It is no exaggeration to suggest that picking the winner of the Ayr Gold Cup is almost as tough as predicting the Grand National winner at Aintree! Just one favourite has won since 1996, and only two have emerged victorious since the 1970s! To be fair, the race is priced accordingly, and all but two winners since 1996 have done so at odds of 10/1+.
There are normally between 23 and 28 runners and choosing contenders can be a nightmare. In this guide, I try and find some useful trends to help narrow down the field but first, let’s take a brief look at the history of the race.
Ayr Gold Cup History
The first running of the race took place in 1804 and was won by a horse named Chancellor. He repeated the feat in 1805 although the race was a two-mile test of stamina back then rather than the sprint it is today. For more than 100 years, the Gold Cup was held at Belleisle until the course closed in 1907. During the 19th century, Tom Dawson dominated the race. The famed trainer won the event an incredible 15 times! Dazzle is the most successful ever horse and the only one to win three in a row (1889-1891).
The race’s distance was initially reduced to 1m 3f before finally being cut to the existing 6f distance in 1908. Remarkably, Lester Piggott never won this race, and neither did Willie Carson! Although it is one of Scotland’s biggest events, there hasn’t been a Scottish trained winner since Roman Warrior in 1975. Incidentally, there is now a Roman Warrior Restaurant at the course.
The race has proven so popular over the years that the Silver Cup was introduced in 1992 for horses that didn’t make the final Gold Cup cut. In 2009, the Bronze Cup was formed for horses that failed to make the Silver Cup! The late David Nicholls had an excellent record in the Gold Cup in recent years with six winners since 2000.
Choosing a Winner – Mission Impossible?
The sheer number of potential entries means it IS impossible to clearly narrow down the field several days away from the event. What I CAN do is provide you with some useful information which enables you to remove unlikely winners when the final field is announced.
As I mentioned earlier, favourites perform very poorly and only 5/20 winners have been in the top 4 in the betting market. However, 18/20 winners have been in the top 10 in the market. Although almost every winner has had SP odds of 10/1+, there have only been four winners at odds of 25/1+ since 1980. Therefore, focus on horses at odds of 20/1 or less. Although there are odds available at certain bookmakers several days before the race, there are well over 100 possible entries which means the odds will change dramatically.
Although only 4/20 winners also won their last race, 12/20 finished in the top 4. Meanwhile, only 3/20 winners finished outside the top 10 in their previous race. Horses aged 7yo+ have made up approximately 20% of fields in the last two decades, but none of them have won the race. In fact, Hard to Figure is the only 7yo+ to win the event in recent history (since 1980). It is also worth noting that only two 3yos have won the race since 1994.
I would expect every runner to have raced fairly recently because none of the last 20+ winners have had a break of more than 50 days before the race. Indeed, 18/20 winners last raced 7-35 days before the Gold Cup.
In recent years, classier horses are coming to the fore as weight carried is proving to be less of an obstacle than in the past. In the 1980s, it was common for horses carrying between 7-7 and 7-10 to win the race but the introduction of the Silver Cup, and then the Bronze Cup, means there has been a significant change.
This year, the 25 horses with the highest rating will enter the Gold Cup. The next 25+ will contest the Silver Cup, and the next 25+ will enter the Bronze Cup. This is the main reason why there hasn’t been a Gold Cup winner carrying less than 8-10 since 2004. In fact, 11/13 winners have carried 9-0+, and it is likely that virtually every runner in the Gold Cup this year will carry a minimum of nine stone. The last two winners carried 9-10 although the 2017 race was run at Haydock because Ayr was waterlogged.
A final essential thing to look out for is season runs. Only one winner in the last 20 years has had less than four runs that season. Again, you would expect this to apply to every horse given how late we are in the Flat season. Overall, the likely winner of the Ayr Gold Cup will:
- Have last ran within the previous 35 days.
- Have won over 6 furlongs before.
- Carry a minimum of 9-0.
- Have run at least four times this season.
- Be between 10/1 and 20/1 in the SP odds.
- Have at least 3 career wins.
- Not be a filly or mare.
- Be aged 4, 5 or 6.
- Have finished in the top ten in their previous race.
The above may not seem like the most detailed criteria, but when you combine all of them, the number of possible winners is significantly reduced. Indeed, from well over 100 possible runners at the time of writing, I was able to narrow down the field to just eight runners; and that’s without knowing the final line-up or the SP odds.
By the time the field for the Ayr Gold Cup is known, you can use the trends above to trim the field even further. Once you have cut the list of contenders to a handful, you can utilise speed figures to determine who is likely to become the sprint king at Ayr.