Chance two in Ayr's opener
Ayr's opener on Saturday is a 0-100 Handicap for 3yo+ over 1m at 13:20 which kickstarts our wide-open contests. If you can get off to a flyer in this first race, you might just stand a chance in solving one of if not both, the Ayr Gold and Silver Cups later on.
The trends for this first race reveal plenty of interesting factors. Three- and five-year-olds have a good record with the optimal rating for this handicap being 95. Low draws have been favoured in recent years as have prominent racers. Coming into this race with plenty of runs is another positive. A horse doesn't have to have run overly well last time out but ideally, that latest outing came in a Class 2 or a Class 3 Handicap one week or one month ago.
These trends have landed me on a couple of runners. The first being What's the Story who is a 12.011/1 shot after drifting in the market. I'm not going to let the price deter me however, as I think he has a solid profile for this contest. He won his penultimate start at this track over 1m2f in a Class 3 handicap off a 5lb lower mark. He ran back over that same course and distance last time out on Thursday. He posted yet another solid run to finish sixth off his revised mark.
He gets a quick turnaround of just two days but I'm going to take that as a positive sign of intent by his trainer, Keith Dalgleish. The yard sent out a winner at the track on Friday and hopefully, that form can continue in getting What's The Story back in the winner's enclosure.
The other runner I like for this race is Blenheim Boy who is a very fair price also at 17.016/1. It's more difficult to make a case for the chances of Richard Fahey's charge however, he too, ticks plenty of boxes.
He is the correct age as a three-year-old for this race and he has a nice low draw in stall 4. He may have a few pound to find on ratings but he is likely to be ridden fairly prominently and he has an ideal conditioning coming into the contest.
He picked up this season from where he left off last with a win. Both of those successes came with cut in the ground but he has also proven himself on a sound surface. He remains very unexposed after just nine career starts where he's been set some lofty targets this season which are easily forgivable runs.
He is slowly dropping down the handicap and if he can put it all together and settle better here, then he remains feasibly treated.
The Dragon can translate his Chester form
Three of the most competitive races of the year come over two days at Ayr with the Ayr Bronze, Silver and Gold Cup Handicaps. The draw can prove pivotal as can running style and of course, plenty of luck is usually needed. Very often the apparent draw biases from earlier contests are misleading to add extra confusion when trying to solve the puzzles.
I've gone back through recent renewals of the Ayr Silver Cup to try and find the winner of the 2022 edition which comes up at 14:30.
One horse in particular stands out to me with a great chance at a fair price of 19.018/1, that being Roman Dragon.
Hugo Palmer's charge has had a solid season in his six starts where he's posted very similar RPRs on each occasion. It is true that all three of his career successes have come at Chester and he has done most of his racing at that track this season however, he's proven himself just as effective away from the Roodee.
He dropped back in trip to 5 1/2f for the first time in his career last time out at Chester where he ran a solid race. He was well supported for that contest as well and sent off as the 7/2 favourite where he was just tapped for toe in the closing stages.
He may well have more to offer now back sprinting as his last start over 6f resulted in a win.
He's likely to have the race run to suit him and he cannot be discounted from running a big race at a fair price.
Handicap debutant can prove a cut above the rest
The main event at Ayr on Saturday is the Ayr Gold Cup which is a Heritage Handicap for 3yo+ over 6f at 15:40. The 2022 renewal is as competitive as any other year and I'm siding with a couple who again, look to have decent chances at fair prices.
The first selection is Popmaster at 13.012/1 who ran in this race last year where he finished 17th of the 24 runners. He was running off a mark of 100 in the race last season, the same as he's on this time around.
He weakened out of things in last year's race but he was only a three-year-old then and winning the Ayr Gold Cup is a big ask for a horse of that age. Recent trends would favour four-year-olds which is an evident positive for Popmaster a year on.
He's yet to win this season but he ran a solid race when finishing second in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot when only beaten ¾ length behind Rohaan. That run came off a 2lb lower mark than he's running off here.
He wasn't disgraced but certainly ran below his best in the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood on his penultimate start but bounced back to much better order last time out when sent back to Ascot. He was only beaten one length into fourth on that latest occasion and his first win of 2022 looks around the corner.
The other consideration is Vadream at 15.014/1 who remains feasibly treated despite being 2lb wrong at the weights here. This filly was a Group 3 winner on soft ground at Ascot last October in the Bengough Stakes where she held subsequent Listed and Group 2 winner, King's Lynn in second.
She went on to run a solid race when fifth in the Group 1 Champions Sprint Stakes on British Champions Day yet she hasn't reached those heights this campaign.
Last time out looked a close to the boil run from her however, when she was dropped in grade into a Listed contest at Newmarket. She finished just a head second after getting away slowly which may have cost her.
That run came in first-time cheekpieces which are reinstated here on her handicap debut. Despite her narrow loss last time out, the handicapper gave her 2lb back to a new rating of 103.
Unfortunately for her, the weights for the Ayr Gold Cup were already out so she must run off her former mark of 105. She may well prove a class above her rivals on handicap debut as she continues to work her way back to form.