Twenty-five runners will go to post for the feature race of the season at Ayr and the betting is headed by Irish-raider Buffer Zone who landed a valuable handicap at the Curragh last weekend.
David O’Meara looks to have a strong hand in the £200,000 handicap as he is represented by five of the 25 contenders, including Gulliver who was a fast-finishing third behind Buffer Zone at the Curragh after meeting trouble in running.
The 6f contest – which will be shown live on Racing TV at 3.50pm - looks set to be as competitive as ever. Here’s a guide to all the contenders plus galloping clues, interviews and expert analysis.
1. MR LUPTON
Trainer: Richard Fahey. Jockey: Sean Davis. Official rating: 110. General odds: 25-1.
Has been highly tried this season and produced a career best to win a Group Two at the Curragh on his seasonal debut.
Has disappointed since, although he has been set some difficult tasks and will appreciate the step back down to handicap company.
Needs to put his disappointing run in the City Of York Stakes last time out behind him though, especially as another career best is required to win this contest.
Seems to be getting better with age and conditions will be in his favour, but it will be a huge performance if he is to win this off his rating, although his rider claims a handy 3lb.
Rating out of ten: 6.
2. MAJOR JUMBO
Trainer: Kevin Ryan. Jockey: Tom Eaves. Official rating: 108. General odds: 20-1.
Consistent performer who landed a Listed contest in good style at Chester in August before he found Group One company too hot in the Sprint Cup on his next start.
Went close in numerous big handicaps in 2018 and it is easy to forgive his below-par run in this contest last year on heavy ground.
Has improved again this season so, although he is 6lb above his last winning handicap mark, there is every reason to believe he will be involved in the finish plus his trainer has won this contest four times.
Trainer: Brian Meehan. Jockey: Colm O’Donoghue. Official rating: 106. General odds: 20-1.
Successful in two handicaps in 2017 and returned from a lengthy absence to win the Wokingham at Ascot in June last year where he beat a number of his rivals that reoppose here.
Was not beaten far in a Group Three next time out but has disappointed on his past three starts – two of those were at Group One level – and was soundly beaten on his seasonal debut in the Wokingham.
It is hard to know what to expect from him as he has not been seen since, but he will be a threat if he does return to his best as he is only 1lb higher than his victory in the Wokingham.
4. BUFFER ZONE.
Trainer: Ger Lyons. Jockey: Colin Keane. Official rating: 104. General odds: 11-2.
Ger Lyons spoke to Racing TV after Buffer Zone's victory at the Curragh
Has thrived since joining Ger Lyons and landed a valuable handicap at the Curragh six days ago.
Began this season with a rating of 86 and now finds himself on a mark of 107, so is firmly on the up, and a similar performance will see him involved in the finish.
Despite the fact he has to carry a 5lb penalty, he is effectively 3lb well in as he only has his penalty to carry and not the extra 8lb that the handicapper raised him for his victory in Ireland.
A quick turnaround is a slight question mark, but the trip and ground will be in his favour plus he does not have many miles on the clock.
5. LAUGH A MINUTE.
Trainer: Roger Varian. Jockey: Rossa Ryan. Official rating: 103. General odds: 20-1.
Has run some creditable races in defeat this season, including when second behind Invincible Army in a Group Three at Newcastle in June.
Disappointed in the Scottish Stewards’ Cup when last seen and has a bit to prove now after that effort.
Clearly has ability and wears blinkers for the first time, although they will need to have a positive effect for him to go close.
6. HEY JONESY
Trainer: Kevin Ryan. Jockey: Kevin Stott. Official rating: 103. General odds: 25-1.
Talented performer who has run some respectable races this season but has not got his head in front since getting off the mark in 2017.
Was gelded and had wind surgery before the start of this season, although he does not seem to have improved for it and connections now reach for a visor.
Has a touch of class having finished fifth in the Commonwealth Cup in 2018 and the step back down to six furlongs should suit.
Has been given a chance by the handicapper but the visor will need to bring our more improvement for him to be competitive.
Trainer: David O’Meara. Jockey: David Nolan. Official rating: 102. General odds: 11-1.
Our experts analyse the Stewards' Cup
Another consistent performer in this field who deserves to win a big prize after five excellent efforts in defeat this season.
Finished second behind the thriving Dakota Gold in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap last time out and was unlucky not to finish closer in the Stewards’ Cup in August off a rating of 100.
