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Khaadem roars back to winning ways at Doncaster

Khaadem posted a course-record time as he returned to winning form as part of a treble for William Buick and owners Shadwell Estate in the Listed Cazoo Scarbrough Stakes at Doncaster.

Buick, warming up in style on day one of the Cazoo St Leger Festival for his ride on Godolphin’s big-race favourite Hurricane Lane in this weekend’s Classic showpiece, was twice the beneficiary of the injury which befell Jim Crowley at the start of the card.

While Crowley’s MRI scans were returning clear in the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, following his fall from Jadhlaan in the opening Take The Reins Nursery Handicap Stakes, one that sadly proved fatal for the Shadwell-owned two-year-old, first Robert Havlin and then Buick won on the rides he had to miss.

Crowley will also sit out his scheduled Thursday mounts, but is then expected to return.

Buick, who had won the first race of the meeting on Godolphin’s Modern Games, switched his blue allegiance to post an emphatic victory on Khaadem and then quickly double up on Anmaat for the same owners.

Khaadem’s trainer Charlie Hills was delighted at the 2019 Stewards’ Cup hero’s first success in 11 subsequent attempts – on his favoured quick ground, wearing blinkers for just the second time and dropped to five furlongs for the first time in his career.

“He looked good, didn’t he – first time at this trip, it’s great,” said Hills.

“To control the race as he did against proper fast five-furlong horses takes some doing.

“A race like that might just give him confidence now. He’s been a long time without winning, so that will do him the world of good.”

The Lambourn trainer admits there will be some head-scratching before he works out where Khaadem may run next – with a transatlantic trip to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup an improbable prospect because the five-year-old had dropped almost a stone in the ratings before this triumph.

“It would be nice to think somewhere like Breeders’ Cup,” he said.

“But he’s come down a bit in the weights, obviously 104 today, and to get in a race like that you need to be in the 115s.”

Khaadem’s superiority, as the 5-4 favourite by a length and three-quarters from Live In The Moment, nonetheless left no one in any doubt that when conditions are in his favour he has a touch of class.

“He loves the fast ground,” added Hills.

“We’ve been scratching our heads with him. We tried him over seven furlongs, and we just put the blinkers on him because he’s been getting a little bit frustrating.

“When he worked in them he was like a different horse, he just took off on the gallops.”

Buick’s trickiest task was to channel that exuberance, before Khaadem took control.

Hills said: “Obviously (we were) dropping to five (furlongs), but the plan was just to try to ride him the same way we did last time, try to get a little lead.

“He’s a horse that doesn’t want disappointing, so I said to William just try to let him feel like he’s boss and nurse him in.

“But William says he’s a proper fast horse now. So we’ll have to have a look and see what there is next.

“In his first race this year, we took him to Meydan for the Group One there, and he ended up favourite for it – so he’s been up there with the best.

“It hasn’t quite worked out. But last year he had some stomach ulcers, so we were nice and easy with him really.

“It’s been two years that he hasn’t won, so it’s great to get his head in front.”

By contrast, Owen Burrows’ Anmaat was winning for the third time in five starts this season.

After the three-year-old had consigned runner-up Faisal’s unbeaten career profile to history in the I Love Julie Parkes Handicap, at 11-4 and by a length and three-quarters, Burrows must hope he can handle another ratings rise from a current 94.

Wentworth Falls and Connor Beasley won the Visit Doncaster Handicap
Wentworth Falls and Connor Beasley won the Visit Doncaster Handicap (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Lambourn trainer said: “He won nicely at Bath last time.

“I didn’t think that was probably much of a race, so I was a little concerned at the 8lb hike for it.

“But he’s handled that well, and he’s still improving.”

The closing Visit Doncaster Handicap went to Geoff Harker’s course specialist Wentworth Falls, ridden by Connor Beasley.

The evergreen nine-year-old was winning for the third time on Town Moor, on this occasion by half a length from favourite Al Simmo.

Garrus gains deserved Deauville sprint victory

Garrus claimed his first Group Three success with a convincing victory for trainer Charlie Hills in the Prix de Meautry at Deauville.

The 11-2 shot appeared to relish the good ground in France, having run consistently well up to Group One level all summer in Britain but failed to score since starting his campaign with a conditions win on the all-weather over the minimum trip at Wolverhampton in March.

Up at six furlongs here, as on his previous three starts, the five-year-old grey was always close to the pace from stall one under Ioritz Mendizabal and hit the front a furlong out en route to victory by a length and a quarter from favourite Duhail.

Paddy Power responded by shortening Hills’ gelding to 25-1, from 66-1, for the British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot in October.

Hills will take his time before committing to that target, but confirmed Garrus is at this stage unlikely to take up a much earlier Group One entry in the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.

The Lambourn trainer said: “It will probably come a bit too soon, I would think.

