MICHAEL DODS is under no illusions about the task facing Commanche Falls ahead of his bid to complete a huge sprint handicap double in Saturday’s Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup.

The eight-year-old became the first horse in over 50 years to claim back-to-back victories in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood in July and was only narrowly denied on his latest appearance at York.

Last season Commanche Falls finished seventh at Ayr, but on Saturday gets another chance to emulate Coastal Bluff – the last horse to win the Stewards’ Cup and Ayr Gold Cup in the same season (1996).

Dods, who has his string in excellent form judged on doubles at both Thirsk and Redcar earlier in the week, is hopeful of a bold showing – but admits the burden of top-weight of 9st 12lb is a concern.

“The horses are running well, we can’t complain. Hopefully we’ll have a good backend to the season,” said the Darlington-based trainer.

“Commanche Falls is well. He’s obviously giving a lot of weight away, but he’s in good form, so hopefully he’ll run well.

“The ground will be fine, it’s just giving all the weight away. We’ll see how we go.”

Dods has an interesting second string to his bow in the form of Tinto, who enjoyed successive wins at Thirsk and Ripon earlier in the year and has finished behind Commanche Falls on his last two outings.

Dods added: “Tinto likes juice in the ground, he finished fifth in the Stewards’ Cup and ran well at York on ground that was a bit too quick for him, finishing behind Commanche Falls again actually when he was second.

“Hopefully he goes up there and runs a big race on Saturday.”

The likely favourite for the six-furlong contest is the lightly-raced Khanjar, who has won three of his six starts to date for William Haggas, most recently impressing at Haydock.

Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell, said: “If I’m honest, he’s always looked to me like a horse who would want a seventh furlong. He sort of grinds out his wins and he’s a good, strong galloper.

“Jim (Crowley) said after riding him last time he very much wants a fast-run six furlongs. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year we see this horse go seven, but at the moment we’ll have one go at a big race over six, hope there’s a bit of pace and see how he gets on.”

Last year’s winner Bielsa returns to defend his crown as one of two runners for King Power Racing along with recent Goodwood scorer Fivethousandtoone.

Alastair Donald, racing manager for the owners, said: “This has been the target all season for Bielsa, to be honest. I just hope it doesn’t dry up too much – softer ground is preferred for him.

“Fivethousandtoone was good at Goodwood and should really have won his two races before that as well.

“He’s a horse we’ve always thought a lot of and finally I think he’s finding his feet. He should be fine on the ground.”

Mr Wagyu is sent back into battle by John Quinn just six days after finishing a close-up third in a lucrative contest on Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh.

“He ran a blinder in Ireland and has come out of the race really well,” said the Malton handler.

“He’s backed up before, he’s tough as teak and we’re happy with him.

“It’s going to be lovely ground and we’re looking forward to it.”