El Astronaute a Solid Each Way Selection in King George Stakes

The King George Stakes this afternoon is all about Battaash and anything other than the speedball winning the five furlong Group Two race would be a bit of a shock. He is priced by the bookmakers as though losing is out of the question, generally around 2/7 with the rest of the field available at double figures with the exception of El Astronaute, who is a shade shorter at 9/1. From a betting point of view, there is no value in backing Battaash at all, but El Astronaute is a horse that is interesting from an each way, or place only perspective later today.

Let’s first talk about Battaash and why he is so short in the betting. He has 3lb or more to give to the rest of the field at the weights as he is penalised here, and the difference between him and El Astronaute is 3lb. However, even when you compare Battaash to the next best rated in the field, he has 12lb or more in hand over them, so is still very well in on official figures. This season we have seen him win well at Haydock before a very good second to Blue Point at Royal Ascot. He has also won this race for the past two seasons and you could argue that it is at Goodwood where we have seen him at his very best. It is easy to see why this horse is so short in the betting, he deserves to be a clear favourite, and the expectation is that he wins the race.

If you want a negative for him, and the reason why I am going to side with El Astronaute each way instead of backing him place only to come behind Battaash it is because the favourite has been below par in the past when being restless before a race. We haven’t seen that from him this season, but it is something he has done before, and who knows what will happen with him on a warm day with a big crowd in attendance. If I was taking the short price on offer about a Battaash win, I would do so after seeing him on his way to the start in good order, not before. He could lose the race at this stage, but the chances are that he will go down fine, and once he gets over that, he shouldn’t have too much else to worry about when looking through this field.

Now let’s look at El Astronaute, who is the second best horse in the race on official figures. Horses will run to their marks, sometimes go better and sometimes go worse, and with El Astronaute I think we are going to see him run up to his mark at least, he may go a little better. The horse likes this track which is the first thing to say, finishing first and second in two visits to this meeting, both of those were competitive sprint handicaps, which is the level he was running at up until the end of last season.

He stepped up to win a listed race then, and this season he has progressed even further. In terms of what he has achieved so far this season, this is both his best season yet and also his best preparation for this meeting, so there are two positives to hold onto there.

His last three runs have all been in Ireland, and they have all caught the eye. The first was a listed win at Cork, his second at that level and I thought from then on we would not be seeing him in those big handicaps anymore, he would stick to listed and group races but I was wrong. Next time out he went to The Curragh and landed a big field handicap by one length off a mark of 106. To do that, you need to be a group rated horse in my opinion, I thought that was a fantastic run by him.

He then returned to The Curragh for a Group Two sprint where he finished a very good second behind Soffia. That was a third win in a row for his rival Soffia that day, that is a horse who is progressing up the rankings quickly and will no doubt be seen in a Group One next time out, so there was no shame in losing to that horse and by the margin he did.

To me, all of that brings him here in the form of his life to a track that he loves. To some extent we can forget about beating Battaash, because either Battaash will win or he will beat himself in the preliminaries. Of the rest, El Astronaute is rated the best, and looks to have the most chance of running up to his rating. While the race is dominated by the price of Battaash, his odds mean there has to be value elsewhere for punters and when looking through, it is El Astronaute where I believe the value is.

I’m not overly confident of the win, but a place looks likely and when he is nearly double figure odds, there is enough juice in his price to back him each way in the Group Two contest at Goodwood on Friday.