“It’s great to win a Group Three, and now I hope we can start looking at other better races again.

“But there aren’t too many of them now left (in Britain this season).

“We’ll see how he comes back and work from there, do the right thing by the horse.”

Garrus’ programme will not be entirely dictated by ground conditions, but Hills acknowledges a sounder surface may be preferable.

“He’s quite versatile with the ground,” he added.

“It was absolutely bottomless when he ran at Windsor and was second to Dream Of Dreams, but I think he does appreciate a bit faster ground really.

“We were really patient with him last year – the horse never ran, but we were just never really happy with him.

“We got him gelded through the winter, and ever since then he’s been moving so much better and running a lot better as well.

“We’d been putting him in the deep end a bit, so we were quite conscious that we wanted to find a slightly lower-grade race.”

Christophe Soumillon returns victorious aboard Dilawar
Christophe Soumillon returns victorious aboard Dilawar (PA)

There was also Group Three success at Deauville for Dilawar, in the Prix Quincey.

Christophe Soumillon delivered Alain de Royer-Dupre and the Aga Khan’s lightly-raced gelding down the centre of the track, and Dilawar picked up well to be easily on top at the line.

His two-and-a-half-length victory, at 9-2 from Now We Know, was his third in just four career starts – dropping down most effectively to this mile trip, having previously won at up to a mile and a half.

Glycon landed the feature Grand Prix de Deauville
Glycon landed the feature Grand Prix de Deauville (PA)

Glycon was the odds-on winner of the Group Two Grand Prix de Deauville, for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget and jockey Christian Demuro.

In a select field of five, the 5-6 favourite hit the front two furlongs out and held on tenaciously to win by half a length from The Good Man, striking at this level for the first time after two previous Group Three wins.

The winning trainer said: “He’s had two quick races, so I shall have to discuss the next race with the owners.

“He really doesn’t want to go much further than this (extended mile and a half), and he likes the softer ground, so we might look at Prix du Conseil (at ParisLongchamp in October).”

Crowley salutes ‘horse of a lifetime’ Battaash

Jim Crowley will never forget Battaash’s Nunthorpe victory at York in 2019 in a long list of memories he can treasure of the newly-retired sprinter.

The fact Battaash beat the legendary Dayjur’s course record, also owned owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, and that his late boss was present on the Knavesmire that afternoon made it extra special.

Crowley only missed one of Battaash’s races since their association began in August 2017.

“He’s been an unbelievable horse for everyone involved and Charlie Hills has done a fantastic job with him,” he said.

Jim Crowley had some of his best days in the saddle on Battaash
Jim Crowley had some of his best days in the saddle on Battaash (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Bob Grace deserves a special mention for looking after him until his retirement and his new lad Bluey (Cannon), too.

“He’s been the horse of a lifetime and I’ll miss him dearly. To get a buzz like you got off him is very difficult to find.

“He was so fast – too fast for his own good sometimes, but it was always exciting riding him.”

But there was one day in particular that Crowley highlighted as the crowning moment of his career.

“The day he won the Nunthorpe I will never forget as long as I live, it was a special day,” he said.

“He silenced a few of his critics that day and broke Dayjur’s record, and Sheikh Hamdan was on track that day at York. There are lots of reasons that made it a special day.

“He was very good when he won the Prix de l’Abbaye and he loved Goodwood as well. It was also lovely to win the King’s Stand with him because Ascot wasn’t a track that played to his strengths with its stiff finish, as he was a speed horse.

“The Nunthorpe day was something else, though.”

Sheikh Hamdan greets Battaash after he broke the track record at York
Sheikh Hamdan greets Battaash after he broke the track record at York (Simon Cooper/PA)

The first day Crowley rode him on track was Battaash’s first win in the King George at Goodwood in 2017 – and he felt even then he was on something special.

“For sure that first day at Goodwood I got an idea he could be something special, but sometimes he was his own worst enemy,” said Crowley.

“He lost the plot at York the first year, but when he was good he was very good. He won the Temple one day and went through the field like a hot knife through butter.

“He was a special horse, I’ve got lots of fond memories of him. He was a very kind horse as well, he was part of the family for Charlie, his kids loved him. I’ll miss riding him.

“Along with Enable and Stradivarius he has lit up the last few Flat seasons. It’s very hard for a sprinter to be so dominant, because in a lot of the races you could run them five times and get five different results.

“He was a testament to Charlie and his team, Bob and everyone did such a great job. It’s been a lovely ride and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I feel very lucky to have come across a horse like that and he’ll have a happy retirement I’m sure.”

