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Astern full steam ahead for Golden Rose

Godolphin trainer John O'Shea cut to the chase: "A good fortnight ahead, and Astern is on for the G1 Golden Rose." No provisos, no contingencies, the colt is aiming for the top this Australian Spring.
J A McGrath

The news should come as no surprise to anybody who watched this hugely talented three-year-old win Saturday's G2 Run To The Rose at Rosehill, Sydney, and merely underlines the confidence behind him this campaign.

"He's a quality horse in a quality year," the trainer declared.

It also dispels any doubts that the step up to 1,400m (7f) could present a challenge, in the eyes of connections. "I'm not too worried about the 1,400," O'Shea said as he digested the narrow but comfortable victory.

"James (McDonald) was rapt when he came back after the race. He's been very bullish about him all along," he added.

The journey between the end of a demanding two-year-old season and the start of a three-year-old campaign can be daunting, but as Astern safely held Star Turn by a long head on the line, it was the proof that he is back, stronger and arguably better than five months ago.

O'Shea has admitted in print that Astern wintered poorly, but that the colt had come back at a significantly heavier body weight. All the benefits of maturity appear to have presented Godolphin with a prime candidate to attempt to emulate Exosphere, who won last year's Golden Rose.

All he needs is a clear run in the lead-up to the Golden Rose.

It is interesting that the jockeys who rode beaten horses, Star Turn and Winx's brother El Divino, are both eager for another crack at Astern. O'Shea, who spoke of Saturday's triumph as "a great team effort" by Godolphin, takes the view, bring them on.

Australia held the spotlight for Godolphin on a weekend when a new star was being hailed in American racing, and a farcical race of tactics brought about an anti-climactic final Sunday feature at Deauville.

Arrogate, trained by Bob Baffert, destroyed a high quality field in the G1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, winning by 13 and a half lengths in 1min 59.36secs, the fastest time ever recorded in the Travers in its 147-year history.

The final feature race at Deauville, the G2 Grand Prix de Deauville, was reduced to farce when none of the four runners wanted to go on early. This resulted in German three-year-old Savoir Vivre reluctantly leading -- but attempting to pull himself up on more than one occasion.

A more sensible tempo prevailed with around 1,000m to travel, but only after Christophe Soumillon had taken Garlingari to the outside rail down the back straight, a move that brought gasps from the holiday crowd.

To his credit, in the final sprint to the line, Savoir Vivre prevailed by a neck from Siljan's Saga, with Erupt a disappointing third, a length and a half further back.