Andy Stephens’ recent winning naps have included Francis Xavier (16-1), Saint Equiano (10-1) and Harbour Approach (11-2) and he has four selections for a busy Saturday's racing live on Racing UK.
One of my New Year resolutions was to avoid betting on the big sprint handicaps because you could probably run the bulk of them ten times and get ten different results.
I buckled when having an ante-post punt on Dreamfield for the Wokingham and had no regrets until the final stages when, having been backed off the boards and sent off at 2-1, he was collared in the final stages and beaten a neck by Bacchus.
Now it’s a case of in for a penny, in for a pound and I find myself drawn, like a moth to a flame, to both the Silver Cup and Gold Cup at Ayr. Good luck if you, too, cannot resist them.
The Mick Easterby-trained six-year-old trailed home well beaten at Ripon last time after almost four months off but the writing was on the wall beforehand as he was friendless in the betting.
It might be that run was needed after his absence and at a general 20-1 I am happy to give him another chance because he had been in great fettle in the spring - winning at Pontefract and Haydock (both times on testing going) before finishing an unlucky third in a Wetherby race that has worked out well.
Had he not failed to figure last time, I’d imagine he would be half the odds he is available at.
I’m banking on Easterby stealing the show for the first hour of the Ayr card because his Quick Look arrives for the Silver Cup in tremendous fettle and the testing ground will hold no fears for him.
He won twice at the backend of last season on soft going and the return to a slower surface, plus sliding mark, undoubtedly helped him get back to winning ways at York in late July.
The fact he has since followed up on a quicker surface at Ripon - his overall profile points to testing ground suiting him much better - points to his wellbeing and his 6lb rise is offset by the promising Scott McCullagh taking 7lb off his back.
Judicial did not fire in the Nunthorpe last time when finishing 13th but that can happen to horses at York and his previous four efforts give him rock solid claims.
He split Mabs Cross and Alpha Delphini - who fought out the Nunthorpe - in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket and then got absolutely no luck in running at Haydock before chalking up wins at Beverley (Take Cover and El Astronaute among those behind) and Sandown.
I also like the fact that Graham Lee, who rode the Nunthorpe winner, is 2-3 on him, and who hit the mark at Ayr on Friday, is back on board.
For such a big field, there are very few habitual front-runners in the line-up and that adds to confidence in Muntadab.
Roger Fell’s charge is fairly one-dimensional - jockeys usually just have to point and let him run - and in common with plenty of Ayr Gold Cup winners, especially when the ground is testing, he is proven over farther.
Indeed, this will be a rare run over six furlongs for him and there is plenty of evidence to suggest it will play to his strengths.
Muntadab’s past two career wins have been achieved on either soft or heavy ground with Tony Hamilton aboard and I expect him to relish being able to get his toe in ground for the first time this year.Andy Stephens' How To Bet Your £20 on Saturday:
2.00 Ayr: Gulf Of Poets £2.50 each-way at a general 20-1
2.40 Ayr: Quick Look £2 win at a general 10-1
3.50 Ayr: Muntadab £3 win and £2 each-way at a general 16-1
OPTION TWO: Above Quartet in a 60p Each-Way Lucky 15 plus £1 each-way double on Judicial and Muntadab