Day At The Track

Astronaut has family on his side

01:52 AM 08 Jul 2010 NZST
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Astronaut hasn't got the best form of the youngsters engaged in tomorrow night's Yeomans Slate & Stone Vicbred Super Series 2YO Colts and Geldings Final, but what he does have is the most impressive harness racing family tree.

The Hugh Cathels-trained gelding is a half-sister to a former Vicbred two-year-old champion in Our Maid Marianne and a half-brother to Safari, the recently retired winner of 28 races and $535,000.

Bettors Delight gelding Astronaut is yet to make the impression of his high-profile siblings in four starts, but his Cranbourne trainer is convinced he has inherited the family ability.

"He's the most frustrating young horse I've ever had, but as much as we can ascertain, he's got as much ability as any young horse I've ever had," Cathels said.

"His potential is absolutely untapped. He's never been bottomed in his life, he doesn't know how to put in hard enough to hurt himself, and he's never finished a run tired, or been tired at the end of trackwork.

"But when he gets his act together I think he's going to be a very nice horse. He's still a little bit immature physically and very, very immature mentally, but we think he's going to make a pretty nice horse."

That Astronaut's Vicbred heat second placing to Devilish Smile is the only time he's filled a top-three spot doesn't bother Cathels, who is thrilled to have him in his Cranbourne stable.

Cathels trained Astronaut's mother, Star Chaser, who battled injury to win seven of 29 starts in the late 1990s. He also had a high opinion of the daughter of Torado Hanover and always wanted to train one of her sons.

So it was with much excitement that Cathels accepted when Star Chaser's owner Helen Head earlier this year offered him Astronaut to train.

The fact he even made it to the racetrack is achievement enough. Before he had turned one he had broken his jaw and an elbow and developed OCD in his hocks.

"Helen decided after that he wasn't a sales horse, so she leased him to me," Cathels said. "I gelded him straight away and got him broken in and gave him a bit of an early prep.

"He didn't want to go at all and I probably would have sacked him if it wasn't for his breeding and the fact people tell me Bettors Delights are much better at three."

Cathels thereforeisn't confident ofAstronaut upstagingthe likes ofAPG champion Royal Verdictorclassy colt Devilish Smile intomorrow night'sfinal, but hehasn't given up all hope either.

The speedy beginner, who finished sixth behind Modern Slippa in last week's semi final, has drawn gate three for the race to be run at 8.42pm. He willcome into two if emergency Ollington doesn't gain a start.

"We're not going there expecting him to win, but he's not without a chance," Cathels said. "He's got gate speed, so if he comes out well and got a smother behind the leader or something like that he'd have a little bit of a chance."

Last chance for Derby hopefuls

The Seelite Windows & Doors Victoria Trotters Derby campaign of a couple of high-profile locals reaches the desperation stage at Cranbourne this Saturday night.

Reigning Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown champion Tuhimata Glass and New South Wales Trotters Derby winner Backas Cobber both failed to qualify for the final when they missed a top-four finish last night at Geelong.

Tuhimata Glass finished sixth and Backas Cobber eighth in the heat won in devastating style by Kiwi raider Miami H.

They must now back-up in Saturday night's final heat if they are to secure a spot in the Group 1 final at Maryborough on Sunday, July 18.

There waiting for them will be the ultra-consistent Im Chilled and the first two home in the New South Wales Trotters Oaks, Good Thanks and Elusive Charm.

A top-four finish is what's required to claim a spot in the $75,000 decider.

Progressing with Miami H last night were Jingling Silver, who produced a huge effort to finish second after galloping at the start, Vicbred champion Mister Castleton (third) and improver Enjoy A Malibu (fourth).

That quartet joins Rostevarren, Kahdon, My High Expectations and Cameos Moment, who qualified via last Saturday night's initial qualifier at Bendigo, in the final.

The Seelite Windows & Doors Victoria Trotters Derby Final will be run alongside the iconic Redwood Classic for two-year-olds at Maryborough's all-trotting extravaganza on Sunday, July 18.

That is the second day of the popular carnival, which commences with an eight-race card featuring the Alabar Farms Matchmaker Mile and Harness Racing International Gold Bracelet on Friday, July 16.

Brad BISHOP

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