From a seemingly impossible position, Nahaarr swooped to win the Ayr Gold Cup under an inspired Tom Marquand, who is becoming every Saturday punter’s favourite jockey. Marquand, who also landed the St Leger last weekend, was radiating frustration with his body language at halfway, when Nahaarr could find no way through the pack of horses in front of him.
The pair finally found daylight with about 150 yards to run, from which point Nahaarr rocketed forwards. To the joy of those who hammered him down to 7-2 favourite for the cavalry charge, he collared Spanish City with perhaps two strides to spare. It was the sight that many punters had hoped to see seven weeks earlier at Glorious Goodwood, where Nahaarr was a disappointing favourite for the Stewards’ Cup.
Marquand, who had never ridden a winner at Ayr before Saturday, said: “This lad surprised me, the way he picked up on that ground. I was galloping into the back of more horses in one race than I have in my entire life. He showed an exceptional turn of foot. He’s got that perfect mix of speed and ability.”
It was a double on the day for Marquand, as he also won the Doonside Cup on Addeybb, who would normally be competing in rather stronger company. Both horses are trained by William Haggas and carry the yellow colours of Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum.
Taking his social distancing responsibilities seriously, Haggas watched from his Newmarket stable, some 375 miles away, where he was also able to keep an eye on winners he trained at Newbury and Saint-Cloud. “It’s been a good day,” he said. “We had 15 seconds in about a week and six of those were beaten a short head, so we deserved a bit of luck and thankfully we’ve got it.
“Nahaarr missed the break, which I think was a deliberate tactic, as Tom felt he raced a bit freely at Goodwood and he didn’t want that to happen again. I think he would have been an unlucky loser.”
Chris Cook’s Sunday tips
Chelmsford 1.0 Collinsbay 1.30 Harry’s Bar 2.0 Sulochana 2.30 Delegate The Lady 3.0 Desert Safari (nap) 3.30 Glen Esk 4.0 Sacre Bleu 4.35 Tanita
Plumpton 1.15 Calidus Mirabilis 1.45 Golden Poet (nb) 2.20 Cherry Cola 2.50 Jamacho 3.20 Stubborn Logic 3.50 Barman 4.25 Overrated Passtime
Hamilton 2.05 Lydiate Lady 2.40 Jerbourg 3.10 Marreyr 3.40 Poet’s Lady 4.10 Ayr Poet 4.40 Ghayyar 5.10 Pammi 5.40 Viceregent
Meanwhile, another Newmarket trainer was making the latest in a series of impassioned pleas for the sport to be given an improved funding model. “Otherwise, let me tell you, it won’t be long before we’re back to the 1970s,” said John Gosden, who recently hosted a high-powered discussion on the subject at his Clarehaven stables.
“I had to emigrate twice from this country, once to Venezuela and once to America, and I don’t want to see a lot of young people having to do the same thing again, not just in our industry but in many others, because there will be no jobs and no opportunity.”
With that fear in mind, Gosden and other leading figures in the sport have been engaged in behind-the-scenes discussions aimed at reforming the levy system, by which the betting industry shares its profits with racing. “We cannot let this drift,” Gosden said.
“We don’t have six months to start floating about, having committee meetings and chitting and chatting, we need to get our heads wrapped together, with the betting industry and the racecourses. It’s a matter of bringing everyone together and talking, that’s what we’ve been trying to do, breaking away from all factions. It’s got to be done. You can’t sit here and wait and expect it’ll be done for you.
“The government have enough on their hands without us. And we’re not going there and saying please, we’ve got to go there with ideas. Don’t think the owners we have are going to be around here together, upholding the whole top end of the game. They’re not. So we really have to get our own act together, it’s as simple as that.
“My great concern is for the young, and for people in their 40s and 50s who’ve been furloughed and laid off and may never work again. All we’re trying to look for is something that gives stability and is equitable and fair to all sides. But at the moment there hasn’t been enough movement on it, which is why we’re literally trying to do something ourselves.”