DONN McCLEAN: The early ante post money in this afternoon’s Ayr Gold Cup was all for Growl, and the recent money has been for G Force. You can see the case for both horses.

Growl looked a little unlucky in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood last time. He got going late and he flashed home on the near side to take fourth place. In three more strides he would have been second.

However, while he had to navigate his way through traffic, he wasn’t really checked in his run at any stage. He wasn’t obviously unlucky. And the handicapper gave him another 2lb for that run, which takes him up to a mark of 101, 8lb higher than the mark off which he won at Windsor in June.

Richard Fahey’s horse is progressive and he could still be a well-handicapped horse, but he has been beaten twice now in big handicaps off a mark of 99, 2lb lower than today’s. He has a big chance, he deserves to be favourite, but he probably doesn’t deserve to be less than half the price of the second shortest-priced horse in the race.

G Force is very interesting on his old form, and he is potentially a well-handicapped horse on a mark of 102. Rated 111 when he won the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup in 2014 for David O’Meara, he was raised to a mark of 118 after that. He gets to compete off a 16lb lower mark today.

The Tamayuz gelding had a 2015 to forget, but he shaped with a modicum of encouragement on his first run for Adrian Keatley in a listed race at The Curragh on Irish Derby weekend.

Last of six in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes and last of 27 in the Stewards’ Cup on his next two runs, his run at Navan two weeks ago was much more like it. Short of room on the run to the furlong pole, he kept on well when he was switched to the near side to take third place behind The Happy Prince, who was only just beaten by Breton Rock in the Group 2 Park Stakes at Doncaster last Saturday. Also, Ardhoomey, sixth in the Navan race, came out and won the Group 2 Flying Five at The Curragh last Sunday.

Adrian Keatley’s horse is potentially well-handicapped on the face of it, but it is still a leap of faith to expect that he will get close to his Group 1 winning form, and he is short enough now at no better than 12/1.

By contrast, Aeolus is big enough at best odds of 18/1. Ed Walker’s horse has always been a talented sprinter over six furlongs on good or easy ground. He has won four times in his career: twice over six furlongs on good ground, twice over six furlongs on good to soft ground.

Signs are that he has been building up to the Ayr Gold Cup for a little while now. Beaten a total of just half a length by the top-class Magical Memory in the Group 3 Abernant Stakes over six furlongs on easy ground at Newmarket on his debut this season, his next three runs were over five furlongs. While he didn’t run badly in the Palace House Stakes or the Temple Stakes, on both occasions he shaped as if a return to six furlongs would see him in a better light.

He did return to six furlongs for the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury in July, and he didn’t run badly there either on ground that should have been faster than ideal for him in finishing fourth behind The Tin Man, when he had Aclaim and Buratino and Ibn Malik behind him.

His trainer left him off the track after that, presumably with a view to having him at his peak for today, presumably happy with his handicap mark. The handicapper dropped him 1lb after his Newbury run to a mark of 107, which is 4lb lower than his peak.

As well as that, Hector Crouch, who takes the ride for the first time, takes off another 5lb, so he will be racing off an effective mark of 102, and that gives him a real chance.

His draw in stall 19 is a little higher than ideal at first glance. The GoingStick says that you want to be middle to low, and the first eight home in the Bronze Cup on Friday were drawn, respectively: five, seven, eight, 17, six, one, nine and three.

However, all the pace in the Bronze Cup on Friday was drawn low, the low numbers held sway from a long way out. Even Duke Cosimo, who finished fourth from stall 17, raced towards the far side.

There was a 21-runner five-furlong handicap run at Ayr on Friday, in which the first six home were drawn, respectively: 11, nine, 20, one, 15 and 24. So not so conclusive.

Also, there is a lot of pace drawn high in the Gold Cup. Glen Moss, Final Venture, Magnus Maximus and Hillbilly Boy all like to lead or go forward from early, and they are drawn, respectively, 17, 20, 21 and 24. Aeolus’ draw in stall 19 should be fine. It might even be a positive.

More importantly, he should be competing under his optimum conditions, six furlongs on easy ground. Ed Walker has his horses in good form, and he proved last Saturday that he can prime one for a big sprint handicap when he sent out Captain Colby to win the Portland.

Magnus Maximus is a progressive and well-handicapped horse who is 5lb well-in and who could make a bold bid to make all but, at a bigger price, the classy Aeolus may represent even better value.


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