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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.

Charlie Hills upbeat on Battaash’s Royal Ascot run

Charlie Hills has issued a positive bulletin regarding the possibility of Battaash defending his crown in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The seven-year-old, who went unbeaten last season, picked up a small fracture in the winter which led to a longer lay off than usual.

After finishing second to Blue Point in 2018 and 2019 in the King’s Stand, Battaash went one better when beating stablemate Equilateral in the race last June before going on to win the King George Stakes at Goodwood for a fourth time and the Nunthorpe at York for a second time.

“He’s been back with us a week now and straight away he’s settled back into his routine of what he has done for the last few years. I’m really pleased with him,” said Hills.

“He’s not backward in his coat, which is nice as it has been pretty cold weather. I’m really pleased with where we are with him actually.

“At the moment there’s no reason why he wouldn’t make it (Ascot). His weight is pretty good and he’s showing all the same levels of enthusiasm that he always has done, so I’m happy.”

Mutasaabeq advertises Classic potential with Newmarket strike

Mutasaabeq emerged as a potential Classic contender after making an impressive start to his campaign at Newmarket.

A winner at the track on his sole juvenile start in October, the Charlie Hills-trained colt was a 7-2 chance on his return to the Rowley Mile for the bet365 British EBF Conditions Stakes.

Ridden by Jim Crowley, the son of Invincible Spirit – owned and bred by the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum – was sent straight to the lead and it was impossible not to be impressed by the way he extended six lengths clear at the line.

Hills said: “The way the track is and with the wind behind them, it is a bit of an advantage being in front. He has won on heavy ground, but he loved the ground today.

“We are always learning, but I think he is a very talented horse.”

Mutasaabeq is out of the top-class racemare Ghanaati, who won the 1000 Guineas in 2009 for the same connections.

Hills decided against entering Mutasaabeq for the 2000 Guineas on May 1, but did not rule out the possibility of supplementing the colt, with Betfair giving him a quote of 12-1.

Hills added: “We’ll discuss it with the management and discuss what’s best for the horse.

“We didn’t put him in the 2000 Guineas and we spoke about it at length as we were a little bit concerned temperament-wise, so we wanted to go down the soft route.

“We can have a discussion now about putting him in a race like that, but there are plenty of good races after – we could run him in a Listed race here and then go on to Royal Ascot, maybe.

“We are mindful it is a long season and there are plenty of good races we can aim for.”

Carolus Magnus stretches clear of his Newmarket rivals
Carolus Magnus stretches clear of his Newmarket rivals (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Andrew Balding’s Carolus Magnus confirmed debut promise with victory in the opening Alex Scott Maiden Stakes.

Third on his Doncaster debut a couple of weeks ago, the 11-2 chance opened his account with a near two-length verdict under Oisin Murphy.

“He has done really well as he had a pretty serious injury as a two-year-old. Very unusually, he split both front pasterns, so full credit to him – he has done amazingly well to come back,” said Balding.

“They are patient, understanding owners, Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds, and they always come up with good horses. It helped he knew what he was doing today, but he is a fair horse.

“He could go a mile, so we will look at our options and make a plan from there.”

Forca Brasil (purple) edges ahead
Forca Brasil (purple) edges ahead (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Murphy went on to complete a first and last race double aboard Arecibo (9-2), who made a successful first start for trainer Robert Cowell in the bet365.com Handicap.

Forca Brasil made a winning introduction for George Boughey in the bet365 British EBF Novice Stakes.

The 4-1 shot, who runs in the colours of football agent Kia Joorabchian’s Amo Racing Limited, was due to run in the Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster, but had to be withdrawn on veterinary advice.

He proved his class at Newmarket, however – scoring by three-quarters of a length in the hands of Rossa Ryan to leave connections dreaming of Royal Ascot glory.

Joorabchian said: “Hopefully he will be a good horse and lead us into more fun things to come.

“It is still a little bit of a way to go to Ascot, but that is the aim and we are always trying to get there.”

Boughey added: “He has worked a few times here and it has been good.

“He looks a Norfolk horse probably, but he has done it nicely today.”

Overwrite (right) under Franny Norton
Overwrite (right) under Franny Norton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Mark Johnston’s Overwrite (16-5) claimed a narrow verdict in the Pat Smullen Memorial Handicap under a power-packed ride from Franny Norton.

Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: “That was top class from the jockey and it was a masterclass on how to ride this track. I think I knew from about 200 yards in that he was going to win.

“It was a good performance. He is probably the type to try to get high enough up in the weights to sneak into the Royal Hunt Cup.”

Of Smullen, Johnston added: “It is a very nice race to win for sure. He is not someone I knew particularly well, but he was obviously a very inspirational figure in the industry, particularly what he did in his later years in trying to do as much for the benefit of others when his time was coming.”

Double Or Bubble (15-2), not seen since scoring at Ascot in September, made a superb reappearance for Chris Wall in the Price Promise At bet365 Handicap, with Jack Mitchell the winning pilot.

Wall said: “Mix And Mingle (full sister) won this race, then she won the Chartwell at Lingfield and we thought that would be on the radar for Double Or Bubble.

“She is a bit more laidback than Mix And Mingle and she will probably get a mile, so the Conqueror Stakes at Goodwood on May 1 could be another option, but we will have to see how she takes the race.

“I thought she would run well as she has been working well. I didn’t quite expect her to do that, but you live in hope.”

Brilliant Battaash was the latest sprint king for Sheikh Hamdan

It is quite fitting the first and latest of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s champion owner titles are most remembered for a sprinter.

Dayjur was the horse that lit up the 1990 campaign with five consecutive victories in the Temple Stakes, King’s Stand, Nunthorpe, Haydock Sprint Cup and Prix de l’Abbaye, before his agonising defeat in the Breeders’ Cup.

Last season it was Battaash, who finally added a Royal Ascot triumph in the King’s Stand on the way to winning the King George Stakes at Goodwood for a fourth time and claiming back-to-back victories in the Nunthorpe at York.

Battaash was one of six winners in the familiar blue and white colours at Royal Ascot, which was held behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

Battaash and Jim Crowley return in triumph after the King’s Stand Stakes
Battaash and Jim Crowley return in triumph after the King’s Stand Stakes (Edward Whitaker/PA)

All six were partnered by Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider Jim Crowley.

He knows Sheikh Hamdan, who died on Wednesday at the age of 75, would have loved to have been in attendance.

“It was such a shame last year Sheikh Hamdan couldn’t come to Royal Ascot due to Covid and watch the horses run,” he said.

“He had the most unbelievable year in 2020. But before that we’d had some great days.

“When Sheikh Hamdan came to the races we always had luck. It was great he could be at York to see Battaash win in 2019. That was probably one of the most satisfying days. It was great he could be there as well.”

Jim Crowley kisses the trophy after riding Battaash to the first of his two victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York
Jim Crowley kisses the trophy after riding Battaash to the first of his two victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York (Simon Cooper/PA)

Crowley, who replaced Paul Hanagan as Sheikh Hamdan’s number one at the end of 2016, felt such pride at taking the coveted position.

“It was a huge honour and a privilege to be able to to ride for him,” he said.

“He was extremely knowledgeable about his horses. He had a lot of horses in training, but he knew their pedigree inside and out. It was a huge passion for him, he loved it.

“He was very kind and generous, and loyalty is a word that stands out more than the others. You only have to look at his trainers, jockeys – everybody has been with him for the long haul. It’s just a real pleasure to have ridden for him.”

Crowley went on: “He built up a huge legacy and he’ll be missed by a lot of people.

“Sheikh Hamdan would always strive to have good horses and breed good horses as well. It’s a huge loss. He was a wonderful man and will be missed dearly.

“It’s very, very sad.”

Battaash is trained by Charlie Hills, who knew Sheikh Hamdan most of his life.

He was a big supporter of the Hills family, with Barry and son Charlie training for him and another son, Richard, being one of his retained jockeys.

Trainer Charlie Hills punches the air after Battaash finally wins at Royal Ascot
Trainer Charlie Hills punches the air after Battaash finally wins at Royal Ascot (Ed Whitaker/PA

“If you think of Sheikh Hamdan’s horses, then Battaash would have to be in the top three,” Charlie Hills said.

“Muhaarar was brilliant, winning four consecutive Group Ones as a three-year-old. He’s the only sprinter to do that. He was a highlight.

“He was the best to train for. It’s very sad. He’s been a constant presence in my life. He’s had horses with our family since the late 1990s and he’s been a great supporter.

“Sheikh Hamdan was not only a major owner-breeder, but he was always a huge presence at the sales.”

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.

“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.”