Sportsman Racing: Return Of The Mak

Welcome to our latest column from Scott Armstrong of The Sportsman tipster service.

Each Friday, Scott will be provide us with a rundown of all the best weekend racing action – all the key  horses to follow and those to oppose. You can also find a recap from him each Monday on the SBC Blog with his reaction to the weekend’s events. Thorough, frank and not afraid to take a contrary view Scott Armstrong is a racing man whose opinion you can’t afford to be without.

This week Scott picks goes North of the border and pulls apart all the main contenders for the Ayr Gold Cup, with his preference for the 14/1 shot – Colonel Mak.

This weekend witnesses a blitz of valuable races with the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes and Group 3 World Trophy taking place at Newbury while a £200,000 pot is up for grabs in the Tattersalls Millions Median Auction Trophy at Newmarket.

Caspar Netscher holds every chance of landing a memorable double for his handler Alan McCabe in the Mill Reef having already won the Gimcrack at York. McCabe has laid the juvenile out for the race and the booking of jockey Kieran Fallon is an eye-catcher. In the Tattersalls Millions keep a close eye out for Bronterre who I flagged up here on Monday, this youngster is a star in the making.

It’s to Scotland’s biggest flat race where I cast my eye and the cavalry charge of the Ayr Gold Cup, as twenty-seven runners hurtle from the stalls in the six-furlong dash.

The ground will have a huge bearing with regards to the leading contenders and as I write, the official going is good to soft, soft in places though several riders complained of tacky ground on the opening day of the three day Ayr meeting stating with jockey PJ Mcdonald simply stating “the ground is dead”.

A puzzling handicap to solve, nevertheless I’ve a list of runners who I think can come to the fore and of course the selection.

Current joint-favourites priced 12-1 are James Fanshawe’s Mac’s Power and David O’Meara’s Pepper Lane. Mac’s Power looks sure to be thereabouts and is on a decent mark off 9st 1lb. The five-year old gelding won three times in the 2010 season and has progressed again this term finishing eighth in the Wokingham though coming home first in the badly drawn group on the stand-side. Mac’s Power then finished a solid third to Hoof It in the Stewards’ Cup, rattling home at the death. At home in big sized fields this race will be to his liking although he wouldn’t want too much rain to fall.

Soft ground is also the worry for the strongly supported Pepper Lane who completed a hat trick when winning the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon last month. Up and coming trainer David O’Meara said midweek “She’s fit and well, and firmly on course for the race. She has won on good to soft, but I couldn’t be sure how she would handle very soft ground”. Pepper Lane’s mark has shot up this season, starting off with a handicap of 73 and now rated 104 though there are a few negatives to take on board. The form of the Great St Wilfrid may have flattered as her advantageous high draw enabled her to run on the favoured stand-side rail and she gained a significant advantage leading from the front. Pepper Lane’s draw doesn’t look so kind this time with her name being one of the last out of the hat she had to settle for stall 11. Pepper Lane has also gone up in the weights and it would take a special filly to carry 9st 4lbs to victory.

The last Scottish trained Ayr Gold Cup winner was Roman Warrior, all of 36 years ago, but Scottish race fans are optimistic about Hawkeyethenoo trained by Jim Goldie. The winner of the Victoria Cup at Ascot back in May, Hawkeyethenoo has run only once subsequently when finishing lame at Ascot in July. Goldie is a shrewd operator in these valuable big field handicaps and Ayr is one of his favourite tracks for a coup. Lady luck has already shined on the trainer with his horse coming out early in the draw with Goldie opting to go for a high numbered stall (20) although Hawekeyethenoo wouldn‘t want the ground too soft.

Richard Fahey has five runners in the big race and is confident he can win the event without suggesting which of his runners he favours. Kaldoun Kingdom would be my preference and its interesting Fahey has opted to go against the strategy of the majority of trainers by opting for low stall numbers for his charges. If Fahey has called it correctly, Kaldoun Kingdom has a great opportunity from stall 4.

Another trainer who must be respected is David Nicholls who has turned the Gold Cup into his own benefit event over the years having triumphed on no fewer than seven occasions. His best chance this time around however may have been Nasri who has failed to make the cut.

Other runners such as Eton Rifles, Our Jonathan and Croisultan hold creditable chances though the horse I am opting for is David Barron’s four-year old Colonel Mak. The four-year old gelding has struggled to put his best foot forward this season with poor runs at Goodwood and Ripon before bouncing back to form when winning a class 2 Handicap at Ffos Las two weeks ago. Colonel Mak showed his liking for the Ayr track when winning the Silver Cup last season and jockey Lee Newman has a good rapport with the horse. Barron’s horse is another wouldn’t like too much rainfall though has won on soft ground before and can be backed each way at 14-1 with Paddy Power who are paying out to five places.


Scott’s service is one of the many racing and sporting tipsters that we monitor and recommend at the Smart Betting Club.