Racing: Smokin Beau ready to turn on the style for handicap riches

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The Independent Online

Smokin Beau will feel as though he is slumming it this afternoon in the Ayr Gold Cup and the sense of superiority should see the six-year-old home.

Nick Littmoden's runner has been at the king's table this summer after a season thwarted by problems at the outset. Smokin Beau (nap 3.35) has been pitched in against several of the sprinting cream over the longer days, and initially showed little of consequence. Now he is outside the station of courtiers in Group and Listed company, a rather valuable prize appears within his compass.

Not only has Smokin Beau's sight been lowered but also his handicap mark and yesterday on the west coast of Scotland proved that a low barrier draw is no barrier itself to success. The signs are flashing. "I'm pleased with him and he seems to be coming back to form," Littmoden said yesterday. "I'm not too dismayed by the [low] draw, I'm happy to be one side or another but I wouldn't want to be stuck in the middle. He's got a lot of weight, but he's a good horse."

The favourite, Frizzante, was cut in the betting recently after the allocation of a high berth, but that may not be the advantage it first appeared on the back of yesterday's consolation race, the Silver Cup. It may now be, as the Americans say, a crapshoot.

Native Title's Silver success was doubly surprising from a price perspective and also from the fact that the gelding emerged from a single-figure draw. That has altered many lines of thinking but not that which suggests that Dandy Nicholls, Native Title's supervisor, is the emperor of contests such as this.

Nicholls is responsible for seven of the 28 runners today as he attempts to win the race for a fourth successive time. The trainer, who saddled Funfair Wane to claim his third straight victory in the race 12 months ago, following Continent and Bahamian Pirate, said: "A lot of people will have a lot of different views about the draw before Saturday.

"I don't really know which of my horses will be favoured and which will be disadvantaged. Everyone knows about Fire Up The Band, but what we don't know is whether his [six] draw is any good."

Asked to nominate his stable's No 1 hope, Nicholls said: "If he was drawn high I'd have gone for Onlytime Will Tell, because he's a lovely horse. He can't keep getting unlucky all the time. If low numbers are actually favoured, he'll run a big race. You need a Group-class horse to win the Ayr Gold Cup, more so this year than ever before.

"If you look back to Continent, he won two Group Ones after winning at Ayr. You need a good horse, definitely, and I think you need a Group horse. That's proved by the entries."

Whatever the excitements, Ayr is replete with competitiveness rather than class and the pedigree races of the day are at Newbury, where Systematic (next best 2.40) looks a good bet to continue a system of its own and reward those who are following Mark Johnston's horses at the moment.

The quality contest, though, is the Group Three World Trophy, in which Milton Bradley, who has yet to see much of the planet outside the British Isles, is well represented by The Tatling (2.10). Old Milton will be taking out a passport for the first time when The Tatling runs in the Prix de l'Abbaye in Paris next month and heaven only knows what he will make of the Moulin Rouge and Montmartre.

At least he should have some euros, which might provide some sort of complication, to spend after this afternoon. The Tatling, like his trainer, has proved this season that age is no barrier to onward and upward success.