being victorious on his first two starts but the Royal Applause colt has some smart form from last term. A strongly run seven furlongs could be right up his street and, considering one of his wins came here at Newbury on the fast ground he will encounter today, Saigon could reward each-way backers.
As ever you can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my racing views.
WENTWORTH 3.40pm Newbury (today)
SAIGON e/w 4.50pm Newbury (today)
COUGAR RIDGE 2.35pm Newbury (tomorrow)
BLUE SURF 3.10pm Newbury (tomorrow)
MAAREK e/w 3.30pm Ayr (tomorrow)
REGAL PARADE e/w 3.30pm Ayr (tomorrow)