Battaash dazzzles at Goodwood to set up Lady Aurelia clash

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Fri 4 Aug 2017

Watch how Battaash left his rivals reeling with a tremendous display of speed in the King George Stakes on Friday, listen to Charles Hills's reaction and read Geoffrey Riddle's report from Goodwood.

By Geoffrey Riddle at Goodwood

The Qatar King George Stakes is only a Group Two race but Battaash unleashed a performance of true Group One quality when running away with the feature event at Goodwood on Friday.

The presence of owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid in the parade ring was an indicator that this most progressive sprinter was primed to produce something special, and so it proved with a victory over last year’s King’s Stand Stakes victor Profitable by two and quarter lengths.

With Sir Mark Prescott’s Marsha trailing in by another three quarters of a length, it was no surprise that the winning time of 58.51s was favourably comparable with the record of 56.00s. On tacky, rain-softened ground that Ryan Moore had described as “bad” earlier in the day, that is some performance.

Jockey Jim Crowley has ridden Group One sprinters in the past, and admitted the Charles Hills-trained Battaash was top of the pile.

“I don’t think I have ridden a better sprinter,” Crowley said. “I rode Battaash in work at Charlie's ten days ago and it was like riding a motorbike up the gallops.”

The gelded son of Dark Angel is going to have to be if he is to make a mark in a clash for the ages on the Knavesmire on August 25.

King’s Stand Stakes winner Lady Aurelia lies in wait as the 7-4 favourite for York’s Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, but she is as short as Evens having beaten Profitable at Royal Ascot by an easy three lengths. Battaash is no better than 9-4.

Longer term, Hills is looking to showcase the considerable talents of Battaash abroad with The Everest, Australia’s new $AUS10million contest over 6f in October, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar over 5f in November, both possibilities.

“Bring it on,” Crowley said with a grin. “It would be lovely to win a Group One for the boss.”

Hills knows what a top sprinter looks like, having campaigned champion Muhaarar to four Group One wins in 2015. Muhaarar was by Oasis Dream, and ran over seven furlongs and a mile during his career before he was prematurely smuggled away to stud at the end of this three-year-old career. In comparison, Battaash could be around for several seasons as a gelding and Hills is looking forward to seeing more of his more one-dimensional talent.

“This horse is a serious speedball, whereas Muhaarar would have got further," he said.

Listen: Charlie Hills talks about Battaash after his Goodwood win

"He won over seven furlongs and I am sure he would have got a mile had we gone that way.”

Battaash was hardly straightforward as a juvenile. He was edgy and warm in the paddock when third to Mrs Danvers in the Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket on his final start in Ocotber. He was on his toes and raced freely when he won at Listed level in June, but looked a much more polished performer when he lowered the track record in the Group 3 Coral Charge in Esher last month.

“I never felt I was in trouble at any stage and he has so much natural speed,” Crowley added. “He can be a little bit hot and we have to go early but the horse is growing up and seems more relaxed now.”

Bataash was drawn the closest to the far rail on stall one, and the field was drawn to him like a magnet in search of the fresh strip of ground there that will could well produce the Qatar Stewards’ Cup winner on Saturday.

He was given a tow through the early stages by David Allan and dual winner Take Cover but two furlongs out Battaash cruised to the front.

Marsha and Profitable struggled to go with him and as Crowley tracked further over toward the rail Profitable was squeezed up on to Marsha and Luke Morris. It mattered little, and when Battaash passed the furlong marker Crowley gave his mount the incentive to finish the race, and it was all over.

Of the beaten connections, it was Sir Mark Prescott who was the most impressed with the winner. “Marsha ran very well. She was a bit squeezed for room when it mattered. I thought she and Profitable would finish within inches of each other but I don’t think they would have beaten the winner, who looked very good.”

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