Racing: Quito has advantage of draw in quest to land historic double

Justice will only really be complete, Alan Berry probably believes, if he ends the week with the Ayr Gold Cup in his back pocket.

Justice will only really be complete, Alan Berry probably believes, if he ends the week with the Ayr Gold Cup in his back pocket.

It was quite possible on Tuesday that the Cockerham trainer's career would be in tatters, but Berry was acquitted at the Jockey Club of charges of conspiracy to defraud over the running of Hillside Girl last summer. Now he will hope Circuit Dancer and Commando Scott acquit themselves just as well in Scotland this afternoon.

The former, generally available at 20-1, would appear to be the most fancied of the pair, and has been drawn apparently favourably in stall 26 in the field of 28 runners. "He's going to win a big race one day," Berry said yesterday. "He's won a couple of good races at York - he won well there this year. He just needs everything to go his way. It's a bit of a lottery, but if you haven't got a ticket you can't win it. I don't think the ground will bother him. He's won on soft. He ran his best race early on this year on heavy ground at Thirsk."

Commando Scott comes with a less ringing endorsement. "He'll like the soft ground, that's the only reason why we declared him," Berry added. "His form has been real good, but he has needed plenty of cut in the ground. It's asking a lot for a three-year-old, but he's in there doing his best. He's at the right end of the handicap and Paddy Mathers takes 5lb off his back."

The imperative of the high draw also brings into the equation last year's winner, Quito (next best 3.10), who will be bidding to be the first horse since Heronslea in 1930 and 1931 to do the double in consecutive years, and just the third, along with Raeberry in 1908 and 1910, to win the race twice. Only those two handicappers of old, along with Coastal Bluff (9st 10lb) in 1996, have carried bigger weights to victory than Quito's burden of 9st 8lb for the six-furlong contest.

Yet David Chapman, Quito's trainer, considers the seven-year-old has a serious chance as he cannot believe what he sees when the horse comes out of his box these days. "He looks very well. He's bigger and stronger than he's ever been, and to look at he looks a better horse [compared with last year]," Chapman said yesterday. "He's always been a bit lean and lanky, but he's got a neck on him now and a back on him.

"I don't think we've seen the best of him and the ground won't be a problem. He's rated 106 which I think is 14lb more than last year. Tony [Culhane] likes to come late on him. I'll just leave it up to him."

At Newbury, the class race is the Mill Reef Stakes, which in the event of overnight rain, is likely to turn into a contest of attrition. Those circumstances should suit Salsa Brava (3.25) most admirably. Several old lags contest the grandly-titled World Trophy, and while Pivotal Point has possibilities for the tyros, the form book says one of the greybeards in The Tatling (2.20) is the form choice and one which will be bolstered by rewarding odds.

Elsewhere on the card there is big money available in the John Smith's Stakes, for which the conditions favour COUNSEL'S OPINION (nap 4.00), while the sales race is best left to Umniya (2.50), fourth in the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.

Battle resumes at Ireland's principal racecourse this afternoon, when the estimable Vinnie Roe attempts to extend his sequence in the Irish St Leger to four. Dermot Weld's horse has to surrender one year and this could be it. Like last year, Aidan O'Brien's Brian Boru (3.40) has been largely disappointing for much of the campaign, but, also like last season, when he won the Doncaster St Leger, he is now primed for action.

* Brazilian-born apprentice Nelson de Souza gained his biggest success in Britain when bringing Paul Cole's Eisteddfod home in front in the Ayr Silver Cup yesterday. The first five raced on the stands side and Fonthill Road was the first home of those who elected to make their bid up the far rails. With today's Ayr Gold Cup in mind it appeared as if high numbers had the best of the draw, but some observers felt that come this afternoon, down the middle could be the best place to be. Rain is forecast and that could undo the drying work the sun and wind did yesterday.

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