Tag Archive for: King George Stakes

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.”

Monday Musings: The Apples of Charlie’s Eye

I finally made it to Ascot on Saturday, my first visit to a racecourse since the last day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, writes Tony Stafford. As I drove the last few miles the excitement was almost making me breathless and I was delighted that by waiting until there was an element of normality, my trip was just as I remembered all those wonderful big-race summer afternoons.

The best part, apart from seeing a great winner of a very good King George, was the thing that I, as a now very senior citizen, always regarded as my private, exclusive club. When you’ve been racing in a sort of professional role you get to know hundreds, probably into the thousands, of people in the same narrow environment.

When loads of them stop to ask, “How are you? Long time, no see!” and variations of those sentiments having been stuck mostly at home for 16 months, it is so energising. I always used to say, “Most people my age probably see half a dozen people a day if they are lucky. I go racing three or four days a week and see maybe an average of a hundred or more that I know.”

And Ascot on Saturday was as normal as it ever was. Bars, restaurants and boxes open and fully extended, the always beautifully attired Ascot crowds basking in the better than predicted weather and fast ground befitting the middle of summer.

One person who didn’t make it was the “You’ve been pinged!” trainer of the brilliant Adayar, Charlie Appleby, who had neglected to do what people increasingly have been doing, removing the app from their phones.

Not too many Derby winners have followed their Epsom success with victory in the same year’s King George. It was more commonplace in the first 50 years of the race’s existence after its inauguration in 1951. But in this century, until Saturday only Galileo, Adayar’s grandsire via Frankel, had managed the double.

Appleby therefore made it four mile and a half Group 1 wins since the beginning of June with his two Frankel colts, the home-bred Adayar and his stablemate Hurricane Lane, the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris hero, bred by Philippa Cooper’s Normandie Stud.

Both horses won maidens in the last part of October, Hurricane Lane on debut and Adayar second time out. Both therefore were far less trumpeted at the beginning of this season when again Hurricane Run started with more precocity, indeed until he finished third to Adayar, the apparent third string at Epsom, he was unbeaten.

Adayar’s juvenile victory came in the Golden Horn Maiden at Nottingham, the race name being awarded to the great Derby winner the year after his Classic triumph. Previously it was known as the Oath Maiden Stakes in honour of the 1999 Derby hero owned by the Thoroughbred Corporation, who won the same maiden to get his career on the go the previous autumn.

I thought I would have a look at Charlie Appleby’s 2021 three-year-old complement courtesy of Horses in Training. Charlie had 70 horses of that age listed at the start of the season, 21 fillies and 49 male horses. Of the 21 fillies, eleven are by Dubawi, also the sire of 27 Appleby colts and geldings. Surprisingly, as many as 12 were already gelded at the start of the campaign and at least a couple more have subsequently experienced the unkindest cut.

Appleby had three colts by Dubawi as major candidates for the 2,000 Guineas: Meydan Classic winner Naval Crown, who beat Master Of The Seas that day; Master Of The Seas himself, who went on to win the Craven Stakes; and One Ruler, runner-up to Mac Swiney in the 2020 Vertem Futurity, also went to the Guineas. Master Of The Seas did best, losing out in a desperate thrust to the line with Poetic Flare and, while that Jim Bolger horse has gone on to run in both the Irish (close third to Mac Swiney) and French (easy winner) Guineas, and then dominated the St James’s Palace Stakes, we are yet to see Master Of The Seas again.

Another Dubawi colt to do well has been Yibir, winner of the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket’s July meeting, while the geldings Kemari (King Edward VII) and Creative Force (Jersey Stakes) both at Royal Ascot have been to the fore.

It is noticeable that several of the gelded group have been either difficult to train or simply very late developers.

Meanwhile, the five-strong team of Frankel sons have been nothing short of spectacular. It will be of great satisfaction for the organisation that Adayar is out of a Dubawi mare and not an especially talented one.

What of the other three? One, Magical Land, has been gelded. He won the latest of his seven races for Appleby and has an 80 rating. The others have not been sighted this year. Fabrizio, placed as a juvenile, is a non-winner but Dhahabi is an interesting horse I’d love to see reappearing.

