Racing: Ayr of romance pulls Wilson: A Scottish trainer exiled at Epsom has prepared an ambitious plan for tomorrow's big sprint

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The Independent Online
ANY punter with sense will have taken a keen interest in the result of the 4.10 at Ayr yesterday. After a five-furlong sprint involving 22 runners, the steps of the first two home, Broadstairs Beauty and Red Five, could be retraced to stalls five and one respectively, and there is little reason to think that the extra furlong of tomorrow's Ayr Gold Cup will make a low draw any less desirable.

The likely advantage for runners on the far side makes the wait for this morning's draw an uncomfortable one for anyone reckless enough to have ventured into the ante- post market. They make their own misery, of course, unlike such small, carefully prepared teams as the one heading north this morning from David Wilson's yard near Epsom, in a horsebox carrying Neither Nor and her trainer's burning ambition.

Wilson deserves a lucky turn in this morning's lottery. Though now a resident of the Surrey stockbroker belt, the trainer was born 10 miles from Ayr and success in the course's biggest race has been his most earnest wish since he first took out a licence 14 years ago. Tomorrow's renewal has been the filly's target all season, much as it was last year, when Neither Nor missed the cut at the overnight stage. Her place in the stalls is secure this time, though, thanks to her penalty for a recent win at Salisbury.

'She's never looked so well in herself,' Helen Scorer, Wilson's head lass, said yesterday. 'She did her last bit of work yesterday morning and she went really well.' Scorer will be travelling with Neither Nor on the nine-hour journey to Scotland, but there will be few complaints if it is raining all the way. 'She loves the soft,' she said. 'Seven furlongs is really her best trip, but hopefully with soft ground the others might just die a little early while she'll still be plodding on.'

Neither Nor is a 16-1 chance in the list from the sponsor, Ladbrokes, who make Peter Chapple-Hyam's Thousla Rock their 10-1 favourite, with Daring Destiny and Double Blue on 14-1, though the latter's trainer, Mark Johnston, has warned punters to be wary of his runner if the ground is soft. Those at the same odds as Neither Nor include Carranita, Duplicity and Hard To Figure, last year's winner.

Thousla Rock's supporters might prefer Chapple-Hyam's recent form to show a little more than one winner from 11 runners, but there may be an improvement in the strike- rate after today's Haynes, Hanson and Clark Stakes at Newbury. The Manton man introduces Court Of Honour in an often significant maiden. King's Theatre was last year's winner, while Unfuwain, Snurge and Chapple-Hyam's White Muzzle, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe favourite, are also among recent contestants.

That said, this year's renewal does not appear exceptional, and Court Of Honour might need to be little better than average to prevail. Seven of his eight opponents have raced without showing unusual ability, while the only other debutant is Ian Balding's Mon Dieu. The colt, by Kris out of an Irish River mare, is thought to be 'quite a nice, backward horse who'll go on to better,' the trainer said yesterday, 'but I expect he'll get tired and I think it's going to be pretty soft, it will be pretty hard work.'

A snippet that might be worth remembering is that Silver Sting, by Nashwan out of the top-class sprinter Silver Fling, was Balding's first choice for today's race, but was found to be lame yesterday. The injury is particularly disappointing as George Strawbridge, Silver Sting's owner, was flying in for the race.

Further proof, perhaps, that in racing, the more carefully laid the plan, the more likely it is to fail. You can only hope that no misfortune befalls Neither Nor between now and tomorrow afternoon. 'If she wins, I don't think we'll see Mr Wilson for a week,' Scorer said yesterday. 'He'll be up in the Scottish clouds.'

(Photograph omitted)