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Equilateral doubles up in Dubai

Equilateral followed up a course-and-distance win four weeks ago by running out a ready scorer of the Group Two Meydan Sprint.

The six-year-old has always been highly regarded, and trainer Charlie Hills may have finally found the key to him – because he was winning two in a row for the first time in his career, on this occasion with Andrea Atzeni on board.

Nigel Tinkler’s Acklam Express caught the eye in second too, having been short of room at a crucial stage.

Hills said of the winner: “I’m really delighted. It’s nice to go and win this race.

“He’s now three from four at Meydan – which is very impressive. I think we’ll look to keep him out there for the Al Quoz Sprint.

“He likes a nice gap between his races. Nicola (Dowell), who is over there, has done a great job with him. He seems to really enjoy it over there.

“The way he finished there I can’t see six furlongs being a problem. He has a lot of speed. They didn’t go much of a gallop there today.

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“It’s fantastic for Fitri and Jim (Hay, owners). They are great supporters of ours and are massive supporters of the Dubai Racing Carnival. They spend quite a bit of time over there on business, and it’s great for them to have success.”

Soft Whisper’s Saudi Derby claims were given a big boost when the horse she beat by seven lengths in the UAE 1000 Guineas, Mnasek, bolted up in the UAE Oaks.

Doug Watson’s filly was slowly away in the Guineas but came breezing around the home turn four wide under Pat Dobbs to win in fine style.

“The last two times I’ve ridden her (at home) she’s jumped very well,” said Dobbs.

“She’s a little bit shy in her mouth, so you have to be very gentle with her.

“She doesn’t have early speed and wasn’t enjoying the kick-back – and once I switched her out, she travelled super all the way.”

There was a bunched finish to the Group Two Zabeel Mile, but it was Charlie Appleby’s D’bai who narrowly came out on top under William Buick.

“He’s a lovely horse and he needs things to fall right for him,” said Buick.

“I thought he did well there to come off a slow pace.

“He had a lot of ground to make up, but his class saw him through. You just have to conserve him over a mile a little more, but this is a flat track.”

Summer Romance benefited from a good front-running ride by James Doyle to provide Appleby with a double in the Group Two Balanchine.

Winner of the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom’s Derby meeting last summer, she had clearly come forward from her first run at the Carnival in the Cape Verdi – when she was behind stablemate Althiqa.

The tables were well and truly turned, with Doyle allowed to dictate at his own tempo. Roger Varian’s Stylistique was second, as she was in the Cape Verdi.

“She’s very talented, and it’s easy to forgive her first run because she was very keen,” said Doyle.

“Charlie and his team tinkered with a few things, like mounting her in the pre-parade and headed out after all the runners and wearing a hood, which also helped.

“I was gifted the lead and I wasn’t going quick. I was hopeful she’d hit the line well, and she stuck to her guns.”

Appleby said: “Those fillies will have a little break now. We’ll look at races at Royal Ascot, the Falmouth, and there might be some in France that suit.”

Hills sets out Meydan Sprint plan for Equilateral

Equilateral will remain in Dubai for next month’s Meydan Sprint following his victory there last week.

The Charlie Hills-trained six-year-old took the Dubai Dash for the second year running and will now try to atone for a narrow defeat in the Meydan Sprint last February.

Hills reports the Equiano gelding to have come out of his recent exertions in good form.

“I was really delighted with him. Frankie (Dettori) gave him a great ride and it looked like he was always going to win the race,” said the Lambourn trainer.

“It’s nice to have won the race twice now and he was 5lb worse off than last year.

“He seems to have come out of the race in great order and we’ll train him for the Group Two.”

Equilateral’s best effort in defeat last year came when he was second to stablemate Battaash in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Hills revealed the five-furlong Group One is likely to be the brilliant seven-year-old’s starting point in 2021.

“Battaash is still on his winter break,” he said.

Battaash is likely to start his season at Royal Ascot
Battaash is likely to start his season at Royal Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He doesn’t normally come in until the beginning of March. They all seem very happy with him. He’s enjoying his hols at the moment.

“Last year he would probably have gone to Haydock (for the Temple Stakes) had that race been on. He’s won first time out every year, so I think we’ll just save him for Royal Ascot.”

Hills’ highly-promising and lightly-raced four-year-old Tilsit is being prepared for a possible trip to Saudi Arabia next month.

Tilsit is set for a trip to Saudi Arabia
Tilsit is set for a trip to Saudi Arabia (Dan Abraham/PA)

The First Defence colt, winner of the Thoroughbred Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, holds entries in the Saudi Cup and the Middle Distance Turf Cup in Riyadh on February 20.

