32Red Gold Cup: Johnson Houghton's keen on Ice Age's chances at Haydock

Fri 29 Sep 2017

Eve Johnson Houghton is full of hope for Ice Age as the progressive four-year-old sprinter makes a second journey north from her Oxfordshire base following the abandonment of the Ayr Gold Cup.

Ice Age was already on his way to Scotland when last week's meeting was called off, but he is reported to have taken that in his stride and is all set for the trip to Haydock on Saturday for the replacement event, the 32Red Gold Cup.

The Merseyside substitute may not quite be the same race, but it has attracted some from the original line-up plus others and will still take some winning on what is set to be testing ground.

"Ice Age is in great form and I don't think the extra week will make a difference either way," said Johnson Houghton.

"He got halfway up to Ayr before turning around and had about six hours in the horsebox, but seems quite happy after that.

"He has improved all year and winning three big handicaps in a row would be a great achievement. He is a big horse and I would say it has just taken time to fill his frame. I think he has a very good chance.

"He obviously goes well on soft ground, but he has never raced on heavy ground. He should be OK, but you never know until you try."

Donjuan Triumphant would have been a strong fancy at Ayr and returns to the scene of his success three weeks ago, although that was over an extra furlong.

"It was disappointing for all of us and particularly for Ayr that they couldn't run the race, but it's good this has been put on," said trainer Andrew Balding. 

"He'll love the ground and he's in great form.

"He won there earlier in the month. That was over seven, but he shouldn't have a problem dropping back to six."

Richard Fahey, who had eight in the Ayr race last week, has four running for him here.

Mr Lupton and Growl were sixth and seventh respectively behind Harry Angel in the Group One 32Red Sprint Cup on this track earlier this month, while Withernsea was third in a premier handicap over seven furlongs at Leopardstown last time out. Rene Mathis has his first race since beating Custom Cut at Thirsk in April.

"I haven't got anything hidden (from the handicapper). If Growl came back to his best, he'd have a chance. The ground won't bother him," said the Musley Bank handler.

"Mr Lupton ran OK there in a Group One. This is a step down from that, but he's in good form.

"The trip might be a bit sharp for Withernsea, but he'll love the ground.

"Rene Mathis is coming back off a break and you'd imagine seven would be his trip as well, but he's taking his chance, so we'll see what happens."

Sainted was not in the Ayr Gold Cup but that has not stopped her heading the market with the sponsors.

The William Haggas-trained four-year-old goes into the race on the back of a clear-cut success over the course and distance seven weeks ago.

Chris Richardson, managing director of owner/breeders Cheveley Park Stud, said: "Sainted has done nothing wrong so far and is clearly a talented filly.

"She has won a couple this season and we were hoping to run her in a black-type race, but Saturday's race looks a good opportunity.

"It is a nice pot to go for and she will love the ground."

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