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Freedom steps up at Ascot

Steps To Freedom chances his arm at Group Three level in England on Wednesday when he contests the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.

Jessica Harrington's seven-year-old is equally adept over hurdles and on the Flat, but his best form has always been on a sound surface. He gets to illustrate the point in the Sagaro, in which he will be ridden by Britain's champion jockey Richard Hughes.

Steps To Freedom finished third to Parish Hall in a 10-furlong Listed race at the Curragh last time and this is a big step up in trip to two miles, but he won impressively over the distance on the Dundalk all-weather last July.

Mark Johnston's Sir Graham Wade was most progressive last season but cut no ice on his return at Nottingham when well beaten by Testosterone in the Further Flight Stakes.

The Middleham handler said: "You'd have to say he was disappointing on his first run back. I've got to hope really it was just rustiness, but he will need to improve whatever as there's strength in depth in this race.

"It's unlikely that he'd head to the Chester Cup after this. If he didn't win I think we'd have to take stock of the situation and work out a plan. If he went and won he'd be aimed at the Ascot Gold Cup, with probably another run in the Henry II at Sandown in between."

Other horses of note in the 10-strong field include the 2011 winner Askar Tau and Royal Ascot scorer Estimate, trained by Sir Michael Stoute and owned by Her Majesty The Queen.

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