If your name's on it, it's on it. Jimmy Styles, who emerged from the starting stall that no one wanted, showed that fate was on his side by winning yesterday's Ayr Gold Cup for Frankie Dettori and trainer Clive Cox. The five-year-old, a 14-1 shot, swept past Barney McGrew in the closing strides to take the season's richest sprint handicap by a head.
On Thursday, Cox, driving back to his Lambourn base after working horses at Kempton, had been rueing a lost mobile phone connection during the ballot to chose a place in the Ayr line-up; he wanted stall 19 but after the line went down he was timed out and Jimmy Styles had to make do with the last box available, number 15.
The difference was only four, but may have been crucial. Over two days' racing at the Scottish course it had become apparent that the far side of the track, the province of those drawn low, was by far the more advantageous place to race on drying ground. In a field of 26 for the Cup, Dettori lost less ground in turning left from where he was than from where he might have been.
Dettori did not put Jimmy Styles into the firing line until well inside the final furlong, at a point where Barney McGrew (20-1) had seen off Knot In Wood (11-1) and Evens And Odds, the 7-1 favourite. But though the winning distance was narrow, it was decisive enough; Dettori had put his stick down well before the line and his powerful mount pulled up with his ears pricked.
It was Dettori's first Gold Cup on a rare visit to Ayr, his first to the venue's biggest day for three years. "I followed Roger Charlton's horse [11th-placed Genki] through the early stages," he said, "and then mine quickened and stayed on really well."
Jimmy Styles, an Inchinor gelding, has been consistent all season, his only moderate performance coming behind Genki in a soft-ground Stewards' Cup. "With all the rain there's been in Scotland, we didn't dream the faster ground he likes would come for him," said Cox, "which is one reason we wanted the higher draw. Never mind the phone problem now, it's all worked out perfectly."
Third-placed Knot In Wood failed by just a length to notch a remarkable treble for trainer Richard Fahey and rider Barry McHugh. On Friday the pair took the Bronze Cup, the first consolation for those who missed the cut for the main event (which had an entry of 167), with Baldemar, and yesterday took the Silver Cup with Kaldoun Kingdom.
The previous three runnings of the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury have produced two subsequently above- average milers in Excellent Art and Lord Shanakill and yesterday's winner Awzaan will follow in their hoofprints by stepping up next time to Group One company. After taking his unbeaten run to three with a decisive length and a quarter defeat of Angel's Pursuit, the son of Alhaarth, trained by Mark Johnson for Sheikh Hamdan, he has next month's Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket as his target.
Awzaan and Radiohead, favourite on the strength of his fine Nunthorpe Stakes third against his seniors, launched their challenges to trailblazing Quarrel virtually simultaneously from opposite wings of the chasing pack, the trio – the brown, the grey and the chestnut – making an attractive multi-hued arrowhead down the centre of the track. But just as the further Awzaan went through the six furlongs the better he looked, the opposite applied to Radiohead.
Strike The Deal, runner-up in the Group Two contest 12 months previously, gave Kieren Fallon his first prestige success since his comeback in the Group Three Dubai Duty Free World Trophy over the minimum trip. The former champion gave the Jeremy Noseda-trained colt a spot-perfect ride to take the prize by a neck and his post-race comment could have been applicable to either one of the partnership. "His confidence is starting to flow," he said.