At 3.1 million guineas this half-brother to Golden Horn carried plenty of expectations. He won on debut and, last time in the autumn, was third to One Ruler in a Group 3 at Newmarket. Just the five Frankels, then, and I bet Charlie wishes he had a few more. The list of juveniles shows 48 sons and daughters of Dubawi and 11 by Frankel.

For many years the ultra-loyal and ever agreeable Saeed Bin Suroor was the only and then the principal Godolphin trainer. His stable is now increasingly the junior partner with half of the 140-odd complement listed as four years of age or older, and many of these are probably more suited to the structure of racing in Dubai over the winter. Saeed has three Dubawi three-year-old colts and one filly this year, but none by Frankel. The juveniles listed reveal one by each stallion.

How ironic that in the year of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s death in January, the all-conquering owner of Juddmonte Farms never saw the crowning of Frankel, already the greatest racehorse certainly of the past half-century, as a Derby-producing sire.

He will surely progress again from this situation and, now with Galileo also recently deceased, is in position as the obvious inheritor of his sire’s pre-eminence.

The other younger contenders will take time to earn their prestige and it can only be good for racing that a horse that went unbeaten through 14 races has made such a statement at the top end of the sport.

To win his King George, Adayar had to see off the challenge from the tough Mishriff, stepping forward from his comeback third to St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse Stakes. His owner, Prince Abdulrahman Abdullah Faisal, was one of the people I’ve known for half a lifetime that greeted me on Saturday. Also, Adayar had to consign Love to her first defeat for 21 months. The concession of so much weight to a younger colt by an older mare – 8lb – is never easy, but her race didn’t go as expected either.

Her pacemaker Broome missed the break and then only gradually moved into the lead. In the straight Love looked poised and then Mishriff tightened her up on the outside as Ryan Moore was beginning to move her into a challenging position. Having to change course, as the Coolmore filly did halfway up the short Ascot straight, is never the recipe for success.

It is fair to say, though, that Adayar would have won whatever. It will be interesting to see how Appleby shuffles his pack. Someone suggested the St Leger. If you wanted to make Adayar a jumps stallion, that’s what you would do. He won’t go anywhere near Town Moor in September. With due deference to the fifth Classic, he will have much bigger fish to fry.

- TS

Glorious Goodwood 2020: Day 4 Preview, Tips

To Friday, the fourth day of five at the Qatar Goodwood Festival - Glorious Goodwood to you and me. Goodwood Friday is one of those days in the calendar marked off on January 1st, along with Cheltenham week, Royal Ascot, and the Breeders' Cup, when I am planning to be at the track for the very best of what the sport has to offer.

But not this year, alas. This year, I - like everyone else - will be confined to the sofa for my Glorious viewing. No bad thing in the context of what's going on around the globe but, for all that it is a first world problem, they are days like these when I feel those invisible bars constraining my liberty. On...

1.10 TDN Australia Handicap (1m3f, Class 3 0-90, 3yo)

We commence with another of those inscrutable, to me at least, three-year-old handicaps. I'm trying to look to the form of races which are working out well, but this year's fractured programme means there are less of those. The ratings boys will have a better handle than me on this one so I'll largely leave it to them - Peter May's numbers, for example, scream Al Qaqaa, the eight length last day victor. A nine pound rise is unlikely to stop him if he is in the same mood here.

I was a fan of Celestran after his Yarmouth win but, for all that he's run well in defeat since, that race hasn't worked out as well as I expected it might. He's not one to give up on yet, however.

Possibly the most interesting, Al Qaqaa aside, is Summit Reach, trained by the wily and in-form 'Raif' Beckett. He made all to hack up in a mile event at Chelmsford which has worked out very well and, while he's failed to go gate to wire over this sort of distance twice since, he ought to have a squeak of stacking them up on this pace-favouring piste. Stall ten won't be an issue for him.

In truth, this is not a betting race for me.

1.45 Oak Tree Stakes (7f, Group 3, 3yo+ fillies & mares)

Low draws have dominated in the Oak Tree Stakes historically. Since 1997, the winner has been drawn 2,2,2,1,5,1,6,6,1,1,1,10,9,2,2,9,10,10,5,1,6,3,10

Put another way, the inside three stalls - after removing non-runners - have won 12 from 69 runners; the outside three stalls have won one from 69 runners. The heat map, which shows all similar races run over this course and distance since 2009, accentuates the point still further:

Invitational has to be of interest. She'd won two at seven furlongs - in slightly lower grade, granted - prior to patently failing to stay a mile on the stiff Ascot track behind Nazeef last time. Back to seven, with a favourable draw and front rank run style, 14/1 is too big.

