Royal Ascot: Battaash 'Moving As Well As Ever' Ahead Of King's Stand Title Defense - Horse Racing News


The world’s top-rated sprinter, Battaash, leads the Royal Ascot charge this week for Shadwell at the iconic meeting, headlining the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, a race he won in 2020—one of a leading six victories for the powerhouse operation at last year’s global spectacular. The famed blue and white silks of the late His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum will feature formidably once again, but all focus on Day One of the five-day showcase will be on the aforementioned champion.

Charlie Hills-trained Battaash will have a tall order in what is the day’s third of seven fixtures, but he has been backed to 15/8 favoritism on the market, as of Monday morning. Owing to a miniscule joint fracture over the winter, he missed a prep run, which would likely have come in the Group 2 Temple Stakes—a race the now-7-year-old won in 2018 and 2019 prior to finishing second in the King’s Stand to retired rival Blue Point. Last year, he won the King’s Stand in his first start of 2020, commencing a perfect 3-for-3 season that included a fourth consecutive triumph in Goodwood’s King George Qatar Stakes (G2) and a second conquering of York’s Nunthorpe (G1).

Battaash has drawn barrier nine of 16 in the straight five-furlong dash, with flashy upstart filly Winter Power (9/2), G1 July Cup winner Oxted (15/2) and G1 Al Quoz Sprint victor Extravagant Kid (8/1) appearing the major dangers. He reunites with Shadwell’s first jockey, Jim Crowley, who has been aboard for all four of his Group 1 victories.

“It has been well documented that he had a minor injury at the end of last year and he was at Shadwell for the whole of the winter, but everybody has been very happy with his work in the last three weeks and Charles Hills feels he has been moving as well as ever,” said Angus Gold, longtime racing manager for Shadwell. “From what they can see at home, he doesn’t appear to have lost his speed, so hopefully he can get back to his best to defend his title.”

Less than half Battaash’s age, but nearly as exciting on the day will be John Gosden-trained sophomore Mostahdaf, who figures well in the 3-year-old-restricted Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes just 40 minutes later. A stunning homebred son of the great Frankel and a half-brother to late-blooming Group 1 winner Nazeef—victorious last year in Royal Ascot’s Duke of Cambridge (G2)—the dark bay colt is unbeaten from three tries, including Sandown’s Heron Stakes (Listed) over soft going. In 2018, Gosden pulled off the Heron-St James’s Palace double with Without Parole.

“It is obviously a huge step up in class,” Gold said. “He is a half-brother to Nazeef, who won the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at this meeting last year, before going on to become a dual Group 1 winner, and this horse has won his only three starts to date, with his latest performance being a game effort in a Listed race at Sandown Park. Obviously, he lacks the experience of some of these, particularly as he has only had one previous race on the grass, but John Gosden has been very happy with his progress since Sandown and obviously wouldn’t be running him in this grade if he didn’t think he had a chance. It would be great if he was able to make the big jump up in class.”

Mostahdaf teams with Crowley from barrier one of the baker’s dozen and is currently second choice at 5/1 on the market astern Guineas winner Poetic Flare (3/1). In what appears a deep renewal, others who figure well are Group 2 winner Battleground (13/2) for Ballydoyle, Godolphin’s Heron runner-up Highland Avenue (7/1) and Irish G1 winners Thunder Moon (10/1) and Lucky Vega (15/2).

Well-regarded Owen Burrows pupil Dawaam (post 7, Crowley) steps up in the Wolferton Stakes (Listed), a race that has outperformed its grade in recent years, having been won by multiple G1 winner Addeybb in 2019. In 2020, G1 winner Sir Dragonet and G1-placed Regal Reality both placed in the 10-furlong test.

By Kitten’s Joy out of G1 American Oaks winner Nereid, synthetic surface-loving Dawaam is 4-for-7 and has yet to transfer winning form to the grass. He is currently a bit of an outsider at 18/1 in a 14-horse field that includes G1 Dubai Turf-placed Felix (15/2), multiple G2 winner Stormy Antarctic (14/1) and G3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy winner Volcanic Sky (25/1). Improving Meld Stakes (G3) winner Patrick Sarsfield (4/1) heads the market.

“(Dawaam) is a frustrating horse in that he has a great deal of ability, but has had niggling problems that have curtailed his racing career,” Gold said. “We will probably put a pair of blinkers on him to try and get the best out of him, but he will need to step up to be competitive here.”

WEDNESDAY

Her Highness Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Haqeeqy and Shadwell’s regally bred Maydanny have each shown ample talent in their careers, winning or placing in nine of their collective 16 starts, and each deserve a proper shout in the Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap) on Wednesday, the fifth of seven races.

Gosden-trained Haqeeqy was stunning on his 4-year-old bow at Doncaster on March 27, but his 107 rating means he must tote second highweight of 134lbs.

Mark Johnston-conditioned Maydanny, rated 101, is a dual-winning son of Dubawi and champion Attraction who will possibly get the fast ground he seems to prefer.

“Hopefully Sheikha Hissa’s Haqeeqy can run a very big race in the Royal Hunt Cup,” Gold said. “He started his season in good form winning the Lincoln at Doncaster at the end of March, though he was a little disappointing on his only subsequent start at Ascot. John and his team have freshened him up especially for this race and he looked in very good form on the gallops yesterday morning. Maydanny is a tough handicapper and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him run a big race.”

