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Aesterius aiming to fire in Dragon date

Aesterius aiming to fire in Dragon date
Aesterius aiming to fire in Dragon date

Fresh from an exceptional Royal Ascot, James Doyle and Wathnan Racing will search for more success when Aesterius heads to Sandown for the Dragon Stakes on Friday.

Archie Watson’s son of Mehmas impressed when a ready winner at Bath on debut, earning him a spot in the Norfolk Stakes for his second start where he ran with real credit to finish just a length and a half behind taking winner Shareholder.

William Buick was in the saddle at the Royal meeting but Wathnan number one Doyle is back in the plate this time around, as the colt drops to Listed company attempting to regain the winning thread.

“He came out of Ascot in good form and Archie seems happy with him,” said Wathnan’s racing adviser Richard Brown.

“He obviously ran well at Ascot and I think the stiff five furlongs will be right up his alley. This should be ideal for him before I’m sure we will be stepping up in trip at some stage.

“It’s a Listed race so it is going to be tough and there are plenty of unexposed ones in there which could be anything. We won’t be taking anything for granted but hopefully he can run a good race.”

Doyle has also picked up the ride on Irish raider Run For Oscar in the Coral Marathon.

Charles Byrnes’ nine-year-old has been a regular visitor to UK shores over the years and the 2022 Cesarewitch winner has the opportunity to build on his recent Queen Alexandra Stakes second in a race where Hughie Morrison’s Quickthorn and Alan King’s Trueshan set a notable standard.

Run for Oscar winning the Cesarewitch at Newmarket
Run for Oscar winning the Cesarewitch at Newmarket (Tim Goode/PA)

Byrnes said: “I was delighted with the run in Ascot and he has come out of the race really well.

“There aren’t many opportunities for him off his rating, so we thought this race was suitable and we would take our chance.

“Even though he ran a great race at Ascot the handicapper still thinks 103 is his level. He can contest the top races but he will probably come up a bit short in them. I know there’s a few with a higher rating in this but I think he is in with a fighting chance.”

The other Listed action on the card is the Davies Insurance Solutions Gala Stakes, where Doyle will renew his association with Simon and Ed Crisford’s Knight having been absent for both starts so far this term.

A first shot at 10 furlongs ended in disappointment in the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot, but connections are keen to persevere at that trip for now.

“He ran at Ascot a couple of weeks ago and ran respectably but from his draw, he was always stuck out the back and couldn’t really get competitive,” said Chris Wall, racing manager for owners KHK Racing.

“He stayed on and ran a solid enough race, which in a way was almost his seasonal debut because his first race at Doncaster back at the beginning of the season was a bit of a non-event, so we’ll take that as the starting point and we’ll hope for him to run a bit better.

“So we’re expecting a better run from him this time. It looked at Ascot as though the mile and a quarter was within his scope, so we’ll know a bit more. Sandown is obviously a fairly searching mile and a quarter so we’ll see if he stays, but I think we’ll see a better performance from him this time than we’ve seen so far.”

Faring much better in the Wolferton was Savvy Victory, who galloped on to finish an honourable fourth to Israr in his reappearance at the Royal fixture.

Sean Woods’ five-year-old now follows the same path as 12 months ago as the defending champion seeks a repeat of his taking victory in this race in 2023.

Savvy Victory winning at Sandown in 2023
Savvy Victory winning at Sandown in 2023 (Nigel French/PA)

Woods said: “He had been off for a long time going into Ascot, it was a very good run and we’ve been pleased with him at home since, so it is a natural progression to go for this race.

“He’s a much happier horse since being gelded in the winter and his first run at Ascot was very pleasing, but he had pleased us all the way into Ascot so it was not a surprise.

“He’s worked nicely since then and I’m very pleased with him. Any rain would be a help because he enjoys soft ground and he deserves to be in this race, he’s one of the higher-rated horses in there.

“I’m just pleased to have him in good order and hopefully this is a progressive step and whatever happens we can move on to Group races afterwards.”

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