Has been raised 2lb for his run at Ripon which leaves him on a career-high mark, although if he repeats the performances he has produced this season, he looks sure to be in the mix.
Trainer: David Barron. Jockey: Zak Wheatley. Official rating: 101. General odds: 25-1.
Thrived during his first season for David Barron last year landing three handicaps, including the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon off a rating of 97.
Has struggled to land a blow this season in competitive handicaps but now finds himself on the same rating as his Ripon success and, if the first-time blinkers have a positive effect, then he is no forlorn hope if he can find his old sparkle.
Oisin Murphy - who has been operating at a strike rate of 24 per cent in the past fortnight – is also a positive jockey booking.
Trainer: Declan Carroll. Jockey: Zak Wheatley. Official rating: 101. General odds: 20-1.
Was not beaten far in the Stewards’ Cup in August and backed that effort up with another good performance in a similarly competitive handicap at York before making all to win at Sandown.
Struggled off his revised rating last time out and remains 2lb above his highest-winning mark, so it is a wise move by connections to book a 7lb claimer.
However, he will need to bounce back to land a blow here and is likely to find a few too good even if he is back to his best.
10. AIR RAID
Trainer: Jedd O’Keeffe. Jockey: Jack Garritty. Official rating: 100. General odds: 25-1.
Not the most consistent performer and disappointed in the Stewards’ Cup last time out off a career-high rating of 101.
Does produce good performances when he is on a going day though and has won three of his six starts this season.
However, he is probably in the grip of the handicapper now and seems to save his best for for Hamilton.
Trainer: John Ryan. Jockey: Ben Curtis. Official rating: 99. General odds: 50-1.
Has failed to land a blow since causing an upset when winning at Chester in May.
Missed the break and failed to get into the race last time out at the same track but had not shown his true colours on his previous three starts.
He is now a 1lb above his last winning mark but will need everything to go right for him and all of his wins have come in contests with ten or less runners in.
Trainer: David O’Meara. Jockey: Angus Villiers. Official rating: 98. General odds: 20-1.
Dual course and distance winner who has remained in good form this season and is potentially well treated off a rating of 98 with Angus Villiers taking a useful 7lb off his back.
Ran another good race to finish third at Doncaster on his latest start and a case can certainly be made for him.
No horse older than seven has won this race before but he has plenty in his favour and ought to be involved in the finish.
13. STONE OF DESTINY
Trainer: Andrew Balding. Jockey: P J McDonald. Official rating: 99. General odds: 33-1.
Flew home to win the Shergar Cup Dash in August, his first victory since joining Andrew Balding.
Has contested plenty of similar contests to this and, although he has run respectably in a couple, he is yet to get competitive in one.
Needs to find more plus a relatively stiff six furlongs is not certain to suit.
14. ANGEL ALEXANDER
Trainer: Tom Dascombe. Jockey: Richard Kingscote. Official rating: 100. General odds: 33-1.
Has enjoyed a successful campaign this season winning three of his eight starts and is another in this field who likes to make the running, but will certainly be taken on for the lead which may take him out of his comfort zone.
All of his wins have come over five furlongs, so the step up to six is not certain suit, and disappointed over that distance at Chester on his previous start.
Remains lightly raced so there should be further improvement to come but this race is unlikely to suit him.
15. GOOD EFFORT
Trainer: Ismail Mohammed. Jockey: Paul Mulrennan. Official rating: 98. General odds: 25-1.
Did not show much in three starts at Meydan at the beginning of this year before he was given a break and appreciated the step down to six furlongs when successful at Newmarket in August.
Failed to back that effort up at the same venue next time out and, although he remains unexposed over this trip, he has a bit to prove now and needs to step up considerably on the form he has shown so far.
Trainer: David O’Meara. Jockey: Jason Hart. Official rating: 98. General odds: 8-1.
Useful performer on his day, although has not always been the most consistent, and hasn’t always enjoyed the best luck in similar contests to this.
Gained a deserved success at York in June off a rating of 95 and looked unlucky not to finish closer when sixth in the Stewards’ Cup this season.
It was also a similar scenario last time out when a fast-finishing third behind Buffer Zone as he met traffic problems and just failed to get up for second.
Conditions will suit here as his below-par runs have been on softer conditions or on the all-weather.
Has been well supported over the past few days and looks David O’Meara’s number one contender, so a strong case can be made for him.
Trainer: David O’Meara. Jockey: Daniel Tudhope. Official rating: 98. General odds: 12-1.