“He’s in those two races and we’re looking at it,” he said.

“Hopefully we’ll run him. We’ll see how he is in a couple of weeks.”

Battaash bypasses Abbaye due to testing ground

Battaash has been ruled out of Sunday’s Prix de l’Abbaye due to concerns over the testing ground at ParisLongchamp.

The six-year-old is unbeaten in three starts this term for Charlie Hills, having bagged the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, the King George Stakes at Goodwood and the Nunthorpe at York on his most recent outing in August.

He had been due to have a fourth crack at the Abbaye this weekend, having won the race in 2017 and finished fourth in 2018 before coming home a disappointing 14th on very soft ground last year.

The prospect of similar conditions this year following a wet week in Paris has forced connections into a rethink.

Hills said: “They have had 13 millimetres of rain overnight, added to the rest earlier in the week.

“I think it was 4.1 on the penetrometer last year and it’s probably going to be the same, if not worse than that, this year, so we won’t be running.”

When asked if Battaash could now head to next month’s Breeders’ Cup meeting, Hills replied: “We’ll have to see how he is.

“There’s one obvious race for him in America, but we’ll just have to see.”

Grounds for concern – but Battaash still on track for Abbaye

Battaash remains an intended runner in the Prix de l’Abbaye as things stand, despite the prospect of very soft ground at ParisLongchamp.

Charlie Hills’ stable star could finish only 14th behind Glass Slippers in the race 12 months ago, in a defeat many put down to the soft ground.

The six-year-old gelding has been imperious this season, winning at Royal Ascot for the first time in the King’s Stand, collecting a fourth King George Stakes at Goodwood and claiming a second Nunthorpe at York.

His only success on ground described officially as soft came in 2017 – when the Prix de l’Abbaye was run at Chantilly during Longchamp’s redevelopment.

“We haven’t got as far as saying he is 100 per cent a definite runner, but from what I’ve been told it’s going to be very soft,” said Angus Gold, owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager.

“Who is that going to suit? I don’t know. At the moment he runs, but if it turns into an absolute quagmire I can’t tell you – but at the moment he runs.

“Everyone has their own theories about it. I don’t personally think it was the ground that beat him last year, he was just never at the races so I wouldn’t say that.

“We know he handles easy ground, it was soft when he won the Abbaye. If it was to get really bad – I can’t tell you.”

Rhythm Master back out in Mill Reef

Prix Morny third Rhythm Master is one of eight colts declared for the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

A runaway winner on his racecourse debut at Haydock in mid-July, Richard Fahey’s son of Dark Angel subsequently ran an excellent race to place behind a couple of Royal Ascot winners in Campanelle and Nando Parrado when stepped up to Group One level at Deauville.

The John Dance-owned juvenile will be well fancied to get back on the winning trail in this weekend’s Group Two feature in Berkshire.

Rhythm Master’s rivals include the unbeaten Bahrain Pride. Simon and Ed Crisford’s inmate made a successful start to his career at Windsor before following up in the Listed EBF Ripon Champion Two Yrs Old Trophy last month.

Andrew Balding’s Fivethousandtoone was runner-up to Bahrain Pride at Windsor and renews rivalry off the back of a dominant display at Newcastle a little over a fortnight ago.

Line Of Departure completed a hat-trick for Roger Varian in a valuable sales race at Doncaster last week and is swiftly stepped up to Pattern class, while Mick Channon will be hoping his Group Three winner Cairn Gorm can bounce back from a below-par effort in the Morny.

Alkumait (Marcus Tregoning), Devilwala (Archie Watson) and First Edition (Clive Cox) complete the octet.

The Charlie Hills-trained Equilateral, not beaten far into sixth place in the Flying Five at the Curragh last Sunday, heads a nine-strong field for the Group Three Dubai International Airport World Trophy.

The five-year-old is taken on by Cox’s recent Leicester scorer Tis Marvellous, Charlie Appleby’s Lazuli and Moss Gill from James Bethell’s yard, among others.

Group Three honours are also up for grabs in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup – formerly The Arc Trial.

The likely favourite for this one-mile-three-furlong contest is Extra Elusive, who bids to complete a Group Three hat-trick for Roger Charlton and Hollie Doyle follow strikes in the Rose of Lancaster at Haydock and the Winter Hill at Windsor.

With the William Haggas-trained Addeybb and Balding’s Fox Chairman instead declared to run in Saturday’s Doonside Cup at Ayr, Extra Elusive faces just three opponents in Desert Encounter (David Simcock), Elarqam (Mark Johnston) and Gifts Of Gold (Saeed bin Suroor).