Sapphire Stakes: John Quinn hoping El Astronaute is up to Group standard

Sat 20 Jul 2019

Click here to study all the form ahead of the Friarstown Stud Sapphire Stakes plus read Timeform comments and find the best odds for all the runners.

El Astronaute returns to Ireland for the Friarstown Stud Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.

The popular six-year-old has already won at Cork and over the same course and distance he faces this weekend 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.

El Astronaute landed the Rockingham Handicap in June under top weight

“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.

Caspian Prince was not beaten far in a Listed contest 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.

Lethal Promise was no match for Lethal Promise at the Curragh last month

“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.”

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