One Master is in the one box and is a genuine Group 1 filly dropping into Group 3 company. She has a big class edge on Invitational but will need luck in running on this notoriously cambered course. If she gets a clear run she'll probably win.

A Group 3 winner over seven is Breathtaking Look whose draw in nine is acceptable and will be mitigated by a pace-tracking run style. She ran a bold race over six at Newmarket on her 2020 bow (second to July Stakes hero, Oxted) and was only just touched off in a York G3 last time, again over a furlong shorter. Seven is well within her compass as that Sceptre Stakes score last September attests so she ought to go well.

Charlie Appleby runs Althiqa, a Listed race winner in France last time and Godolphin have a second dart in the more exposed Final Song. Fourth in the 1000 Guineas, that one may not have appreciated the soft ground the last twice; even if that's right, however, she has stall 13 - unlucky for most at this range - to overcome.

Anna Nerium and the French filly Wasmya both have good draws if they're lucky in the run.

With a clear passage, One Master will be very hard to beat; but her run style does offer wagering hope that the race sets up for one kept out of trouble. I'll risk Invitational, in spite of her having to concede weight to the three-year-olds and ostensibly being as much as a stone 'wrong' with some of her peers. She'll be near the front, sees out seven well, and looked progressive prior to failing to stay last time.

2.15 Thoroughbred Stakes (1m, Group 3, 3yo)

Just the five go to post for this Group 3, the four-and-a-half length Britannia Stakes winner, Khaloosy, being a shade of odds-on as I write. That was on soft, this will be good to firm; that was 22 runners and truly run, this will be five runners and potentially tactical; that was a handicap, this is a conditions race. He very well might still win.

Against him are a couple of uber-unexposed colts in My Oberon and Tilsit. The former won a York novice last time by six lengths, showing a ready turn of foot. That attribute could be valuable in a contest with no obvious pace angle and, with just two runs to his name thus far, he can progress again.

Tilsit has a similar profile: the second of his two runs to date was a 19 (nineteen!) length romp on the straight track at Newcastle. It's virtually impossible to quantify that in the context of this race except to say he's clearly a capable individual.

The other pair look a lot more exposed.

This is a very different test for Khaloosy and, as such, taking odds-on doesn't appeal. My Oberon looks the more likely of the other two last day wide margin scorers, and he's a sporting bet at bigger than 3/1.

2.45 Golden Mile Handicap (1m, Class 2, 3yo+)

The strongest draw bias race in the calendar just about: low draws have it, high draws do not. Recent winners of this race have been drawn 4,15,9,5,4,2,1,3,3,5,1,1,15,7,1,8,13,5,9,1,3,3,3

Backing the lowest three drawn horses in that time arbitrarily would have returned a profit at SP of 40.75 points.

Moreover, when the going has been good or faster, stalls 1-5 have been responsible for the winner in five of the last seven years, and the second in the two non-winning years.

Here's the pace/draw heat map for ALL handicap races over a mile at Goodwood on quick ground with 14+ runners. Good luck if you fancy Montatham: he'll be a mighty horse to win from there.

Mark Johnston won this in 2012, 2010, 2009, 2001 and 1997 but has had plenty beaten since his last success. He's triple-handed this time and has lucked in with the draw for two of them, the forward-going pair Vale Of Kent and Cardsharp.

Joe Fanning is likely to set the fractions on Vale Of Kent, who was second in the race last year off a seven pound lower mark. That, incredibly, was from stall 17 and he has trap 3 this time: he's a definite player with Goodwood form of 2142 including three big field spins and is generally available at 10/1.

Cardsharp has Will Buick steering and emerges from box five. He has yet to run at the track and looks more of a seven furlong horse.

The highly progressive Prompting is drawn in stall two and is favourite. For all that he won well last time that was in a Class 4 seven furlong handicap on the wide open expanses of the Knavesmire: he looks like he'll be ridden for luck in a better race over further and is therefore not exciting at the price. His trainer, David O'Meara, is in excellent form and he could still be competitive with a clear run.

Another who will come later and need to be commensurately lucky in transit is Sir Busker. He's been impressive this term at a mile and shaped as though needing those extra yards when just failing to get up over seven at Newmarket last time. Up another five pounds for that effort won't help but the 'capper has been struggling to keep tabs on William Knight's progressive four-year-old.

