To win one edition of Europe's richest sprint handicap might take luck, but to take two in a row, and three in six years, smacks of good judgement. In yesterday's William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, Captain Ramius testified to his trainer Kevin Ryan's skill by following his stablemates Advanced and Our Jonathan into the winner's circle.
The six-furlong dash is not only valuable, but normally highly competitive. Captain Ramius, though, turned the 199th running into something of a procession in the closing stages. The 16-1 shot, steered down the centre of the course by Pat Smullen, powered to the front rank nearly a quarter of a mile out and arrowed clear through the rain-sodden ground to take the £74,700 first prize by two and a quarter lengths.
"We always start thinking about this race in January," said Ryan, based at Thirsk in Yorkshire, "and when it comes off, when we get it right, it's great." In the modern era, David Nicholls has the best record, with six victories, but both he and Ryan have some way to go to match Tommy Dawson, who captured 15 Ayr Gold Cups between 1835 and 1869.
All six of Captain Ramius's previous victories had come over seven furlongs, with his proven stamina undoubtedly an asset in yesterday's demanding conditions. "He's a really tough horse," added Ryan. "The ground was very testing. It's tacky as well as deep and even the soft-ground horses weren't getting through it easily."
Captain Ramius, who carries the colours of Co Kildare businesswoman Clodagh McStay and who gave Irish champion Smullen his first success at Scotland's top track on only his second ride there, was chased home by the 2008 winner Regal Parade (25-1), who was, in turn, clear of the 8-1 favourite Maarek, with Sholaan (16-1), Colonel Mak, Brae Hill and Doc Hay close behind.
The Gold Cup was the third mass-rank cavalry charge of the day down the straight six furlongs, preceded by the Silver (won by another 16-1 shot, Mass Rally) and Bronze (by the 5-1 favourite Jack Dexter) contests, the latter salvaged from Friday's abandoned card. But if the quantity was at Ayr – 72 horses took part in the three sprints – the quality was at Newbury, where progressive juvenile Moohaajim advertised his potential in the Mill Reef Stakes. The son of Cape Cross, the 5-2 favourite for his Group 2 contest had to rather barge his way past rivals, a manoeuvre that cost his rider, Adam Kirby, a three-day ban, but once he did so he asserted his class with an eye-catching burst of acceleration that took him a length and a quarter clear of smart yardstick Master Of War.
"Once we got out he picked up well and fast," said Kirby. "He's special, and if he keeps his head he'll be a top-class horse."
Moohaajim, trained by Marco Botti in Newmarket, is now in the 2,000 Guineas lists at around 25-1 and will next test his credentials at Group 1 level in the Middle Park or Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket next month.