Quickest of all out of the starting stalls, it meant John Quinn’s eight-year-old just had enough in hand over the Queen’s runner King’s Lynn.
Yet what made the horse’s win in the Boodles Conditions Stakes even more meritorious was how Hart had to flick the blindfold off his mount as the stalls opened.
The former champion apprentice managed to do so without detracting from El Astronaute’s burst of speed – or any possibility of the horse becoming unbalanced at, arguably, the most crucial part of the race.
“There’s a fine line with El Astronaute of being a hero or a villain,” Hart told The Yorkshire Post.
“If you time it a second early, or a second late, you are buggered. At Chester, it was the difference between winning and losing.”
Now the winner of 14 out of 55 starts, Hart says El Astronaute is now calmer at the start of his race as a result of the application of blinkers.
Yet, from a rider’s perspective, there’s no room for error. “The main thing is sitting quietly and just squeezing with your legs as the gates open.
“I don’t really know how I do it – it just comes naturally – but it is important to ride the horses at home, particularly the two-year-olds, just to get to know them.”
El Astronaute runs in the maroon colours of Ross Harmon whose Safe Voyage, a winner of the Sky Bet City of York Stakes at last year’s Ebor festival, holds an entry in this Saturday’s Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. Now eight, the horse has not raced since finishing last in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last November.
The Lockinge field sees Toro Strike entered by Malton trainer Richard Fahey while Lord Glitters, a former Royal Ascot winner, could represent David O’Meara’s Upper Helmsley yard.
The 16 contenders are headed by Palace Pier. Trained by John and Thady Gosden, Palace Pier’s only career defeat to date came when third in last October’s QEII Stakes on unsuitably soft ground.
Palace Pier has since looked very classy when winning the bet365 Mile at Sandown on his reappearance. William Haggas’ My Oberon is another who looks capable of mixing it at a higher level, having won on his return to action too.
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