Battaash – 5 of his best

As the curtain comes down on the career of the brilliant sprinter Battaash – having won 13 of his 25 races and £1,774,180 in prize-money – we take a look at five of his best performances:

Prix de l’Abbaye 2017, Chantilly

After meeting with his first defeat of the season in the Nunthorpe at York, when connections felt he lost his race before it had even begun, Battaash returned to winning ways in devastating style. With the race taking place in Chantilly as Longchamp was undergoing redevelopment, Jim Crowley bounced him out and he barely saw another rival, coming home four lengths clear of the Nunthorpe winner Marsha to win his first Group One.

King George Stakes 2018, Goodwood

Battaash first, the rest nowhere
Battaash first, the rest nowhere (Adam Davy/PA)

Battaash had already won the Group Two event as a three-year-old and it was never really a debate that of all the tracks he ran at the Sussex Downs suited him best. The downhill section enabled him to hit top gear early in the race under little pressure, and it was a pace very few could live with. Despite conceding a Group One penalty he blitzed a good field by upwards of four lengths.

Nunthorpe Stakes 2019, York

Battaash was in a different league to his rivals on the Knavesmire
Battaash was in a different league to his rivals on the Knavesmire (Simon Cooper/PA)

Battaash had made the journey to York for the previous two seasons only to trail home in fourth on both occasions, so there were many suggesting the Knavesmire was not the place for Battaash. However, he was absolutely brilliant in laying the York ghost to rest, winning by almost four lengths. Conceding 15lb to the runner-up Soldier’s Call, Battaash cruised into the lead and looked in a different league to his rivals.

King’s Stand Stakes 2020, Ascot

Battaash strides out to claim his first Royal Ascot win
Battaash strides out to claim his first Royal Ascot win (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Just like he had done at York the previous season, Battaash conquered another of his unchartered waters at Royal Ascot. Twice second to Blue Point, with that one retired the coast was clear. He might have been helped by the fact there was no crowd there due to the pandemic, meaning he was calmer than normal pre-race – but there was to be no disputing his authority over the others, with stablemate Equilateral chasing him home.

Scurry Stakes 2017, Sandown

The race where it all started in earnest. After winning on his debut at two he disappointed at Ascot and was subsequently gelded due to his tendency to want to get on with things, but he was beaten three more times in his first season. He reappeared at Sandown unheralded, yet despite running keen early after missing the break, he showed a glimpse of the speed which was to define him for the rest of his career.

Battaash bids to thrill Goodwood again

Battaash bids to thrill the Goodwood crowds again with an unprecedented fifth triumph in the King George Qatar Stakes.

The seven-year-old secured his place in Goodwood history when winning his fourth edition of the Group Two sprint last summer, although only a handful of people witnessed his triumph because coronavirus restrictions meant there were no racegoers on course.

Spectators are back in force on the Sussex Downs this week, though, and Battaash will be trying to regain the winning thread on Friday – after having to settle for fourth in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on his return.

Despite that two-and-a-half-length defeat, Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell Estate, was more than satisfied with Battaash’s effort after a setback during the winter had delayed his return to trainer Charlie Hills’ care.

Jim Crowley celebrates on Battaash following his third King George Stakes win
Jim Crowley celebrates on Battaash following his third King George Stakes win (Adam Davy/PA)

Gold said: “It was well documented that he hadn’t been back in training long before Ascot, so it didn’t surprise me that he needed it. I actually thought he ran particularly well, considering.

“He showed us all his old dash was still there – he seemed very happy to be back at the races, behaved himself well, so there were a lot of positives to take out of it. They went very, very hard – he sat just behind them, came through to take it up and just blew up and got tired.

“Hopefully he has come on from that. It’s an obvious fact he’s not getting any younger and at some stage he will start to slow down, but hopefully not yet.”

Battaash is a four-time Group One winner and was unbeaten in three outings last term, rounding off with a length victory in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York before a possible Breeders’ Cup challenge was ruled out.

The Dark Angel gelding has also been placed multiple times at the highest level in a career which began with a Bath novice win as a juvenile back in 2016.

However, Gold admits it will be a “special” moment if Battaash can further add to his Goodwood laurels – particularly with a crowd in attendance.

Last season also saw Stradivarius win a third Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, while Enable became the first triple victor in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes – other notable achievements which were largely witnessed on TV rather than in person.

Gold added: “It would be special for everyone – it doesn’t happen very often. It would be very special if he could pull it off.

“It’s already pretty remarkable, four years in a row – so if he can do one more, that would be even better obviously.

“It’s great for racing – him, Stradivarius and Enable last year. We were blessed last year, and sadly no one could witness it, so let’s hope we can make up for it this year.”

Dragon Symbol (right) was first past the post in the Commonwealth Cup but lost the race to Campanelle in the Stewards' room
Dragon Symbol (right) was first past the post in the Commonwealth Cup but lost the race to Campanelle in the Stewards’ room (David Davies/PA)

The market suggests Archie Watson’s three-year-old Dragon Symbol is Battaash’s main rival – but he is dropping down in trip after two creditable efforts in Group Ones over six furlongs.

