Racing: Grangeville all set to surprise Astonished

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IF YOU wake up tomorrow morning and immediately think you have backed the Ayr Gold Cup winner, then you have probably been dreaming. If you think you have also backed the winner of the Silver Cup then you have been drinking.

This theory, of course, is no commentary on my great friend and colleague Alastair Down, who has a quite remarkable autumnal record on the Ayrshire coast. For the last three years wee Alastair has forwarded two selections in both of the runner-stuffed Cups and on each occasion he has found the winner. Hoots mon.

These have not been thoughts he has kept to himself either. They have been aired on Channel 4's Morning Line, as they will be, once again, at breakfast time today. "They will probably present me as this great guru," our man said yesterday, "but the truth is I haven't got a clue [gerund omitted]."

This is too modest. And I did manage to squeeze the Ayr system out of him using journalistic wiles he hardly noticed (gross flattery). "It's ground, ground and ground," Down said. "Never be frightened either to go for a horse which stays seven furlongs because Ayr gets a bit more taking than most people think.

"My personal wheels in the race have got to fall off some time and I'll probably finish last and second to last this time, but I have a feeling in the Gold Cup for Ed Dunlop's Tajasur."

It might seem a trifle contrary to ignore Alastair, but there is the point of the draw. The most conservative will wait until the Silver Cup before they finally make their plump for the big one, but the results of the first two days suggest there is no exaggerated bias. Rather the governing factor is where the pace is formed in a race.

The pattern of the Ayr Gold Cup, at least, seems to point to a high-numbered winner and Tajasur is drawn two. At the other end of the phalanx are Astonished, Grangeville and Marsad, the favourites in the market, as well as Perryston View, who always sets off as if the abattoir van has just pulled up. When the field splits and you hope you are in the faster race it will probably pay to have ignored anything low.

Marsad will go on the ground, having won on a similar texture at Doncaster in March, and this may be the day that John Akehurst proves himself to be a handicap wizard to compare with his father, avuncular old Reg. Astonished won the Portland Handicap in dramatic fashion at Doncaster earlier this month and he too has attracted bookmaker interest courtesy of his connection to Jack and Lynda Ramsden. There may well have been an overreaction in his price.

Grangeville has been sent north on a trail of tears according to his trainer, Ian Balding, who fears the ground has gone against his horse. We know that Ian is a trainer for The Queen, but he might be being a little disingenuous here. GRANGEVILLE (nap 4.05) has won on yielding ground previously but, more importantly, he falls into the Down system of having shown form over seven furlongs (when successful in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket). His best effort though was in the Listed Hopeful Stakes on the same track last time, on which form he has the considerable beating of others in this afternoon's race.

For the drinkers' double, Now Look Here (next best 2.55) has a chance on his third in the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon in similar conditions, while Leggera (3.25) will have to win the Doonside Cup if the decision to keep her in training is not adjudged to have been an expensive failure.

At Newbury, there are chances for Montecristo (2.30), who won over the course last month, and Royal Amaretto (3.00), who has not won for a considerable time but suggested he was not an extinguished force here last time.

Godolphin are in the unusual position of having no representative before the cameras in Britain this afternoon, though it could still be a historic day for Team Dubai as they send Kayf Tara to battle for the Irish St Leger at the Curragh. Victory for the reigning champion would give Godolphin a 15th Group One success this year.

At Longchamp, Aidan O'Brien's unbeaten Giants Causeway should start favourite for the Prix de la Salamandre, although Barry Hills is hopeful of an improved showing from Race Leader.