Successful over five furlongs at this track in July and has remained consistent since but that has led him to continue creeping up the weights without getting his head in front.
However, he has gone close off his rating of 100 on his past two starts and was beaten less than a length when fourth in the Portland Handicap on his most recent outing.
That run puts him in the picture and is thriving at present, so looks sure to be there at the finish with the visor goes back on.
18. COLD STARE
Trainer: David O’Meara. Jockey: Robbie Downey. Official rating: 98. General odds: 20-1.
Wore a tongue strap for the first time when bouncing back to form to win a 6f handicap at Haydock in June.
Has been raised 7lb for that victory and has off since due to undergoing wind surgery which will need to improve him a fair bit if he is to defy his revised mark here after 105 days off the track.
Still has low mileage but has always shown his best from on softer ground.
Trainer: David Allan. Jockey: David O’Meara. Official rating: 98. General odds: 33-1.
Has shown plenty of decent form over six furlongs and was successful at Newcastle in June.
Disappointed in this contest last year but it is likely the heavy ground would have been against him and will be suited by conditions on Saturday.
Ran another solid race in the Great St Wilfird last time out but plenty more is required and his stablemates hold stronger claims.
20. GEORGE BOWEN
Trainer: Richard Fahey. Jockey: Paul Hanagan. Official rating: 96. General odds: 25-1.
Has won some nice prizes in the past and won off a rating of 102 at Kempton in March.
Now has a rating of 96 after a string of disappointing efforts since May.
Has gone close in the Silver Cup at Ayr in the past and good ground will suit, but a leap of faith is required to support him here.
21. SOLDIER’S MINUTE
Trainer: Keith Dalgleish. Jockey: Joe Fanning. Official rating: 96. General odds: 50-1.
Bolted up at York in May where he had a number of his rivals here in behind including Gulliver and Arecibo.
Has failed to figure in three starts since though and finished last on both of his starts at Ayr last year.
Would be a big contender if he did bounce back to form and is now 4lb higher than his victory on the Knavesmire which would not have been enough to stop him that day, so looks a shade overpriced at 50-1.
A hood will be applied for the first time on Saturday which will hopefully help his cause and is also fancied by our man Andy Stephens in his How To Bet £20 Column.
Trainer: Mick Channon. Jockey: Nathan Evans. Official rating: 97. General odds: 40-1.
Successful at Listed level in France last year and has performed with credit since without recording another victory.
Best effort this season came in the bet365 Handicap where he finished fifth off a 1lb lower than his mark here.
Still looks in the grip of the handicapper and needs to find more to be in with a shout.
Trainer: Richard Fahey. Jockey: Tony Hamilton. Official rating: 95. General odds: 25-1.
Went close in this contest in 2016 when second behind Brando and recorded his first victory for almost three years when successful in the Silver Trophy Handicap at Ripon in August. Remains 6lb higher in the handicap now but has won off higher marks in the past plus has gone close in number big handicaps during his career.
Arguably still well treated if he can produce a career best but other still look to have a better chance.
Trainer: Richard Hannon. Jockey: Paddy Mathers. Official rating: 95. General odds: 33-1.
Has won three of his 13 starts this year and appreciated the step back up to six furlongs when sixth in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster last time out.
Finished behind a few of his rivals here when finishing midfield in the Stewards’ Cup and needs to take his form to another level to trouble the leading protagonists.
A Fast pace should suit him though and Richard Hannon was in flying form at Newbury on Friday recording a treble.
25. LOUIE DE PALMA
Trainer: Clive Cox. Jockey: Hector Crouch. Official rating: 95. General odds: 33-1.
Struggled in some top handicaps last season, including in the Ayr Silver Cup, and has improved since being gelded before the start of the season.
Recorded his first handicap success when landing a 6f contest at Ascot in May and finished in the frame on his next three starts
Every reason to believe he has more to give but this is a tough ask and needs to find improvement.
Harry Allwood's verdict:
It will be interesting to see if Buffer Zone can back his effort up at the Curragh here as he has had just six days to recover from his exertions in Ireland and another career best is required to win this contest.
Gulliver was arguably an unlucky loser in that contest and is expected to get much closer to Ger Lyons’ four-year-old here.
INTISAAB has a good record at Ayr and looks sure to be involved in the finish here, especially with Angus Villiers claiming 7lb off him, so a chance is taken on the eight-year-old at a general 16-1.
1. Intisaasb. 2. Gulliver. 3. Buffer Zone.
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