The Ayr Gold Cup is the feature race of Scotland’s most valuable racing meeting. Held in September, this is an ultra competitive handicap, run over six furlongs and is the richest sprint handicap in Europe.
The first Ayr Gold Cup took place in 1804, just 33 years after Ayr’s first official race meeting. The Ayr Gold Cup meeting was established in 1824 when it was known as the Western Meeting, with the Gold Cup’s key rise to prominence coming in 1855 when it became a handicap.
Having initially starting life as a two-mile contest, the race was shortened to one mile and then the current distance of six furlongs in 1908, taking advantage of the 6f straight at the present Ayr Racecourse site, having relocated the previous year.
Ayr Gold Cup Past Winners
|2020||Nahaarr||7/2||William Haggas||Tom Marquand|
|2019||Angel Alexander||28/1||Tom Dascombe||Richard Kingscote|
|2018||Son Of Rest (DH)||5/1||James Stack||Chris Hayes|
|Baron Bolt (DH)||28/1||Paul Cole||Cameron Noble|
|2017||Donjuan Triumphant||13/2||Andrew Balding||P J McDonald|
|2016||Brando||11/1||Kevin Ryan||Tom Eaves|
|2015||Don’t Touch||6/1||Richard Fahey||Tony Hamilton|
|2014||Louis The Pious||10/1||David O’Meara||James Doyle|
|2013||Highland Colori||20/1||Andrew Balding||Oisin Murphy|
|2012||Captain Ramius||16/1||Kevin Ryan||Pat Smullen|
|2011||Our Jonathan||11/1||Kevin Ryan||Franny Norton|
|2010||Redford||14/1||David Nicholls||Frankie Dettori|
|2009||Jimmy Styles||14/1||Clive Cox||Frankie Dettori|
|2008||Regal Parade||18/1||David Nicholls||William Carson, Jr|
|2007||Advanced||20/1||Kevin Ryan||Jamie Spencer|
|2006||Fonthill Road||16/1||Richard Fahey||Paul Hanagan|
|2005||Presto Shinko||12/1||Richard Hannon Sr.||Seb Sanders|
|2004||Funfair Wane||33/1||David Nicholls||Paul Doe|
|2003||Quito||20/1||David Chapman||Tony Culhane|
|2002||Funfair Wane||16/1||David Nicholls||Adrian Nicholls|
|2001||Continent||10/1||David Nicholls||Darryll Holland|
About the Ayr Gold Cup: Europe’s Richest Sprint Handicap
Scotland’s biggest flat meeting of the season, the Ayr Gold Cup Festival, is a glorious three day affair running every September. No prizes are on offer for guessing the headline event of the meet, with that of course being the Ayr Gold Cup. A handicap with near unprecedented demand, large fields are an absolute guarantee year on year making it a big occasion for the punters. For the many horses involved, they put on quite the spectacle as they steam down Ayr’s straight track seeking to be the fastest over six furlongs.
The Ayr Gold Cup stretches so far back in time that many details are unknown about early renewals including winning trainers and jockeys. What we do know though is that 1804 heralded the beginning of the race. Back then it operated in the form of two separate, two mile heats, only open to horses bred and trained in Scotland. Not wanting to limit the competition, the strictly Scottish policy was eventually dropped while organisers gradually chipped away at the distance of the handicap. The final reduction in trip came in 1908 for the inaugural running at Ayr’s current home.
AN OVER-SUBSCRIBED CONTEST
Such is the incredible demand for the Ayr Gold Cup, many horses miss out on the cut for the big race. The contest does accommodate a generous maximum field of 27 runners but this is never enough room to fit all those that want to take part.
Regularly maxing out its own quota, organisers created the Ayr Silver Cup, a consolation race for those missing out on the main event. While this proved a satisfactory arrangement for a while, an increasing amount of horses failed to make the cut for both. Clear demand for an additional consolation event led to the birth of, you guessed it, the Ayr Bronze Cup, which enjoyed its opening appearance in 2009.
FAVOURITES FLOP BUT REAL SHOCKS A RARITY
Taking into consideration the sheer number of horses that compete in this handicap, strong favourites are not an overly common sight. Rarely is a favourite seen that looks head and shoulders above the rest and the shortest-priced option has won just three Ayr Gold Cup renewals since 1990, 3/1 the smallest odds of the first past the post in this period.
While those at the very top of the betting have failed to excel, horses towards the opposite end have struggled more so. There’s been a distinct lack of what you could call real upsets over the past three of decades, with just four winners since 1990 setting off at odds of longer than 20/1. Between 10/1 and 20/1 has been the real sweet spot for this handicap as you can see from the chart below, so a couple of each way punts in that region could well be the smart move in this one.
GOLD CUP BOUNCES BACK
The Ayr Gold Cup has rarely failed to produce headlines but there was a definite increase of them in both 2017 and 2018. The race made the news for all the wrong reasons initially when forced to cancel due to waterlogging. Scottish racing is no stranger to abandoned events but for a September race it remains very much the exception.
The track at Ayr was largely in a perfectly raceable condition but for a small pool of water described as so swampy you could get a foot stuck in it. In a desperate attempt to clear the waterlogging, ground staff had a helicopter flown in but the patch remained.
Not only did this force the cancellation of the Gold Cup but also of the entire three-day Festival, prompting an official BHA investigation. Despite this grave disappointment, Ayr was able to rather erase the embarrassment the following year thanks to an incredible dead heat, the first of its entire history.
The judge inspected the photo finish for five minutes attempting to decide on a sole champion as lots and lots of punters waited with bated breath. Unable to pick anything between them though, 5/1 favourite Son of Rest was forced to share the spotlight with 28/1 outsider Baron Bolt.