THURSDAY

Thursday will feature the highly anticipated resurfacing of Mohaafeth, who slammed the Newmarket Stakes (Listed) so impressively that he was single figures for The Derby (G1), but was withdrawn hours before the race because of unsuitable ground. Slated for the Hampton Court (G3)—a race that has been won by subsequent G1 winners Cannock Chase, Benbatl and Hawbill—the son of Frankel is the 13/8 ante-post market choice in a field that may also include Roger Varian’s promising Movin Time (7/1), among others. The Hampton Court goes as the day’s second race.

“Having made the decision to withdraw Mohaafeth from the Derby at the 11th hour, (trainer) William Haggas will be hoping the ground stays quick for him to show his best form in the Hampton Court Stakes,” Gold explained. “Obviously this is only 10 furlongs, as opposed to the mile and a half of the Derby, but he certainly shows plenty of speed at home and it would be very interesting to see how he gets on in what is always a hugely competitive race. If he were able to win here, we could look at races such as the Eclipse or the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, if everybody feels he would be better over a mile and a half.”

Haggas added (via Sporting Life): “It wouldn’t be very helpful it (the ground) were soft, let’s put it that way, but if it’s fast-ish ground (at Ascot), then hopefully you’ll see the horse that we see. I was pretty adamant not to run (at Epsom) on slow ground. No one will ever know if it was the right decision or the wrong one, but I wanted to give the horse every chance and fortunately (Shadwell) was very kind to back me. He’s impressed me and he’s got better. Each run this year has been better and I think he’s come on from Newmarket. I think he’s got potential, he’s got a very good pedigree and bred to be a good horse and he’s on the way to being one. Ascot will be an important stepping-stone and, quite frankly, if he can’t win at Ascot, he wasn’t going to win the Derby.”

Varian will have one for Shadwell in the form of the ultra-promising Eshaada, a homebred daughter of Muhaarar and a full-sister to Tamayuz. Pre-trained at Dubai Stables before heading to Carlburg Stables, the 2-for-2 charge is 4/1 second choice in the early market for the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes over a testing 12 furlongs.

Gold: “She is not a flashy worker at home, but has won her only two starts in good fashion and has a very good attitude. We think she will stay this trip, though the only caveat would be if the ground was very fast, as we know she handles soft ground and she might not be as effective on the faster surface.”

Thursday’s Britannia Stakes, which often produces a large, well-matched sophomore field over a straight mile, has three Shadwell entries, including Johnston-trained 2020 Coventry (G2) runner-up Qaader. Brian Meehan-trained Akmaam, who is unraced since a ninth in April’s Craven (G3), and Gosden-trained Newmarket winner Tawleed.

Shadwell won last year’s Buckingham Palace Stakes over seven furlongs with Motakhayyel and this year has a pair of capable entries in 101-rated Owen Burrows pupil Danyah and 105-rated Haggas trainee Aldaary. The latter, a winner over course and distance last month, is well-handicapped and figures to be among the logical choices in this.

FRIDAY

Day Four, Friday, will be an easy day for Shadwell, with Sir Michael Stoute-trained Samoot in the one-mile Sandringham Handicap, which goes as the fifth of seven races. Well-handicapped, the dual-winning sophomore daughter of Dubawi appears in with a chance in what is often a wide-open affair.

SATURDAY

Shadwell could finish up the Royal Meeting in style, if all goes well Saturday. Well-regarded Mutasaabeq, a blue-blooded homebred son of Invincible Spirit and Ghanaati (herself a Royal Ascot winner in the G1 Coronation), goes to war in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes after faltering in the G1 2000 Guineas at 6/1 odds. Expected to again be one of the favorites, the Hills trainee and half to Royal Ascot winner Afaak and G3 Mahab Al Shimaal victor Wafy will take a lot of beating if on song.

Gold: “On reflection, I think (the 2000 Guineas) was a step too far for an inexperienced horse at Group 1 level, but Charlie Hills and his team have been very happy with the horse leading into this, so hopefully we can get back on track back over seven furlongs.”

Hukum was a gritty winner of last year’s King George V Stakes over 12 furlongs, defying his 12/1 odds, and returns this year over the same trip, but considerably higher in class in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes. The son of Sea The Stars won the Tapster Stakes (Listed) last out and also won last summer’s Geoffrey Freer (G3), flashing considerable stamina before ending his sophomore season with a respectable fifth in the St Leger (G1). Installed at 5/1 ante-post, he could face the likes of Juddmonte’s 2019 St Leger winner Logician (12/1), Ballydoyle’s in-form Broome (4/1) and HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s streaking Ilaraab (9/1).

“He has won four of his seven lifetime races and he is still a relatively inexperienced horse for a 4-year-old,” Gold explained. “He made hard work of winning a Listed race at Goodwood at the end of May in soft ground, but Owen Burrows feels he has come on for that run and he worked very well yesterday. I would be hopeful of a good showing at Ascot.”

Intriguing Roger Varian-trained sophomore Alfaadhel will likely be the last to compete when he looks to continue his positive trajectory in the 10-furlong Golden Gates Stakes for 3-year-olds. A dual winner from three starts and improving with each effort, the son of Night of Thunder hails from a strong Juddmonte family and is expected to figure well in this affair.

Gold: “He was a very immature horse last year, but is heading the right way now and has won his last two starts in the fashion of a good horse. I am sure he will improve as the year goes on, but he has a tremendous attitude, like so many by Night of Thunder, and hopefully he will be able to give a good account of himself.”

Stoute trainee Mashhoor also holds an entry in the Golden Gates, but will need a few defections from the entries to make the field.

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