One who brings top-class five-furlong form to the table is Kevin Ryan’s Glass Slippers, winner of the Flying Five in Ireland and at the Breeders’ Cup last year, while John Quinn has two live each-way chances in Liberty Beach and Keep Busy.

Arecibo has improved 21lb since his switch to Robert Cowell this season – and after finishing second in the King’s Stand two starts ago, sprint king Cowell is hoping for another bold show.

“I couldn’t have dreamt what he’s done so far for us this year,” Cowell told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’d been working very well up until the point of going to Newmarket (in April), and we thought he was a bit of a handicap good thing there, but to progress to the King’s Stand and be second there was brilliant.

“It was no fluke as he backed it up with a good performance at Sandown.

“It’s a tougher race, but we feel a better race will make him a better horse. We’re looking forward to it – the ground is right, and we’re going with a little bit of hope.”

Battaash all set to bid for fifth King George Stakes

Battaash will face 12 rivals as he bids for a fifth successive win in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood.

Charlie Hills’ speedster was only fourth when trying to defend his King’s Stand title at Royal Ascot last month – but that was his first outing of the season after a setback delayed his return.

He is unbeaten at Goodwood, and reserves his best for the Sussex downs.

Glass Slippers was second to Battaash 12 months ago, and Kevin Ryan’s mare makes her seasonal reappearance in Friday’s Group Two.

She went on to win the Flying Five at the Curragh, finish second in the Prix de l’Abbaye and then win at the Breeders’ Cup in what was a fantastic season last year.

Archie Watson’s Dragon Symbol was first over the line in the Commonwealth Cup only to lose it in the stewards’ room, and then ran another fine race to be second in the July Cup to Starman.

He drops down to five furlongs for the first time since winning at Hamilton in May.

Tim Easterby relies on Art Power rather than Winter Power, in a rather surprising move, while John Quinn runs both Liberty Beach and Keep Busy.

The three-year-old filly Suesa makes the journey from France, with Aricebo representing Robert Cowell.

Jim Goldie’s veteran Euchen Glen will aim to add the Group Three l’Ormarins Queen’s Plate Glorious Stakes to his impressive tally.

The eight-year-old has already won the Brigadier Gerard and the Gala Stakes at Sandown this season, and is giving 3lb away all round.

His rivals include the Andrew Balding pair of Alounak, the choice of Silvestre de Sousa, and Fox Tal.

Outbox will have the assistance of Hollie Doyle, with Saeed bin Suroor’s rapid improver Passion And Glory stepping up in grade, while Aidan O’Brien’s Mogul has his sights lowered.

William Haggas’ unbeaten Baaeed takes what his connections will hope to be the next step along the road to the highest level in the Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes.

He has oozed class in three victories to date en route to this Group Three.

Dee Stakes winner El Drama, Royal Ascot hero Perotto, Balding’s Tactical, Richard Fahey’s Rhythm Master and Sir Mark Todd’s Tasman Bay are among the eight runners.

Battaash on song in bid to complete Goodwood five-timer

Charlie Hills reports Battaash to be firing on all cylinders ahead of his bid for a fifth consecutive victory in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood next week.

The brilliant sprinter has produced some of his most devastating performances on the Sussex Downs and comfortably saw off top-class filly Glass Slippers when winning this five-furlong Group Two for a fourth time 12 months ago.

An early-season setback meant the seven-year-old did not make his first start of the current campaign until Royal Ascot last month, where he had to make do with minor honours in fourth when defending his crown in the King’s Stand.

Hills is confident that comeback run has left him cherry-ripe for his next assignment on Friday.

He said: “We’ve been very fortunate to have had Battaash in this yard. He’s become a massive part of our lives over the last six years. The most important thing is to keep in one piece, but we’re happy with him at this stage

“He has been good since his run at Ascot – we’ve had no hiccups at all. I thought he ran a great race (in the King’ Stand), but they probably went a stride fast which meant, on that track, it just found him out.

“Goodwood, being a speed track, really suits him. He’s a straightforward horse to train these days and we know which races to target him for. He’s good a good routine and enjoys his work, which is the most important thing.

“He’s still very competitive when you put a horse alongside him and as long as he’s got that, then it’s pretty uncomplicated with him.”

Owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum with Battaash
Owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum with Battaash (Simon Cooper/PA)

Owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum witnessed some great performances from Battaash at Goodwood, but this will be the first King George Qatar Stakes since his passing on what will prove to be an emotional day for connections.

“Battaash was very close to Sheikh Hamdan’s heart,” Hills added.

“Over those five years, he begun to watch him grow. The day he won the Nunthorpe (at York) was a very emotional day. He was a massive supporter of the yard and we had a lot of success and great days together.

