The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival is quite simply the best Flat racing Scotland has to offer with three enthralling sprint handicaps including the Gold Cup itself, the country’s only Group race and a clutch of Listed Races.
Over the three days there is racing of the highest calibre with some big prize money on offer.
The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup is the most famous Flat race in Scotland and a terrific spectacle to watch with up to 25 runners speeding down the six furlong home straight at Ayr.
In 2020 Newmarket trainer William Haggas won the race for the first time with his very talented sprinter Nahaarr.
Ridden by Tom Marquand the horse was gambled into a short priced 7-2 favourite and there was a great sense of anticipation as the runners left the stalls.
Nahaarr was drawn in the middle of the field and after having his run checked on a few occasions was still well back in the pack with under two furlongs to run and then his class kicked in. With a turbo charged run he scythed through the field hitting the front less than 20 yards from the line and winning by half a length from Spanish City.
Other recent winners include Kevin Ryan’s Brando in 2016, a horse who has gone on to win Group 1 races and the Richard Fahey trained Don’t Touch.
This is Scotland’s only Group race and is run over the straight six furlongs for two year-old fillies and regularly attracts a good field of horses from some of the leading yards in the land.
Two time champion jockey Paul Hanagan rode Umm Kulthum to victory for trainer Richard Fahey in the 2020 renewal of the Firth Of Clyde. This talented filly later was a close up third in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.
Previous winners of this race include Rose Of Kildare (2019), Shaden (2015), Coral Mist (2013) and Majestic Dubawi (2010).
This famous race enjoyed one of its finest moments in 2020 when attracting the highest rated horse ever to run at Ayr, the Willie Haggas trained Addeybb.
The then five year-old gelding didn’t disappoint gradually letting his class tell and winning cosily under a cool Tom Marquand ride from Lord Glitters. A month after that success he picked up the Group 1 middle distance race on Champion’s Day at Ascot.
And early in 2021 Addeybb added another Group 1 when winning the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in Australia.
Godolphin have won the Doonside Cup five times, the latest success coming with Secret Number in 2016.
Run on the Friday of the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival the EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes is run over the minimum distance of five furlongs and is one of the most famous races of the Scottish racing calendar.
North Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby teamed up with Ayrshire born jockey David Allan to produce the 2020 winner Winter Power running in the famous King Power Racing colours. The filly went on to win the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket later in the year and two more Listed races in the early part of 2021.
The Harry Rosebery was famously won by super filly Quiet Reflection in 2015.
First introduced in 2018, this Listed five and a half furlong sprint has quickly established itself as one of the highlights of the Friday of the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival and past winners include the highly rated Karl Burke trained Lady In France.
In 2020 Paul Hanagan rode his 100th Ayr winner on the Cheveley Park Stud owned Exceptional to win the Al Maktoum Cup for trainer Richard Fahey. This race goes from strength to strength.
The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival has been a happy hunting ground for North Yorkshire trainer Kevin Ryan who has won the big race no fewer than four times.
In 2020 he struck silver instead of gold but what a mighty performance the four year-old Magical Spirit put up in the hands of jockey Kevin Stott.
He led every yard of the six furlongs and won by three and a half lengths from Admirality. This was an outstanding run and it would no surprise to see this horse contest the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup in 2021.
Raced on the Friday of the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival the Virgin Bet Ayr Bronze Cup is contested by horses who failed to get into the Gold or Silver Cups.
The 2020 running was won by the Nigel Tinkler trained Roundhay Park ridden by Faye McManoman who made headway a furlong out to lead inside the final furlong and cross the line a length in front of Dark Defender.
The ecstatic jockey could not hide her delight and lit up television screens later with her post race interview.
This race, run over 1m 2f, is the feature contest on the opening afternoon of the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival and is run for one of the oldest trophies at Ayr Racecourse. Past winners include Fire Fighting (2014) and Snaono (2016).
Last year 12 runners rook part with Richard Fahey’s Spirit Dancer sent off favourite but it was another North Yorkshire trainer John Quinn who saddled the winner with First Impression prevailing by three quarters of a length with Ben Curtis riding.
It was a hard fought but well deserved victory with the aforementioned Spirit Dancer not going down without a fight.