Speedy El Astronaute has lift off at Doncaster for Jason Hart and John Quinn
It was a timely victory for the Malton-based jockey and trainer whose Liberty Beach will be taking on superstar sprinter Battaash in tomorrow’s Group One King’s Stand Stakes. This was El Astronaute’s 13th career success and his first race since finishing third in last October’s Prix de l’Abbaye at ParisLongchamp to Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan’s Glass Slippers, who is also in the big-race line-up at Ascot.
A horse that adopts trailblazing ‘catch me if you can’ tactics, El Astronaute was always in control of this listed race on Town Moor.
“He’s a fantastic horse to ride and to have around the place, you always know what he is going to bring,” said Hart who then won the finale on the Quinn-trained Time Voyage,
“He’s very straightforward in terms of a race, but at the back end of last year he had an issue in the stalls in Ireland.
“We’ve changed a couple of little things and today I pulled the blind off as the stalls were opening and it’s worked the oracle.
“He normally improves off his first run of the year so that bodes well.
“He stuck to his guns today and showed his usual blistering pace.”
Meanwhile, Red Verdon looked a class apart from his rivals when returning to winning ways in the Betway Grand Cup Stakes – a race rerouted from York.
Ed Dunlop’s globetrotter was last seen finishing fourth of four on the all-weather, but has been a smart performer in his day and had too many guns for his Listed rivals.
David Allan waited as long as he could before putting the race to bed and streaked a length and three-quarters clear of favourite King’s Advice.
Robin Trevor Jones, Dunlop’s travelling head man, said of the winner: “Dave won a lovely race on him at York last year too and I couldn’t believe the handicapper dropped him to 109.
“His run in Caulfield was good, he got absolutely murdered and wasn’t beaten far.
“He loved bullying them today, they weren’t good enough for him.
“He’s a 114/115 horse on his day. We’d have to consider the Ebor. We went for it last year, but he didn’t run a race.
“I doubt we’ll get the chance to go back to Australia.
“He’s gone out twice for the Melbourne Cup and not run in either.”
In other news, Khalifa Sat added another string to Andrew Balding’s hand in the middle-distance department with victory in the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood under Tom Marquand.
Though Troy won this race in 1979 for Major Dick Hern and Willie Carson before landing the Epsom Derby, Balding believes Khalifa Sat could appear in the St Leger at Doncaster in September.
“I’ve always thought he was more of a Leger horse than anything else and that’s very much on the agenda for later in the year,” he said.
Balding’s yard of course houses 2000 Guineas hero Kameko, who is all set to go to the Investec-sponsored Derby on July 4.
The Kingsclere trainer said: “I’m very happy with him, he’s seemingly in great form, he hasn’t done a lot since last weekend obviously, but he seems very nice and relaxed and has done well since the race.
“All being well that (the Derby) is very much the plan.”
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