“He is sadly missed, but it’s great that his daughter Sheikha Hissa will take on the operation and I so hope Battaash can win at Goodwood for her.”

Battaash will spearhead a select team of Goodwood runners for the Hills team.

Tilsit winning at Goodwood last summer
Tilsit winning at Goodwood last summer (Mark Cranham/PA)

The Lambourn handler is looking forward to saddling Pogo in Tuesday’s Unibet Lennox Stakes, while the following afternoon Summer Mile victor Tilsit will bid for Group One glory in the Qatar Sussex Stakes.

Mutasaabeq, meanwhile, is viewed as a suitable candidate for Friday’s Group Three Bonham Thoroughbred Stakes.

Hills said: “Pogo has been running in some good races this year. We’ve always planned to come to Goodwood with him and the forecast lovely ground on day one should suit him well. He’s won over the trip, so the drop back to seven furlongs shouldn’t inconvenience him.

“Tilsit is on the up. He’s still very lightly raced and is unexposed. He should get better with the more racing he gets.

“Mutasaabeq got his head back in front at Haydock and I thought he won it well. He’s come out of Haydock pretty well, but we’re going to see how he is on Tuesday before we declare him.”

Group One options for Tilsit after Summer Mile win

Tilsit is set to have a second crack at the top level after taking the Group Two Summer Mile at Ascot on Saturday.

The Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on July 28 and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on August 15 are the two races Charlie Hills has in mind as possibilities for the next port of call for the lightly-raced four-year-old.

The Juddmonte-owned son of First Defence was having only the seventh start of his career when accounting for Century Dream by three-quarters of a length.

He had almost got off the mark on his first try in Group One company when collared close home by Skalleti in the Prix d’Ispahan at ParisLongchamp on his previous run.

“It was very exciting to win a Group Two with him. We were a little bit concerned about the ground before, but he looked pretty good. And it was a great run in France,” said Hills.

“We’ve got a few options. Obviously he’s in the Sussex Stakes and 18 days later you’ve got the Jacques le Marois. We’ll have a look and see where we are and what the ground is like in two weeks’ time.

“He’s come out of the race very well.”

All systems go for Battaash and Goodwood

Charlie Hills is pleased with the way Battaash has recovered from his King’s Stand Stakes exertions.

While the seven-year-old lost his crown to Oxted, Hills felt he had valid excuses for the Royal Ascot reverse.

A red-hot early pace and it being Battaash’s first run of the campaign contributed to him becoming “leg-weary” in the closing stages, felt Hills, who is following his usual campaign to Goodwood next – where he will bid for a remarkable fifth successive King George Qatar Stakes success.

“He’s come out of the race really well actually, he’s been cantering away this week and we’re really pleased with him,” said Hills.

“They went really fast and with it being first time out it just caught him out.

“It’s a stiff five furlongs at Ascot, it has never really played to his strengths and he just got tired and a bit leg-weary in the last half furlong.

“He’s also there to be shot out when it transpires like that.

“We’ll go to Goodwood now, his races are pretty obvious.”

Mutasaabeq disappointed in the Jersey Stakes
Mutasaabeq disappointed in the Jersey Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hills also held high hopes for Mutasaabeq in the Jersey Stakes, but he ran way below expectations and only beat two home.

“I don’t think the testing ground helped him, but he was beaten a long way out,” said Hills.

“I was disappointed with the run and we’ll get him fully checked over this week.

“Given his form he should have been in the mix so he’s run below par. We’ll do all the tests we can.”

Battaash ready to make up for late start in King’s Stand defence

Charlie Hills is confident Battaash will be unhindered by his lack of racecourse action since last August as he bids for back-to-back victories in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The brilliant sprinter finally broke his duck at the Berkshire venue in last year’s renewal of Tuesday’s five-furlong Group One before going on to win a fourth King George Stakes at Goodwood and a second Nunthorpe at York.

Battaash has not been seen in competitive action since the latter of those triumphs 10 months ago, after a winter setback delayed his reappearance, but Hills has been delighted with his preparation for this Qipco British Champions Series contest.

The Lambourn trainer said: “Battaash came in a couple of weeks later than usual this year, so we were never going to fit in a prep run, but I couldn’t be happier with him.

“They found a tiny hairline fracture in a sesamoid when he had his usual MOT at the end of last year, but that was attended to in December.

“They’ve done a great job with him at Shadwell over the winter, and spring was so awful that coming back later has probably helped him.

“We’ve taken our time, and he hasn’t missed a beat.”

Winter Power was a brilliant winner at York last month
Winter Power was a brilliant winner at York last month (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Among the opposition in a field of 16, Tim Easterby is looking forward to saddling exciting filly Winter Power – who won at Listed and Group Three level last autumn and picked up where she left off with a hugely impressive comeback performance in last month’s Westow Stakes at York.

