Potter: How to treat $101 winner Astro Castro next start

IT was the win that astounded trainer, jockey, connections & punters alike.

But what can be made of Astro Castro’s remarkable debut down the Flemington straight on Saturday?

The previously unseen three-year-old gelding, trained by Alan Hunter, was sent around at $101 against a group of respectable opponents over 1100m in the final event on the Flemington card.

So what did the win tell us about Astro Castro and his opponents going forward?

“On face value, looking at the raw numbers and not thinking any further, it looks a really good race,” Melbourne form expert Darren Potter said.

But there was one factor present at Flemington that has Potter unwilling to fully commit to that position.

“I have a feeling the wind played a significant factor in the times so I’m going to hold fire on a firm judgement until the full data from Vince Accardi is available,” he said.

“But if you convert the 1100m time from this race into a 1200m time, they’ve run a full second quicker than Mighty Like did over that trip earlier in the day.

“They’ve also run 1.3 seconds quicker for the last 600m, which is eight lengths faster.

“I don’t think they’re eight lengths better horses than Mighty Like, Voodoo Lad and those horses.

“But let’s say the wind has had an eight-length effect on their performance, it is still a substantial run on debut to match horses of that calibre.”

Potter also said the beaten brigade in the Astro Castro race should not be completely discounted despite on face value being beaten by a $101 shot.

“Take Tyrannize, the second-placed horse. He is a  bit of a thief but on his day is not a bad horse and his previous peak was down the Flemington straight,” he said.

“If we assume Tyrannize was able to put his best foot forward on Saturday and we like that up with Astro Castro, it makes the winner’s performance all the more meritorious.

“It’s a run a couple of lengths above benchmark at minimum.

“We also have to say now that Astro Castro’s starting price of $101 is completely meaningless. The relatively low profile of the trainer doesn’t matter either.

“When horse appears next, the market will assess it off merits of Saturday’s win. I imagine it will be well in the early market and then other factors will take play as they usually do.”

But it impossible to discuss the performance of Astro Castro without referring to a long-standing issue in Victorian racing regarding horses unseen at public trials before their debut.

The thoughts of Victorian punters about the eligibility of unseen horses to debut anywhere in the state, let alone in Saturday races, are well known.

But Potter was quick to clarify that he harbours no resentment towards trainers or connections who use the rules as they stand to their advantage.

“Good on the trainer and connections, well done to them. I’ve got no problem with any of them,” Potter said.

“My issue from the race on Saturday is with administrators. It is a tragedy unseen horses can be allowed to appear in last leg of a Saturday quaddie.

“There’s no way a horse should appear in a Saturday race unseen.

“I can reluctantly understand how it happens in two-year-old race but there’s literally dozens of races Astro Castro could have appeared in across the state.

“This is the sort of thing that makes industry lose customers.”

- Matthew Taylor. Twitter: @MattyA_Taylor