At 3.40pm tomorrow a huge cheer will reverberate across Ayr Racecourse as the stalls open on the 2021 Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup and 25 horses charge down the six furlong home straight in pursuit of the richest prize in Scottish Flat racing.
As the thoroughbreds hurtle towards the winning post the roar of the crowd will grow and grow reaching a crescendo as the leaders battle for glory.
Approximately 70 seconds after leaving the stalls the winning horse will cross the line earning a first prize of £77,000 – a rate of pay that would be the envy of many – a cool £1,100 per second.
And as horse, jockey and groom make their way to the Winners Enclosure and I announce the winner and even more noise emanates from the assembled crowd the contrast between this year and last year when Nahaarr returned to an eerie silence will hit home.
As Joni Mitchell used to sing in her classic track Big Yellow Taxi ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ and while racing soldiered on and did a mighty good job of doing so behind closed doors during the height of the pandemic it just wasn’t the same as we’d lost the vital ingredient that makes the sport so good – the racegoers.
Tomorrow around 11,000 of them will be out in force to watch eight quality races and each and every one of them will love being part of Scotland’s most iconic Flat day’s racing.
Leading jockeys including Paul Hanagan, Paul Mulrennan, Richard Kingscote and Hollie Doyle will be in action riding some of the highest rated horses in the country and chasing chunky prize money.
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There will also be a who’s who of trainers with the old guard of Richard Fahey, Michael Dods, Jim Goldie, David O’Meara, Kevin Ryan and Keith Dalgleish rubbing shoulders with southern raiders including Ed Walker and Tom Dascombe.
But the real winners will be the racing public allowed to enjoy wonderful racing in the surroundings of Scotland’s premier track after more than a year having to watch the action on television and online.
The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival spans three days with up to 24 races coming under starter’s orders at 1.50pm on Thursday and concluding at 5.20pm on Saturday with the Jordan Electrics Ltd Handicap.
ITV Racing will be in town with Sally Ann Grassick presenting the action from Ayr and for the first time ever there will be five live races on the main ITV Channel – the Virgin Bet Doonside Cup, the Virgin Bet Ayr Silver Cup, the Virgin Bet Firth Of Clyde Stakes, the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup and the Virgin Bet Handicap.
The betting market for the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup is always a fierce one and with some class horses including Ed Walker’s Great Ambassador, Commanche Falls from the Michael Dods yard, and David O’Meara’s Gulliver.
Walker has made no secret of the fact he believes Great Ambassador can develop into a Group horse and he is certainly going the right way.
If the conditions stay on the quick side of good Great Ambassador could be sent off at around 4-1 or even slightly lower making him the shortest priced favourite for many years.
Michael Dods has had this race in mind for Commanche Falls for a long time and he won the Stewards Cup in style at the end of July.
He also won at the first Flat meeting of the season at Ayr in April and has since risen a massive 21lbs in the weights and will race on Saturday off a mark of 105.
There are plenty of contenders but come 3.45 or thereabouts on Saturday afternoon I think it will be the Ambassador who will be holding court at Ayr.
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