Almufti has the inside stall and a nine pound weight pull with Sir Busker on Ascot running two starts back. He, more than most, will need the splits to arrive but he remains playable for small money at 14/1, hard luck potential notwithstanding.

Mostly, though, I think Vale Of Kent looks likely to run his race and is attractive at 10/1 with extra places if you like.

3.15 King George Stakes (5f, Group 2, 3yo+)

This race is all about Battaash, who is a very very fast horse and oozes class. His price of 4/11 reflects the strong likelihood that he'll win so you'll need plenty of elevens to be prepared to risk them to get some fours.

I had a good bet on Liberty Beach to finish second to Battaash at Ascot where she got chinned on the line by Equilateral. She's since been beaten into second in a Listed race but she won the Molecomb here last year and the slightly easier finish looks more to her tastes. She's my idea of the second and 7/4 without Battaash is the bet if you don't just want to cheer the high class jolly's anticipated procession.

Glass Slippers looks like she will appreciate a bit more give in the ground and perhaps another tilt at the Abbaye is where we'll see her best this term. Al Raya might not be impossible but the rest, including the French runner Ken Colt, probably are just about.

3.45 Glorious Stakes (1m4f, Group 3, 4yo+)

Treacherous punting territory in spite of just seven lining up. The last winner at a double figure price was in 2001 so I'll use that as an excuse to overlook Le Don De Vie, Spirit Of Appin and, reluctantly, Thundering Blue.

That leaves a quartet at 5/1 or shorter headed by Communique, a horse who has forgotten how to win a touch. In fairness, he's been second three times since a Group 2 score in July last year, and was only a half length behind Eagles By Day over arguably a trip too far last time.

Desert Encounter has won absolute bundles - over a million quid, in fact - from his globetrotting exploits and he added another 57 'bags' (bag of sand = grand) when nicking this under a typically late Jamie Spencer ride last term. At around 3/1 he's a less appealing price this time than the 15/2 he returned then, but his case is more obvious. Jim Crowley takes over from Jamie.

Alounak is another to have acquired more than just air miles from his world tour, aggregating better than £330,000 to date. Alas, that was pretty much exclusively for his previous, German, trainer. Andrew Balding has managed 'just' the £30k with the son of Camelot in three spins to date, but he nearly stole the show in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. A capable fellow on his day, he's another who usually runs well in defeat.

That's a comment which can be applied to the 2-from-13 Pablo Escobarr also, though one of his brace was achieved in a maiden race here. This is a different level of difficulty and not one about which I'm excited for his chance.

Thundering Blue was such a devil a couple of seasons back putting his trainer, David Menuisier, on the map. He ran mostly flat last term, however, and it remains to be seen how much affection for the task the now seven-year-old retains. Likeable old sausage, all the same.

This is the sort of race where one arrives at a wager by a process of elimination. All have been serial non-winners in recent times with the exception of the reigning champ, Desert Encounter. He's very far from bombproof but is less unreliable than his rivals and gets the nod on that basis!

4.20 Nursery Handicap (6f, Class 2, 2yo)

I just don't know. Maybe Rooster or Perotti, both off the track for a month and more, both expected capable of better after the break, both representing respected Goodwood trainers. Next.

4.55 Fillies' Maiden (6f, Class 4, 2yo)

The bar beckons.

**

And that's Friday's somewhat truncated preview. I hope you don't mind me skipping the last pair: you shouldn't because I genuinely have no idea on those - even more so than the 30-odd races which preceded them this week!

As is customary, I will leave you to your own devices on Saturday and wish you well. And, as is customary, you may be very grateful of that come the time...

Many thanks for reading this week, and I hope you've both enjoyed the sport and perhaps found a nicely-priced winner or two.

Matt

p.s. There will be a crowd at Goodwood on Saturday. It will be the first occasion since mid-March that racegoers have been permitted to indulge their passion on site and, in these nervous tentative times, that feels like a small win. Let us hope that the macro situation allows for this to become our 'new normal', as there are plenty of racecourses up and down the land who rarely get more than the ceiling 5000 in attendance. In other words, they might get back somewhere close to business as usual, which will be good for all of us one way or another.

Baby steps, but on and up.