Wednesday 21 August 2019

Astronaute backed to make the step-up

'John Quinn’s charge is rated a career-high 111 now.' Stock photo
'John Quinn’s charge is rated a career-high 111 now.' Stock photo

Nick Robson

El Astronaute returns to Ireland for the Friarstown Stud Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh today. The popular six-year-old has already won at Cork over the same course and distance this season.

John Quinn's charge is rated a career-high 111 now, and his trainer believes there is little difference between winning a big handicap off top-weight and stepping into Group company.

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"He's back in Ireland and has already shown his liking for the track," said Quinn. "Obviously he's got to step up again, but he deserves to take his chance so we'll look forward to it.

"I don't think there's much difference between the top handicappers and the Group sprinters. To win a heritage handicap with top-weight, Flat or Jumps, you're not far off being a Group horse. He's second in on ratings so we'll keep our fingers crossed."

He added: "He's fairly adaptable regards ground. The only ground he wouldn't want is heavy - I ran him on it at Haydock one day and he sank. Good to soft is fine for him and he won in France last year when they called it soft."

The veteran Caspian Prince, winner of this event two years ago as a sprightly eight-year-old, will likely put the pace to the race. He showed he is far from a back number when beaten just a length at York last time out.

Setting the standard is Archie Watson's Soldier's Call, who was a fine third in the King's Stand Stakes last time out.

Charlie Hills runs Garrus and Equilateral while Eddie Lynam's Soffia heads the home defence on the back of winning the Ballyogan Stakes last time out.

Willie McCreery expects a big performance from Lethal Promise, despite being a beaten favourite behind Soffia.

"She just got a bit worked up so the aim will be to keep her relaxed," said McCreery. "The speed is on her outside so that shouldn't be a problem, and the faster they go the better as she just got lit up and didn't settle.

"They'll go like the clappers in this, so I'm looking forward to it - I think she'll run a big race, she seems in great form so we have to take a chance."

William Haggas hopes he has found the right opportunity for Move Swiftly to follow up her Royal Ascot win in the Kilboy Estate Stakes.

The four-year-old won the Duke of Cambridge Stakes last month on her first outing of the season, beating Michael Stoute's Rawdaa by a neck.

Never out of the first three in her career, she is clearly still progressing and, on official ratings at least, even with her penalty she has a few pounds in hand.

Move Swiftly will be racing over further than a mile for the first time since last July, but Haggas is mildly surprised by the nature of the Group Two.

"They are forecasting plenty of rain so as long as it comes she'll go," said Haggas. "Whenever I go to Ireland it rains all the time so we should be all right! It will be interesting stepping up in trip a bit. It doesn't look the most competitive race, I didn't think so anyway. We shall see, she seems in rare form so I'm happy with her. She's good."

Move Swiftly is the star name among a field of eight. Aidan O'Brien fields three - Chablis, Coral Beach and Goddess. Joseph O'Brien is represented by Red Tea, but she was well behind Move Swiftly at Ascot.

Fozzy Stack's Hand On Heart had been progressing nicely until finishing well beaten in the Duke of Cambridge, while Jim Bolger's Normandel, who beat Hand On Heart two starts back, would not be without a chance. Annie Fior completes the field.

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