Battaash goes for fourth King George
In both the Goodwood Cup and Sussex Stakes, the ultimately cosy winners, Stradivarius and Mohaather, having been hemmed in by a combination of the course’s unique topography and the way the races were run, still had a lot to do a furlong out. Like all the best books, the outcome had to wait until the last page.
That should very much not be the case today when the Charlie Hills-trained sprinter Battaash attempts to follow Stradivarius into the history books by winning a fourth King George Qatar Stakes.
In this extraordinary season, many of the key races have been dominated by six-year-olds; Enable, Stradivarius and Battaash, whose King’s Stand win at Royal Ascot gave him a clean sweep of Europe’s top five-furlong sprints.
Occasionally we ask ourselves which Battaash will turn up; the very good one or the brilliant one. Hills insists that the truly brilliant one probably only turns up once a season.
But we have never had to ask that question in this Group Two at Goodwood and against only six rivals – the smallest King George field he has faced – and none of them of the calibre of either Profitable,
Take Cover or the Australian mare Houtzen, the horses that have chased him home in the past three years, even Battaash in very ordinary mode should still win this.
He loves Goodwood and, when he beat Take Cover four lengths in this race two years ago, he posted one of his best performances, up there with his Prix de l’Abbaye fourlength defeat of Marsha, his three and three quarter-length beating of Soldier’s Call in last year’s Nunthorpe or his two and a quarter-length victory over Equilateral at Ascot last month.
Some attributed his King’s Stand win – at last – to the advantage conferred on such an edgy character by the fact that there was no crowd. If that was the case it should equally play to his favour today, 24 hours before the first crowd is allowed back on to a racecourse tomorrow.
“He’s in great form,” Hills said. “He has so much tactical speed and he’s not a big horse, so he handles the undulations and when he rolls off the hill he gets the others out of their comfort zone. It’s his home track. He’s got a penalty, but he’s done that twice before.”
Jim Crowley is looking forward to the ride. “He’s the fastest I’ve ridden by far,” he said. “He is the ‘Batmobile’. He’s a very special horse that has become synonymous with Goodwood. It would mean the world to everyone involved with him if he can win it a fourth time, but we’ve got to go out and get the job done. It’s hard enough to ride one winner at Goodwood.”
A bigger question is what is likely to follow him home and Liberty Beach, a course winner himself, looks the most probable candidate as the form of his Sandown second to A’Ali was franked when the latter won in Ireland last time out.
In the Unibet Golden Mile, Prompting can make the long journey from Yorkshire pay off for David O’Meara.
Clean sweep: Battaash’s win in the King’s Stand added to his five-furlong successes