Easterby said: “She’s in good form. She has a good draw (stall seven) and will handle the track, so she should run well.”

Roger Teal drops last year’s July Cup hero Oxted down to the minimum distance for the first time.

The five-year-old was last seen finishing third over six furlongs in the Duke of York Stakes.

Roger Teal (left) with stable star Oxted
Roger Teal (left) with stable star Oxted (Hugh Routledge/PA)

“The draw is not too bad (stall 14). It looks like there’s plenty of pace around him, so we’re happy enough,” said Teal.

“We’re very happy with him going into it. He’s trained well – all his work is done now, and we’ll see what happens on the day.

“You always need a bit of luck, so fingers crossed.”

There are two leading contenders from America, in Brendan Walsh’s Extravagant Kid and the Wesley Ward-trained Maven.

Extravagant Kid was last seen winning the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Walsh said: “We’ve had a good start to the year, and Extravagant Kid winning in Dubai was massive. Hopefully we can follow up on it at Ascot.

“Last year he was beaten a length in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He’s won or been placed in multiple stakes and graded stakes – he’s never far away.

“It’s not Dubai. Meydan is a flatter track – it (Al Quoz Sprint) is six furlongs, whereas this is a stiff five. He’s an athletic horse, and there’s no doubt he’ll handle the undulations.

“The ground looks like it’s going to be perfect. It’s going to be the first day of the meeting, so it’s going to be really nice ground.”

Wesley Ward has high hopes for Maven
Wesley Ward has high hopes for Maven (Julian Herbert/PA)

Ward won the 2017 King’s Stand with Lady Aurelia and hopes he can add to his tally with Maven.

He said: “When Maven ran in an allowance race at Keeneland in April, we felt he was a bit short fitness-wise. On the day he bounced out in front – and when they came to him, I thought he was going to surrender, but he just took off again.

“I was delighted with that performance – and then once I saw the numbers, it inspired me to put him on the team for Royal Ascot.

“He will have to move forward from that again to be in the mix for the King’s Stand, but I think he is entitled to do so.”

Khaadem bids to bounce back in Cathedral Stakes

Khaadem bids to get back on track in the British Stallion Studs EBF Cathedral Stakes at Salisbury.

The Charlie Hills-trained sprinter has been out of luck since the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood in August 2019, but has taken on the best at Group One level.

He was fourth in both the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and the July Cup last season.

Khaadem returned to action at Meydan in March but was below his best in the Al Quoz Sprint won by Extravagant Kid, who represents America in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

His first run back in the UK did not go to plan on heavy ground at Haydock – where he was third of four to Cape Byron, another horse with Royal Ascot aspirations in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

However, Hills is expecting a much better performance from the five-year-old on Sunday.

“It looks the right spot for him,” he said.

“It was desperate ground at Haydock. He couldn’t act on it, so we put a line through the run.”

Andrew Balding is hoping a break has done Shine So Bright good.

The grey was last of four to Pogo in a Listed contest at Leicester, and returns after a 50-day absence.

“He’s been a little bit below par the last couple of runs – but he’s had a break, and I’ve been pleased the way he’s been working,” said Balding.

“He’s a talented horse on his day, and these are his optimum conditions, so he wouldn’t be without a chance.”

The other older horse in the line-up is the four-year-old Mums Tipple, from Richard Hannon’s yard.

The other three runners are three-year-olds, headed by the Mick Channon-trained Cairn Gorm.

A Group Three scorer at Deauville in August, the Bated Breath colt tackled even stronger company and contested the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at ParisLongchamp in October.

Roger Varian’s Line Of Departure, winner of a valuable sales race at Doncaster, plus Hugo Palmer’s Chocoya, complete the sextet.

Dark Shift out to pull off long-term plan at York

Dark Shift bids to execute a long-term plan when he lines up for the Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap at York.

Trainer Charlie Hills has had Saturday’s valuable heritage handicap over six furlongs in mind for some time for the lightly-raced son of Dark Angel.

Despite having just the two starts as a juvenile last season, Dark Shift showed plenty of promise. After winning by four lengths on his debut at Ascot in September, he was collared close home when runner-up to Apollo One at Salisbury four weeks later.

He was sent off 4-7 favourite for his reappearance at Nottingham five weeks ago and put up a pleasing display to land a cosy success in a 13-runner novice event.

Dark Shift makes his handicap bow off a mark of 88, and is expected to go well.

“This race has always been the plan from a long way off,” said Hills.

“We were pleased with his only start this season, and he’s been training nicely.”

The Lambourn handler also saddles Jadwal, who came out second best behind Jumby in a competitive handicap at Newmarket four weeks ago.

“It was a big run at Newmarket last time,” he said.

