In contrast with Aintree, where it was easy to eliminate half the field, very few can be discounted at Ayr, but a valid shortlist might comprise Idle Talk, All In The Stars and Ladalko.
Novices have a fine record in this race and Idle Talk excelled on only his fourth start over fences when chasing home Star De Mohaison - impressive since at Aintree - in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham. He was off the bridle a long way out but stayed on dourly and his jumping is far more reliable than that of the third, Darkness, who is worse off at the weights.
Stamina is also the bedrock of All In the Stars, who has been trained for this race since the Hennessy Gold Cup in November, when he might have finished even closer than fifth but for a couple of clumsy errors. His talented young rider's claim could prove precious, but none of the jockeys will be on level terms in a race like this until Ruby Walsh's mount is obliged to carry a penalty.
Walsh rode Ladalko to win over hurdles at this meeting last year off 135 and his rating over fences remains just 2lb higher. He comes here fresh after sitting out Cheltenham and Aintree, having shaped as though this kind of marathon would suit when fourth to Innox in the Racing Post Chase. The new champion trainer is finishing the season with a fitting flourish and Ladalko (3.30) can apply icing to the cake.
The star turn on the card is Monet's Garden(2.20), whose exuberant jumping should justify the billing of the Ashleybank Future Champions' Novice Chase.
As for those bashful Flat horses, the vogue for avoiding the trials is heightened in the case of the Lane's End Greenham Stakes by the fact that it falls this year a bare fortnight before the Stan James 2,000 Guineas. Rather like his stablemate, Killybegs, who won at Newmarket on Thursday, Red Clubs had his limitations exposed when raised in class as a juvenile but he remains an eligible favourite, granted the slick early form of his yard. On the other hand, he did have a gruelling campaign at two and may not have truly stayed the seventh furlong when fourth in the Dewhurst Stakes.
Better value may rest with Reve Lunaire (3.50), who beat a subsequent listed winner on his only start at two but failed to cope with heavy ground on his reappearance. André Fabre also saddles an unexposed type in the Dubai Duty Free Fred Darling Stakes, but Nasheej (3.15) will set a decent standard if sufficiently forward for her reappearance.
Her stable also provides an interesting candidate for the Bloor Homes Spring Cup in Red Spell, who is well treated on his improved form on the all-weather. His stamina has not really been tested over 10 furlongs round Lingfield and he will be ideally suited by dropping back to a mile. But Kamanda Laugh (2.40) looks an interesting recruit for his flourishing stable.Reuse content