El Astronaute reaches for the stars at York

Big-race targets in the pipeline for Quinn winner

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El Astronaute clung on for victory in the Betfred “Supports Jack Berry House” Handicap at York.

John Quinn’s sprinter had been placed on four of his five starts since last striking gold at Glorious Goodwood, most recently finishing third at Chester just a week ago.

Ridden by Jason Hart, the 15-2 shot flew out of the starting stalls on the Knavesmire and was soon leading on the far side of the track.

Dark Shot drew alongside entering the final furlong, while Major Jumbo and Carlton Frankie both threw down strong challenges nearer the stands side, but El Astronaute passed the post a neck to the good.

Quinn said: “He deserved that, he was beaten by the draw at Chester last week. I thought his chance of winning might have gone, as you don’t get many, but he’s very game.

“I didn’t put him in the Dash at Epsom this year as last season he gave them all a lead, but then hung down the camber.

“He’ll go to Musselburgh for the Scottish Sprint Cup (June 9).”

He added: “I thought at the start of the season that if there was a little bit of improvement in him, and it looks like there has been, then he might be one for the Abbaye.

“It might be pie in the sky, but once you get rated around 105 then you may as well have a crack at it as it is so hard to win handicaps off that sort of mark.”

The Charlie Hills-trained Afaak asserted late on to claim the Betfred TV Hambleton Handicap.

The front-running Love Dreams kept the 9-2 shot honest all the way up the home straight, but Jim Crowley’s mount was well on top at the finish.

Hills said: “He did really well. I think he enjoyed having a bit of room today. He never seemed to travel at all at Newbury last time and was probably the first beat.

“We were undecided what trip to go for. We decided to stick to a mile this time, but I think we could probably step him up next time.

“It’s great to get his head in front and now we can plan for some nice handicaps coming up.

“We’ll have a look at Royal Ascot, maybe the Wolferton.”

I Am A Dreamer (8-1) had to survive a stewards’ inquiry before being confirmed as the winner of the Stratford Place Stud Breeds Group Winners ebfstallions.com Maiden Stakes.

Despite being the only horse in the field with previous experience, having finished third and fourth on his two previous outings, Mark Johnston’s charge first jinked right and then left when coming under pressure.

The 8-1 shot passed the post half a length ahead of Kessaar and while the two did come close together late on, the placings remained unaltered.

Johnston said: “He won by half a length but PJ (McDonald) said if he stayed straight he’d have won by further.

“The extra furlong has helped him and looking at him I can’t believe he ran twice over five furlongs because he looks nothing like a five-furlong horse.

“It never doesn’t do them any harm running them, though, I’m a great believer in running them.

“I haven’t thought about sending him for the Woodcote (at Epsom), I’ve been thinking we’d send Deep Intrigue for that, but he only won at Beverley and this lad won at York.”

Waiting For Richie (7-1) refused to bend in the concluding Investec Wealth Handicap.

Tom Tate’s charge hit the front racing inside the final furlong and while several challengers came at him, the five-year-old saw them off one by one to prevail under James Sullivan.

Tate said: “He loves it here, he’s bred to win at Derby – his dam is a sister to Commander In Chief.

“It’s a nice way to start the season, and we’ll just look for more of the same.”

El Astronaute reaches for the stars at York
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