John Quinn is hopeful of another blockbuster Saturday at Haydock Park, as he aims to win the feature Group Three Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes for a second time with Safe Voyage tomorrow (Saturday 29th May).
The Malton-based trainer enjoyed what he described as a ‘terrific day’ when winning the Group Two Casumo Best Odds Guaranteed Temple Stakes at the track last week with Liberty Beach and Safe Voyage will aim to win the seven-furlong contest for the second time in a row, having won it when last run in 2019.
The eight year old has a tremendous record at Haydock Park, winning four of his five starts at the track, and Quinn is hopeful of another good display. He said: “He loves Haydock Park and he’s got to carry a penalty here but we’ve been very pleased with him this week and we expect him to run well. He’s very good round a bend, particularly a left-handed one, so let’s hope he can win the race again.”
The race is an open one and includes the William Haggas-trained With Thanks, who signed off with a career best effort to win the Group Three Athasi Stakes at Naas last November.
That win came in heavy conditions and Haggas is hopeful that the forecast soft ground will play into his filly’s hands here. He said: “I hope she’ll enjoy the ground, but she will need her first run.
“I’m trying to get her to Ascot for the Duke of Cambridge Stakes so she’ll probably need this but she’s done very well so far and I’m hopeful she’ll run a very good race. She’s much better than last year and much stronger and she’s very genuine.”
Another interesting runner is Toro Strike, who was ultra-progressive for the Richard Fahey team last year. The four year old impressed when making a winning return in a conditions event at Thirsk last month and his trainer is hopeful that he can build on that here provided he handles the conditions.
He said: “He’s in good form and as you can imagine the ground is going to be desperate everywhere. If he copes with that, he should go well and it was a good comeback run at Thirsk last time out. If he can continue to progress like he did last year he must run well.”
The John Of Gaunt Stakes is one of two Group contests on a high-quality seven race card, which also includes the Group Three Betway Pinnacle Stakes for fillies and mares over a mile and a half.
There are several interesting runners in the six-strong line-up, including the Jedd O’Keeffe-trained Salsada. The four year old improved at a rate of knots last year, winning three races on the bounce including at Haydock over a mile and a quarter, and her trainer is hopeful that she can continue to progress this term.
He said: “We’re really happy with her. We’ve been waiting for some give in the ground which we should get all being well. The race should suit and we think the step up to a mile and a half is going to be right up her street.
“On ratings, she’s got a bit to find with some of them but we think there’s further improvement in her yet and she’s improved from age three to four, so we’re hoping we can get a place at worst. All through last year she just kept improving and improving and she’s a very big filly so we think that the extra time will have helped her strengthen and hopefully improve.”
One runner who will head here in good form is the five year old La Lune, who was a gutsy winner of the Listed Nottinghamshire Oaks at Nottingham last month.
However, her trainer Henry Candy feels that she may struggle on the soft conditions. He said: “We’re heading for this race in the hope of some more black type but she’ll hate the ground, so we’re just hoping we might get a place.”
Also on the card is the Listed Betway Achilles Stakes over five furlongs and the admirable veteran El Astronaute (4-1). The eight year old has been a fine servant over the years and having made a winning return at Chester last time out, trainer John Quinn is hopeful that this versatile type can produce another good display here.
He said: “He’s come out of Chester very well and he’s hopefully got every chance. He’s won around bends and he’s won in straight lines as well, so there’s no worries. He’ll handle cut in the ground and we’re hoping for another good run from him.”