Yorkshire Jockeys Horse Racing

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DANIEL KUBLER is hoping a plan can come to fruition this Saturday when Astro King returns to York for the 64th running of the John Smith’s Cup.

The famous extended mile-and-a-quarter handicap has been on the minds of joint-trainers Daniel and Claire Kubler since Astro King finished fourth – despite a less than clear passage – in the one-mile Sky Bet Hambleton Handicap at the Dante Festival in May.

It was a highly promising performance from the six-year-old gelding on what was his first start since joining the Kubler team from the Newmarket stables of Sir Michael Stoute.

Subsequently, the Royal Hunt Cup didn’t pan out as intended for Astro King, but that hasn’t dampened connections’ enthusiasm ahead of his second shot at the £200,000 John Smith’s Cup.

Based in Upper Lambourn, Daniel Kubler said: “If he hadn’t run in the Hunt Cup, what price would he be for this?

“That first run for us at York was very encouraging. Straight after the race, we were like, ‘here’s a plan’ – because he finished off the race really nicely. So, we sort of always had it in our minds that probably Hunt Cup and then this looked very logical from that point onwards.”

Astro King was the 4/1 joint-favourite for the 2021 John Smith’s Cup but came home in mid-division after flattening out in the closing stages. Since then, he has only raced over shorter trips – mainly at a mile.

But Kubler said: “Our analytics and stuff that we do would suggest that he should get a mile and a quarter. It’s definitely something that’s worth exploring further. I suppose the only thing is we wouldn’t want loads of rain. That would be our slight one, we’re a little bit concerned about.”

As for Astro King failing to land a blow in the Royal Hunt Cup, Kubler added: “I think, tactically, we’d planned on doing something and it didn’t really work out. He came out of that race really well and we’re really happy with how he’s trained at home since. He’s clearly got a lot of ability but probably needs things to fall right a little bit.”

Jockey Tom Eaves has been booked with Richard Kingscote – who has been on board both of the horse’s previous starts this season – bound for elsewhere.

Kubler said: “We thought we’d move fairly early on that because this Saturday can be pretty complicated. Tom knows his way round York.”

York’s latest two-day fixture commences on Friday afternoon with the first – the William Hill Epic Value handicap – scheduled for 2.05pm.