The Ayr Gold Cup is the course’s most famous Flat race and the highlight of the three-day Western Meeting which has now been rebranded as the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival. The feature of the opening day on Thursday is the Doonside Cup which is a Class 1 Listed stakes race. The race usually attracts a small select field and only one renewal this century has featured more than 10 runners.
Punters will get off to a flying start on day one if Forest Ranger justifies favouritism in the main race. The Doonside Cup is run over 10 furlongs and is open to horses aged three and older. It is the traditional major betting race on the meeting’s first day so bookmakers will be wary of a winning favourite.
Island House trained by Geoff Wragg who recently passed away is the only multiple winner this century. Every winner over that spell has been aged between three and six. Frankie Dettori and Frannie Norton have both won the race twice since 2000 and Saeed bin Suroor has trained five winners over the last 13 years.
The Doonside Cup is a high-quality contest in which well-backed runners have a decent record over the last ten years. The average price of the winner since 2007 is less than 4/1 in a range from 8/13 to 15/2. The average rating of the winning horses in the last decade is 109. The leading trainers target this race with their good prospects and southern stables are often represented which is significant with so much travelling.
Forest Ranger is trained by Richard Fahey who is based in Malton, North Yorkshire so his journey is relatively short compared with horses being brought from Newmarket and elsewhere in the south of England. The trainer won the Doonside Cup in 2007 with Anna Pavlova, ridden by Paul Hanagan and 4/1 in the betting.
Forest Ranger is a three-year-old who has run six times this season over distances from eight to ten furlongs. The horse won on his seasonal debut at Newcastle in April but has not finished in front in five races. However, in finishing three-quarters of a length behind Mustashry in a Group 3 race at York last time out the runner became established as the form horse for the Doonside Cup.
Consistency is what you get with Forest Ranger and the horse has run to the same rating of 106 in his last five races. That level makes Forest Ranger slightly below average for Doonside Cup winners but the horse still has something in hand over the rest of the field.
Beyond the market leader, the ante-post betting was tight with 8 horses priced between 7/1 and 10/1. Early this week Spark Plug was second best and offered some value but the horse does not run. With this absentee, Forest Ranger is tipped to win the Doonside Cup Stakes.
TIP: Forest Ranger to win the Doonside Cup Stakes at 9/4 with Skybet.