No sooner is the Ayr Gold Cup in the formbook than punters have another of the season's historic handicaps to unravel. The field for Saturday's 174th Cambridgeshire will be whittled down to its maximum 35 runners on Thursday, but at yesterday's penultimate confirmation stage 88 were still in contention for the £160,000 purse. Most of those prominent in the ante-post betting – Mukhadram, Chil The Kite, Boom And Bust, King's Warrior, Mijhaar, the top weight Quick Wit – are safely there. But Blue Surf, who had been third favourite in some lists, will miss the race, and Bronze Angel, another strong fancy, is currently three outside the cut.
The lightly raced Mukhadram is generally a 9-1 chance. Only eight favourites, though, have won in the past 50 runnings, races that have also produced seven winners at 33-1, two at 40-1 (including Prince Of Johanne last year), two at 50-1 and one at 100-1, Spanish Don in 2004.
But though the Cambridgeshire, a straight nine-furlong charge at Newmarket, tends to be a bookmakers' benefit, it is a race that has also landed some spectacular gambles. In the modern era Pasternak, Halling and Rambo's Hall stick in the memory but none can have hit harder than the 1906 winner Polymelus, the shortest-priced favourite of all at 11-10. He carried a 10lb penalty, won by three lengths and took £100,000 out of the ring for his owners, something like £7m today.
One man who thinks he may have the answer on Saturday is Declan Carroll, responsible for 25-1 shot Swiftly Done, a progressive five-year-old who has won two of his four races this year and finished just out of the places after being badly hampered in a high-class handicap at Goodwood last month.
"This has been the plan since he won at Doncaster in June," Carroll, based near Driffield in east Yorkshire, said yesterday "and if the forecast for rain is right that should suit him, as we know he handles testing ground.
"He was unlucky not to have been closer at Goodwood and he's been training very well since."
There was confidence, too, across the Channel, whence 50-1 shot Talk About will try to become only the second French winner, after Sayani in 1946. "He is honest and courageous," said the four-year-old's trainer Mikel Delzangles, who sprang a 33-1 shock with Makfi in the 2,000 Guineas two years ago, "and the step up in trip and faster pace in England will definitely help."
Chris McGrath's Nap: Hoofalong (2.40 Beverley)
Has been given time to mature since his promising debut in better company in May.
Next Best: Chatterati (5.00 Folkestone)
One of three well clear in a similar contest over course and distance last week.
Where The Money's Going: Melbourne Cup contender Galileo's Choice is 14-1 in Paddy Power's lists, backed from 25s over the weekend.