The Ayr Bronze Cup was introduced in 2009, and effectively served as a consolation race for the consolation race to the main event, the Ayr Gold Cup. The addition of the Ayr Bronze Cup has served to increase the depth of the main event, with entrants nearly guaranteed some sort of crack at a decent pot, whichever precious metal it ends up being made of. Pre-2009 you would fancy your horse's chances of getting in to the Gold Cup from marks of around 92, post-2009 and you're realistically going to need to be on a BHA mark in the mid-high 90s (96 or 97 has been the cut-off each year), which is borderline listed-race class, demonstrating just what a high-quality sprint the Ayr Gold Cup is.
The ante-post favourite for this year's Gold Cup, Don't Touch, fits the profile, being a highly-progressive three-year-old with just four starts to his name. He's also guaranteed a run from a BHA mark of 101. Although no three-year-old has won the Ayr Gold Cup since 2002, Don't Touch is clearly no ordinary three-year-old sprinter, becoming the first of his age group this century to win the Great St Wilfrid on his most recent start. Don't Touch's win at Ripon was bordering on smart, but, there were plenty of non-runners on the day due to the ground, and the 13-runner contest that ensued perhaps didn't quite have the depth of a top-end handicap.
With a much deeper race guaranteed on Saturday, in terms of both quality and quantity, there is certainly a case to be made for opposing Don't Touch at the current prices. For all he looks destined to prove better than a handicapper in time, that may come over further, Ripon not the first time he's shaped as though he's getting away with it over six furlongs.
Looking at those close in behind Don't Touch near the top of the market, and you may find reason to oppose them, too, with last year's third Blaine priced up on a tempting mark and not much more, the unexposed Tanzeel as-yet unproven on softer ground and Stewards Sprint Stakes winner Golden Steps even more of a hostage to fortune than most sprinters.
The general joint-second favourite, Highland Acclaim, was well behind his winning stablemate Louis The Pious in last year's race, but he was unlucky not to finish a lot closer, having a hopeless task from his position wide on the track and catching the eye with how he finished. From the same mark, he deserves to be fancied again. A certain leap of faith is required to back Highland Acclaim, remembering the five frustrating performances he put in at the start of this season, but he has found form recently, most significantly when just touched off at York's Ebor meeting, after making up more ground than anything else in the race. After backing that up with a respectable fifth in the Portland last Saturday, he is worth getting onside at the current prices, with conditions looking set to suit.
At a slightly bigger price, it is also hard to ignore the claims of Lexington Abbey, whose trainer Kevin Ryan has won this race three times since 2007. The booking of Pat Smullen on Lexington Abbey really catches the eye, considering he was on board for Ryan's most recent success in the race, which came in 2012 with Captain Ramius. Lexington Abbey could only manage fifth in last year's Ayr Silver Cup as a three-year-old, but he has undoubtedly improved at four, posting career-best efforts on his last two starts, and with the return to a bigger field and likely stronger pace on Saturday set to suit, he looks overpriced at the current odds and could also be worth a small ante-post bet, each-way.
Back Highland Acclaim 1pt each-way
Back Lexington Abbey 1pt each-way