THERE is a real sense of déjà vu about tomorrow’s William Hill Ayr Gold Cup (3.50pm). A well-handicapped, unexposed, Irish-trained four-year-old turns out quickly again under a penalty just one week on from running a career best at the Curragh.
Last year it was the well-backed Son Of Rest who grabbed a share of the spoils when dead-heating with Baron Bolt only a handful of days after running at the Curragh, and 12 months on BUFFER ZONE will attempt to repeat that trick.
Ger Lyons was quick to admit that the four-year-old son of Bated Breath could well be a Group horse when he made relatively light work of a good field in a valuable contest last Sunday, which is why he heads the betting at as short as 5/1 with Coral.
Connections obviously feel he has taken that race in his stride and, with the weather set fair, are prepared to reappear quickly with only a 5lb penalty to shoulder.
Obviously, he should take plenty of beating if in the same form, with the only real concern being whether those exertions have left their mark.
Wherever he finishes, it is likely that David O’Meara’s GULLIVER will be fairly nearby, as he wasn’t beaten far when an unlucky third in that race at the Curragh last Sunday.
That was a return to form for a five-year-old who looks to be racing off a fair mark and he meets his conqueror on far better terms here.
He is one of five runners in the contest for trainer O’Meara, who looks to hold solid claims with the likes of Summerghand and Arecibo, but it is his INTISAAB who appeals the most at a best-priced 20/1.
The stats suggest that at the grand old age of eight he has his work cut out to land a prize like this.
Only four six-year-olds have won the Ayr Gold Cup in the last two decades and you have to go back to Hard To Figure back in 1993 to find the last seven-year-old winner.
That doesn’t bode well for Intisaab, but there are strong reasons to think he can go close at a massive price.
Back in January he was competing in Dubai off a mark 10lbs higher than he races off tomorrow.
He has showed bits and pieces of form back on home soil this summer, including a close fourth to Gulliver at York in June.
Since then he finished only a few lengths behind Buffer Zone when they were second and fourth respectively at the Curragh in July and he is 12lbs better off now.
He showed plenty of promise when a close-up third at Doncaster last weekend and the useful Angus Villiers now steps in for the ride taking off another valuable 7lbs.
Intisaab has won two of his previous three starts at Ayr and was arguably a bit unlucky when the gaps never opened when he was a beaten favourite in the Silver Cup here a few years back.
There is a chance he isn’t anywhere near as good as he once was, but he hails from an in-form yard and is without doubt well-handicapped.
My final pick has to be the classy MAJOR JUMBO towards the top of the weights.
Kevin Ryan’s runner wasn’t beaten far in the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock last time and he will undoubtedly find this a lot easier.
He had previously won a decent Listed event at Chester in effortless fashion, so remains in good form.
In fact, he has yet to run in handicap company this term and is just 6lbs higher than when winning the Coral Sprint Trophy at York on his final start of last season.
The five-year-old seems to handle any sort of ground and is too classy to leave out of the equation at around the 16/1 mark.
BILL ESDAILE’S AYR GOLD CUP 1-2-3-4
2 BUFFER ZONE
3 MAJOR JUMBO