“He went up 7lb for that run for not winning, which was frustrating. But he’s a horse that is improving, and we like him.”

Tim Easterby has targeted Showalong at this prize for some time, although both the Showcasing colt’s previous runs this season have come over the minimum trip. However, he did score over six at Redcar in August.

Showalong is one of two runners in the big sprint handicap for trainer Tim Easterby
Showalong is one of two runners in the big sprint handicap for trainer Tim Easterby (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s in very good form and is working well. I’m very happy with him. This race has been the target,” said the Great Habton trainer.

“He’s been running over five so far this season, but he’s very adaptable. It doesn’t really matter.”

Easterby has a second string to his bow in Barney’s Bay, who had won twice in succession before finishing well behind Jadwal at Newmarket. That below-par effort remains a mystery to the trainer.

“He’s a very nice horse and is in good form. We’re looking forward to the run,” he said.

“We don’t really know what happened at Newmarket last time. He ran no race at all.”

Like Dark Shift, Skyrunner will be having only his fourth race – but he has already run at trips from five to seven furlongs.

William Haggas is hoping Skyrunner is up to the task at York
William Haggas is hoping Skyrunner is up to the task at York (Nigel French/PA)

Trainer William Haggas feels this trip is right for the Invincible Spirit colt – and just hopes Skyrunner is ready for this test, despite his relative inexperience.

“He’s progressive. He won well, and I think six furlongs is a good distance for him,” said Haggas.

“I expect him to run a good race. Whether he’s quite streetwise for a race like that, we’re going to find out tomorrow.”

Of the remainder, sole Irish challenger Ger Lyons’ Alkido is joint top weight with Richard Fahey’s Internationaldream – while Kevin Ryan has four runners in Uncle Jumbo, Ben Macdui, Seven Brothers and Fighter Pilot.

Ranch Hand will try to defy a 3lb penalty in the Listed Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Grand Cup Stakes.

Andrew Balding’s five-year-old scored at this level at Newmarket in September. was runner-up in the Group Three Henry II Stakes at Sandown last time and won his first two starts this term.

“I’d hope he’d have a good chance. It will be faster ground than he’s used to, but he’s run some very solid races this year,” said Balding.

“He’s got a penalty – but he’s in good shape and hopefully he’ll run well.”

Balding left Ranch Hand in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot at the confirmation stage as a precaution.

“All things are a possible. We’re going to take a view on the ground, but the intention is to run at York,” he added.

William Haggas would not be surprised if Roberto Escobarr took a hand in the finish, following his first run for 262 days at Ascot last month.

The four-year-old won over the course last season and later was sixth to Pyledriver in the Great Voltigeur Stakes.

“He’s the lowest rated in the race but he’s definitely got more to offer,” said Haggas.

“He should enjoy the trip and the ground. He got stuck in the mud last time.”

The Ed Dunlop-trained Red Verdon won over the course and distance last summer – and David O’Meara’s Makawee completes the four-runner field.

Palace Pier tops Queen Anne contenders

Palace Pier will face a maximum of 11 rivals when he bids for back-to-back Group One victories at Royal Ascot in the Queen Anne Stakes.

John and Thady Gosden’s star miler won a thrilling renewal of the St James’s Palace Stakes last summer – and will be a hot favourite to double his tally in the race which opens next week’s showpiece meeting on Tuesday, having made an impressive start to his campaign in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Circus Maximums provided Aidan O’Brien with a fourth Queen Anne success 12 months ago, and the Ballydoyle handler is once again likely to be represented – with both Lope Y Fernandez and Order Of Australia left in at the confirmation stage.

Lope Y Fernandez would need to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Lockinge, while Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia could make his first appearance since finishing sixth in Hong Kong in December.

There are two previous winners of the race in contention – in David O’Meara’s 2019 scorer Lord Glitters and Accidental Agent, who claimed a shock victory in 2018.

Charlie Hills’ pair of Pogo and Tilsit, and Top Rank from James Tate’s yard, also feature.

The Hills-trained Battaash is the star name among 16 sprinters confirmed for the King’s Stand Stakes.

The brilliant Battaash winning last year's King's Stand
The brilliant Battaash winning last year’s King’s Stand (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The seven-year-old finally broke his duck at Ascot when landing last year’s renewal, before going on to win his fourth King George Stakes at Goodwood and his second Nunthorpe at York.

An early-season setback has kept Battaash off the track so far this year, but he is closing in on a comeback.

His potential rivals include Roger Teal’s July Cup hero Oxted and Tim Easterby’s exciting three-year-old filly Winter Power, who could hardly have been more impressive at York on her latest outing.

John Quinn looks set to saddle both Liberty Beach and Keep Busy, while international interest is added by two American challengers in Extravagant Kid and Maven – who are trained by Brendan Walsh and Wesley Ward respectively.

