Norton finally strikes gold as Our Jonathan outguns Rifles


If your name's on a trophy, it's on it. Twice in the past had Franny Norton been replaced late on a horse that went on to win the Ayr Gold Cup and though the veteran journeyman is well used to such weighing room shuffling, it did make his rather easy victory on Our Jonathan in yesterday's edition of the six-furlong dash the sweeter. He took Scotland's richest Flat prize by two lengths, thwarting a gamble on 6-1 favourite Eton Rifles in the process.

"I must have been destined to win it," said the delighted Norton, 41. "I was supposed to ride Redford last year, and Bahamian Pirate a few years before that [in 2000], so this is not really out of turn."

Our Jonathan, an 11-1 shot, finishedon the far side of the track, with Eton Rifles heading the group that raced on the stands' side, the pair followed in by Son Of The Cat (18-1) and Colonel Mak (16-1). "When I got to the leaders on my side I had a look across," added Norton, "then let mine off at the furlong marker, and he went and did his job well."

The four-year-old gave Liverpool businessman Marwan Koukash – who preferred Frankie Dettori to Norton for Redford – his second successive win in the venerable contest (worth £74,000 yesterday), and Yorkshire-based trainer Kevin Ryan his second, after Advanced four years ago. "The horse had really started to sparkle in the last 10 days," said Ryan. "Franny rode him really well when he won at Chester in May and this time Marwan let him keep the ride."

Though the Ayr Gold Cup, first run in 1804, is merely a handicap, it is part of the heritage of the sport. By contrast, the day's most valuable prize was part of a modern marketing phenomenon, one of a series of races designed to encourage owners to spend at the autumn yearling auctions. The Richard Hannon-trained gelding Tell Dad had cost £77,000 last October and until yesterday had recouped £9,000 of that outlay. He now has another £108,000 to his credit.

If the history was at Ayr and the cash at Newmarket the emerging class was at Newbury, where upwardly mobile Deacon Blues denied Koukash a swift sprint double as he put Masamah and his other rivals to the sword in the five-furlong Group 3 contest, and hard-working juvenile Caspar Netcher added the Mill Reef Stakes to last month's Gimcrack Stakes on his eighth run of the campaign.