Colin Keane is looking forward to partnering Buffer Zone in the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, on his first trip to the Scottish track.
The Fozzy Stack-trained Son Of Rest became the first Irish-trained horse in history to claim victory in the prestigious handicap when dead-heating with Paul Cole’s Baron Bolt 12 months ago – and Buffer Zone is a clear favourite to make it two wins on the trot for the travellers.
Trained by Ger Lyons, the four-year-old is bidding for his second lucrative success in the space of a week, having won the “Bold Lad” Sprint Handicap at the Curragh last Sunday.
Keane, Ireland’s champion Flat jockey in 2017 and currently leading the way in a battle with Donnacha O’Brien for this year’s title, is optimistic about his chances in Scotland on Saturday.
He said: “He was very good at the Curragh the other day.
“Obviously he’s bouncing out quick, but he seems in good old order.”
The Irish handicapper handed Buffer Zone an 8lb rise to a mark of 107, but he is able to run in this weekend’s £200,000 feature with a 5lb penalty – meaning he is effectively 3lb well in.
“I hope he’s still ahead of the handicapper, but we’ll find out on Saturday, ” Keane added.
“I’ve never ridden at Ayr before. They tell me a high draw is a good draw, so I hope they’re right (Buffer Zone in stall 21).
“The Irish didn’t have a great record in the race up until Fozzy Stack’s horse won last year, but hopefully this horse has a good chance.”
It is five years since David O’Meara saddled Louis The Pious to win the Ayr Gold Cup – and the North Yorkshire maestro fires a formidable five-pronged assault on this year’s renewal.
Stable jockey Danny Tudhope rides Arecibo, who is joined by Gulliver (Jason Hart), Summerghand (David Nolan), Cold Stare (Robbie Downey) and Intisaab (Angus Villiers).
O’Meara said: “They’ve all been running away all year and have nothing to hide.
“Summerghand has been running well in good races all season, and Arecibo ran very well to finish a close-up fourth in the Portland at Doncaster last week. He is 50 per cent owned by Clipper Logistics, so Danny (Tudhope) is contracted to ride him.
“Gulliver ran well to finish third in Ireland last week (behind Buffer Zone), and Intisaab was a good third at Doncaster.
“Cold Stare hasn’t run since winning in very heavy ground at Haydock back in early June. He is fairly ground dependent – the softer the ground the better his chance.”
Kevin Ryan saddles two runners in a bid to claim his fifth victory in the race, with Major Jumbo and Hey Jonesy both featuring in the 25-strong field.
“If Hey Jonesy could recapture some of his best form he should run a big race,” Ryan told Racing TV.
“Major Jumbo is fresh and well. We know he’s a quick horse, and he’s a Listed winner this year – he’s a good horse in his own right.”
Staxton will be a big price, but trainer Tim Easterby hopes he can outrun his odds.
He said: “I went for an even number (drawn four). I spoke to David (Allan, jockey), and he just drifts a little bit left. I walked the course and I think it’s going to be perfect ground by Saturday and I don’t think there will be any draw bias.
“The horse is in good form. He gets the six (furlongs) really well and nearly gets seven. I think Ayr will suit him.”
Champion jockey-elect Oisin Murphy travels north to partner the David Barron-trained Gunmetal.
The grey was not beaten far into sixth place in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot when Murphy was last on board – and he is fitted with blinkers for the first time.
Murphy told Sky Sports Racing: “I’m really pleased they’ve let me ride him again. I rode him at Ascot and I thought he was a bit unlucky – I was on the wrong side.
“I don’t know if I’ve got a great draw (23), but David Barron does very well in this sort of race.
“My agent and I spoke about it, and I thought this was a good opportunity.”