Trainer John O’Shea is confident that his Group 1 winning colt Astern will handle the straight Flemington course at his first attempt under race conditions in the Group 1 $500,000 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) on Saturday.
O’Shea took Astern to Flemington last Friday morning for a look at the straight course and was happy with the way he handled the 800m jump out against five other opponents, including Coolmore Stud Stakes favourite Extreme Choice.
“He had a good look at the track last week and handled it very well,” O’Shea said.
“I’m really bullish about him.”
“I think he’s drawn beautifully, there’s plenty of sped around him, he should get good cover straight away.”
As well as Astern tackling the Flemington straight in race colours for the first time, the Mick Price trained Extreme Choice, Golden Slipper winner Capitalist and the Team Hawkes trained Star Turn are also facing the same dilemma.
Strangely enough it is the New Zealand colt Saracino, trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman from Cambridge who has the best record with one win from one run down the Flemington straight 1200m when he took out the Group 2 $200,000 Danehill Stakes on September 10, beating Coolmore Stud Stakes rival and Astern’s stablemate Archives.
Trainer Mick Price will also saddle up last start winner Flying Artie who has had one run down the Flemington straight for a second over 1000m in the Group 3 $150,000 Maribyrnong Plate last November as a two year old.
Godolphin’s number one jockey James McDonald has been aboard Astern for all but one of his seven race starts, including his win in the Group 1 $1m De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill on September 10.
McDonald has high hopes for Astern on Saturday and has made no secret of the fact that he thinks the colt is right up there with the best three year olds going around.
“He’s good. He’s in good form. He’s trialled up the straight, so he should’ve got good experience from that,” McDonald said.
“He’s taking on a very good line-up of three-year-olds, and he’ll have to be very good to beat them, but I think he’s a very good horse.”
“He’s going to be taking on some exceptional sprinters, but I think he’s up to it.”
Astern has had one run since his Golden Rose win for a surprise defeat as a short priced favourite when second to Russian Revolution in the Group 2 $300,000 The Star Roman Consul (1200m) at Randwick on October 1.
The Team Snowden trained Russian Revolution, stablemate of Capitalist, is heading to the Coolmore Stud Stakes undefeated from four race starts but is also being tested down the Flemington straight for the first time under race conditions.
The Coolmore Stud Stakes market order at Ladbrokes.com.au has Extreme Choice as the $3.30 favourite just ahead of Astern at $3.90 and Star Turn at $4.50 while Capitalist is marked at $10 with Flying Artie and Russian Revolution sharing the $12 mark.
Coolmore Stud Stakes market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $3.30 Extreme Choice, $3.90 Astern, $4.50 Star Turn, $10 Capitalist, $12 Flying Artie, Russian Revolution, $34 Derryn, Saracino, $41 Archives, $101 Monolo Blahniq.