GB: At last year’s Qatar Goodwood Festival, Battaash became the first horse to win three Qatar King George Stakes – and he is reportedly in flying form ready for next week’s bid to break his own record at his favourite venue.
After finishing second twice to Blue Point, Battaash finally won at Royal Ascot when putting in a devastating performance in last month’s King’s Stand and his trainer Charlie Hills believes his stable star is in great order ahead of a potential record fourth victory in the G2 highlight at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
“At Ascot, I thought he always looked in command,” said the trainer. “He travelled sweetly through the race, picked up and won pretty comfortably.
“Battaash came out of the King’s Stand at Ascot really well,” Hills added. “He has been fresh since then and he goes into Goodwood in similar form to last year. He had his first swinging canter back this morning and we were delighted with him. I couldn’t be happier with him at this stage.”
Having been a tricky horse to keep a lid on in his younger days, Battaash has really matured.
“He is very straightforward these days,” HIlls said. “We have got a good routine with him now – we have got a good team of people that ride him and look after him. Victoria rides him most mornings with Dane (O’Neill) riding him in his fast work before races.
“The lack of crowd I think helps all the horses. Having said that, when he was clear at Ascot, he looked around as if to say, ‘where’s all my crowd gone?’”
Battaash is seeking a record fourth win in the 5f event and Hills believes Goodwood is a track that suits his speedball, saying: “Goodwood is a speed track – you go down a hill and that really plays into his favour. He is so quick mid-race that he tends to get his rivals uncomfortable with the pace he’s going and that is really where it plays into his advantage.”
Two years ago Battaash put in one of his most impressive performances when winning for the second time at Goodwood when he won by four lengths. However, Hills believes the race left its mark when Battaash ran below par in York’s Nunthorpe Stakes next time out.
“He had quite a hard race,” said Hills. “The ground was on the dead side that day which meant he ran quite flat in the Nunthorpe on his next start. We were slightly conscious of this last year, so we let him go through the motions more naturally and so we will do the same again this year.”
Now in his fifth season, Battaash holds a very special place with all the team at Weatherdown House. “For me, he is a horse of a lifetime,” said Hills.
“Very rarely would you get a horse as good as he is – he has regularly been the top-rated sprinter on Timeform. He has not been the most straightforward through his career and there have been times earlier on when he was very tricky to manage, but it’s great credit to all the team to have turned him into the superstar he is.”
• Find out more about the Qatar Goodwood Festival at the Goodwood website