The forecast rain for Sydney heading into the weekend will put a dampener on the return to the racetrack for Astern in the Group 1 $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on day one of ‘The Championships’ on Saturday.
The Randwick track is rated a Soft 5 on Thursday morning but with the Bureau Of Meteorology predicting between 30mm to 45mm of rain to fall in the Sydney area on Thursday, the track could be downgraded into the heavy range for Saturday.
Astern is one of three three-year-olds in the fifteen horse T J Smith Stakes field and will be lining up for the first time since finishing second to Flying Artie in the Group 1 $500,000 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington during the 2016 Melbourne Cup Carnival.
While Astern has had two barrier trials in the lead up to his return, trainer John O’Shea said that was not really an ideal preparation for a first up run on a rain affected track and he was reluctant to start the Medaglio D’Oro on a heavy track.
“We just have to hope the rain doesn’t come, because if it got to a heavy, we wouldn’t run Astern,” O’Shea said.
“But on a fair surface he gets a wonderful chance to be competitive.”
“He hasn’t had the best of preps in terms of continuity,” O’Shea said.
“Ideally in the heavy ground, it’s best to have had a run somewhere, which he hasn’t had.
“But he’s a happy horse and a fit horse and I think he’ll jump out and put himself into the race.”
Astern scored a brilliant win in the Group 1 $1m De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill on September 10 but has been runner up at his only two starts since and as well as his second in the Coolmore Stud Stakes he was beaten a head prior to that by Russian Revolution in the Group 2 $300,000 The Star Roman Consul (1200m) at Randwick on October 1.
Godolphin’s retained English jockey James Doyle will get his first race ride on Astern if he runs, replacing the disqualified James McDonald and the colt has drawn nicely at barrier four.
Number one saddlecloth holder Chautauqua has been installed the $4.80 favourite at Ladbrokes.com.au as he chases his third T J Smith Stakes win on the trot while Astern is on the second line of betting at $6 alongside of last start Group 1 Galaxy winner Russian Revolution.