Royal Ascot Day 1: here’s the takeaway as Battaash blitzes them behind closed doors

Horse Racing Battaash Royal Ascot King's Stand Stakes
Battaash (Jim Crowley) wins the King’s Stand Stakes: “an amazing horse”.
Photo: Racenews

By Nicholas Godfrey

So you know Battaash was brilliant in the King’s Stand and Circus Maximus toughed it out in the Queen Anne on Day 1 at Royal Ascot. In fact, you’ve probably seen all the races – but here’s some other stuff you might like to know.

What’s going on?

Charlie Hills: Battaash is ‘the horse of a lifetime’

At the age of six, Battaash finally nailed a Royal Ascot victory in the King’s Stand Stakes after two runner-up efforts behind Blue Point. “Battaash is just an amazing horse,” said trainer Charlie Hills. “Everyone in the yard is so lucky to have a horse like him – he is the horse of a lifetime.

Glorious Goodwood beckons. “I would be really proud if he could win the King George Stakes four times,” added Hills. “It would be a highlight of the season if he could do that.”

Jim Crowley: ‘Battaash is my number one’

The former champion jockey, who had a first-day treble, paid tribute to the blistering Battaash. “I would say he’s number one in my career,” said the retained rider for Sheikh Hamdan, in whose colours he also partnered Mutakhayyel (Buckingham Palace Handicap) and Nazeef (Duke of Cambridge). 

“He’s one of the best sprinters in recent years,” added Crowley. “He’s got so much natural talent. OK, he can throw the odd one in now and again, but when he’s good, he’s very, very good. He’s just a super horse. 

“He is just such a naturally fast horse, it’s hard to find anything quick enough to lead him.”

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Tough, brave – and lazy, that’s Circus Maximus

“He has pace, he’s tough and he’s brave,” said Aidan O’Brien, after welcoming his 71st Royal Ascot winner in the Queen Anne. “A mile is his trip; the problem is he’s lazy, which is why he wears blinkers. It’s only when the tempo is really strong like that he really focuses.

“The problem with mile-and-a-quarter and mile-and-a-half races is the tempo is not strong enough and you can’t get him to focus. Like a fighter, if you don’t get his blood up he doesn’t really bother.”

Sussex Stakes next for Queen Anne winner

Glorious Goodwood and a clash with Irish Guineas winner Siskin is on the cards for Circus Maximus, aboard whom Ryan Moore got a two-day whip ban.

Horse Racing Circus Maximus Royal Ascot
Circus Maximus (Ryan Moore, right) beats Terebellum in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Photo: Racenews

Sussex Stakes betting (Paddy Power): 7-4 Siskin, 3 Pinatubo, 9-2 Circus Maximus, Wichita, 10 Kameko, Palace Pier, 12 Threat, 14 Nazeef, 20 Earthlight, Victor Ludorum.

Oaks confirmed for Frankly Darling

Ribblesdale Stakes winner Frankly Darling is now second favourite for the Investec Oaks. “I don’t think I am spoiled for choice for the Oaks,” said trainer John Gosden. “If I have an Oaks filly, it’s her.”

Horse Racing Frankly Darling Royal Ascot Ribblesdale Stakes
Frankly Darling (Frankie Dettori) wins the Ribblesdale Stakes. Photo: Racenews

Frankie Dettori, who performed a flying dismount for the TV cameras, added: “I guess it is all systems go for Epsom for the Oaks.”

Oaks betting (Coral): 6-4 Love, 100-30 Frankly Darling, 5 Peaceful, 7 Franconia, Quadrilateral, 8 Fancy Blue, Petite 10 Born With Pride, Domino Darling, 14 Run Wild, 16 Ennistymon, Khayzaraan, 20 bar.

Pyledriver 14-1 for Derby

Derby-winning jockey Martin Dwyer, who scored at Epsom in 2006, is on the way back to the Investec-sponsored Classic on July 4 after partnering Pyledriver for his father-in-law William Muir for a surprise triumph in the G2 KIng Edward VII Stakes.

Horse Racing Pyledriver Royal Ascot King Edward VII Stakes
Pyledriver (Martin Dwyer) springs a surprise in the King Edward VII Stakes.
Photo: Racenews

Quotes of 14-1 are generally available about Pyledriver, who had Coolmore’s 3.4 million guineas colt Mogul among those behind. The odds-on favourite looked one-paced.

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Derby betting (Coral): 7-2 Kameko, English King, 5 Military March, 14 Mogul, Pyledriver, 14 Vatican City, 16 Russian Emperor, Waldkonig, 20 bar.

Shall we talk about it?

Aidan O’Brien (Circus Maximus’s trainer): “He’s a very good horse and has a great pedigree. He has pace, he’s tough and he’s brave. He’s a trademark Galileo with loads of speed.
“I think he is sometimes an underestimated horse. He’s a very solid horse and his best form is at a mile which makes him all the more valuable and interesting. He’s able to jump and travel early and he loves getting eyeballed. He toughs it out really well.

“The pace of the mile races gets his blood up and I’d say the Sussex Stakes is the race for him. He’s very comfortable racing around a bend as well.”

Ryan Moore (Circus Maximus’s jockey): “He’s been a really good horse – that’s his third Group 1. They had their chance to come and beat him and he just battled away and fought all the way to the line. I’m delighted with what he’s done today.”

John Gosden (Terebellum’s trainer): “She ran a great race. They didn’t go any pace, which probably played against her as she gets a mile and a quarter. She hit the front and the other one just came back on the run to the line under a rousing ride.”

John Gosden (Frankly Darling’s trainer): “She’s still learning; as you can see, she was a little wild, there’s a bit of Frankel about her – ‘I want to run and it’s my business if I want to run, not the jockey’s’ – but she showed an awful lot of class today. I think we have one Oaks filly only and we don’t have anything remotely related to a Derby horse. That is the way it is.”

Charlie Hills (Battaash’s trainer): “He was really on his ‘A’ game today. He was beautifully relaxed before the race and as soon as the gates opened you could see he was going to be very hard to beat.
“I was slightly tense, but I’ve lived every emotion with him now. We have been beaten here twice before and three times, I don’t think I could have dealt with that.
“We always think his ace card from the two to the one-furlong pole is that he can get horses off the bridle and he gets them all going whilst he is still cruising. Battaash is a very hard horse to beat when he is like that.

Jim Crowley (Battaash’s jockey): “Obviously it was his first run and he was fresh. When he hit the gates I was just merely a passenger and just trying to get him to go as steady as I could basically to save something for the finish.
“My only concern was to try to get the fractions right on him because obviously he was quite keen today. There was nothing quick enough to lead him, and I wanted to save enough for the finish, which worked out.
“Every time he wins, this horse, it feels special, because when he wins, he wins well. He’s a superstar and I’m very grateful to be riding him.”

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