James Bredin, racing manager for Extravagant Kid’s owner DARRS Inc, said: “Extravagant Kid is doing great. I flew out to Dubai to saddle him, and he looks the same now as he did then. He is eight years of age now, so he is a great traveller. I think the key to shipping a horse is that you have to keep them eating and drinking – and he has done all that.

“We opted for the King’s Stand Stakes because Ryan (Moore) felt the strong uphill finish over five furlongs would really suit him. It probably plays like a six-furlong race anyway, but if it turns out we have got it wrong, we will blame Ryan!

“His owner David Ross claimed him out of a race at Gulfstream three and a half years ago. In America, you put your claim slip in before the race is run, so you don’t really know how things are going to work out.

“The horse was 20-1 that day and it has turned out to be a very astute claim. Mr Ross is over here now, quarantining in London, and is really looking forward to having his first Royal Ascot runner.”

The third Group One on the opening day is the St James’s Palace Stakes, for which 15 colts have stood their ground.

Poetic Flare after winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
Poetic Flare after winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket (John Walton/PA)

Jim Bolger’s Poetic Flare has already had a busy season – winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, sixth in the French Guineas and second in the Irish Guineas – but looks set to turn out again.

Mostahdaf could put his unbeaten record on the line for the Gosden team. He was last seen winning the Heron Stakes at Sandown by half a length – from the Charlie Appleby-trained Highland Avenue, who could renew rivalry.

Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega is a leading contender, after finishing third and fourth in the English and Irish Guineas respectively.

Aidan O’Brien has left in Battleground, Ontario and Wembley.

The first two-year-old race of the week is the prestigious Group Two Coventry Stakes.

A total of 29 juveniles have been entered – including Hugo Palmer’s dual winner Ebro River, the Ralph Beckett-trained Angel Bleu, Donnacha O’Brien’s Masseto and Ward’s Kaufymaker.

Tilsit team considering options after narrow Group One defeat

Further top-level assignments await Tilsit following his narrow reverse in the Prix d’Ispahan on Sunday.

The Charlie Hills-trained four-year-old won the Group Three Thoroughbred Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last summer, before rounding off his 2020 campaign by finishing fourth behind 2000 Guineas hero Kameko in Newmarket’s Joel Stakes.

He was not disgraced in finishing fifth in the Neom Turf Cup in Saudi Arabia on his return to action in February, but raised his game to a new level when beaten just a head by Skalleti on his Group One debut at ParisLongchamp.

Hills said: “We’ve always liked him very much and you’ve got to say that was a career-best performance.

“Obviously we’re delighted with him. It’s just a shame we didn’t get the result really – he had his head in front just before the line and just after the line, so it was just on the bob really.”

Tilsit holds big-race entries in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, with Hills keen to discuss options with the owners before committing to future targets.

“The horse got back last night. We’ll obviously speak to the Juddmonte team and the (Abdullah) family,” the trainer added.

“The d’Ispahan is nine furlongs, but if it was a mile he would have won, so we could look at possible mile races in the future.”

Battaash on track to defend King’s Stand crown

Battaash is on course to defend his King’s Stand Stakes crown at Royal Ascot after showing his well-being following an injury setback sustained over the winter.

The seven-year-old returned to Charlie Hills’ stables in Lambourn last month from his owners Shadwell Stud, having recovered from a small fracture.

Hills has been pleased with Battaash and is looking forward to seeing what Shadwell’s number two jockey Dane O’Neill says after he rides the horse in work on Wednesday.

“Battaash has been back with us a few weeks now. He’s been in training and did a nice swinging canter last week. We’re very happy with him,” said Hills on Tuesday.

“He should get to Ascot. I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t.

“Dane O’Neill is coming to sit on him tomorrow morning. He knows him very well so it will be interesting to see what he says.”

Battaash powers to victory under Jim Crowley at Royal Ascot
Battaash powers to victory under Jim Crowley at Royal Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Royal Ascot also looks the destination for Mutasaabeq after he lost his unbeaten record in the 2000 Guineas.

The Invincible Spirit colt is set to drop back to seven furlongs for the Group Three Jersey Stakes.

Mutasaabeq had won both his starts over that trip in highly-promising fashion to warrant a run in the Newmarket Classic, for which he was sent off joint third-favourite at 6-1.

However, he could not justify that support and finished seventh behind Poetic Flare.

Mutasaabeq remains a horse of real potential
Mutasaabeq remains a horse of real potential (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s absolutely fine. He came out of the race in good form. He’s looking well and training nicely,” said Hills.

“I’ll speak to (racing mangers) Angus (Gold) and Richard (Hills) to draw up a plan, but I’d say the Jersey looks favourite.”

Mutasaabeq also holds an entry in the Group One St James’s Palace Stakes over a mile at the Royal meeting.