A handicap worth keeping an eye on: Andy Gibson reflects on the Scotty Brand Chase at Ayr
Saturday April 22 2023: Scotty Brand Handicap Chase Nine runners went to post for this premier handicap chase at Ayr, which was open to horses above four years old and run over two miles and half a furlong. Malystic won the race by three quarters of a length from Elixir De Nutz, with Coastguard Station almost four lengths further adrift.
The success of Malystic caps off an excellent season from a horse that once looked like a mudlark.
This was his second success on officially good ground and his Cheltenham disappointment on soft might imply that he is even better on a less taxing surface now. I am really not sure either way as he simply may have been out of his depth at Cheltenham.
He has needed his first run of the season in each of the last two years so his new 150 rating might quickly become 148 or 149 on the back of a midfield finish first time out. Personally I would like to see him given two prep runs before being back on his game at Wetherby off about 147 for the Castleford Chase over the festive period.
Elixir De Nutz
Elixir De Nutz has not been the most robust of horses over the years so it has been good to see something of a resurgence in his form this season. I would still prefer his claims when he can dominate in a small field rather than get lost in a festival-style race which I think is what happened to him in the Grand Annual in March.
This was an eye-catching performance from a most progressive horse, and Coastguard Station was given the right ride in a race with plenty of pace up front. Unfortunately his mistake at the sixth and his slow leap three out when making headway prevented him from getting close enough to the two leaders. Once his jockey could see that the two lead horses had flown he rode hands and heels to ensure he made up the two lengths to grab third spot close to the line, and he finished full of running but simply ran out of race. The right man was booked for this job, and even though it did not work out perfectly he made up three or four lengths on the eventual second horse from two out to the line.
Maybe Return Ticket left his best behind at Carlisle 14 days earlier, and the fact that he was also raised nine pounds for that success did him no favours here. His latest three victories have come after breaks of 178, 140 and 52 days, which is probably one of the keys within his profile. He is a horse with a history of breathing problems and may just need to compete as a fresh horse to show his best. That said he was not far behind his best here and this must go down as another positive performance.
This was another solid effort from an honest and reliable chaser. Hasankey may not have the best win-to-run ratio, but his form on soft and heavy ground is considerably better and the good ground he has often competed on plays a big part in that poor strike rate.
Gold Des Bois
This was another perfectly sound performance on his way back to Kelso in September and October. Presumably Gold Des Bois will be aimed at the same two races he won last season and he will go there off a lower mark this time around.
After leaving his hind legs in the last fence down the far side Frere D'Armes never managed to get into the race. He was extremely keen in the early stages which might have had something to do with the switch in jockey. I am really not sure on that, but it will be something to monitor on another day.
Pay The Piper
In his eighth race of the season, Pay The Piper certainly ran like it was and I am more than happy to draw a line through this apparently poor display. He generally needs his first run or two of the season so hopefully he will be down to around 137 before he gets going in November or December. He is also better on good-to-soft or good ground rather than on a testing surface.
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