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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.”

Battaash back for more in King’s Stand heat

Last year’s winner Battaash leads the way in Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot after all 16 horses stood their ground at the 48-hour final declaration stage.

The seven-year-old will be making a belated seasonal debut after suffering an injury during the winter, but he has been successful first time out in all five previous campaigns.

The Charlie Hills-trained speedster took the prize in grand style 12 months ago after finishing runner-up in 2018 and 2019.

He will be a warm order to repeat the dose but is expected to face strong opposition from younger sprinters headed by Tim Easterby’s three-year-old Winter Power.

Oxted drops back to five furlongs
Oxted drops back to five furlongs (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Roger Teal’s Oxted, winner of the July Cup in 2020, drops down to the minimum trip for the first time in a bid to land a second Group One.

Liberty Beach, third 12 months ago, returns for more on the back of winning the Temple Stakes at Haydock last month.

There are two American raiders in Brendan Walsh’s Al Quoz Sprint victor Extravagant Kid and Wesley Ward’s Maven, while The Queen is represented by King’s Lynn.

Ward has the ante-post favourite, Kaufymaker, in the Coventry Stakes.

The only filly in the 17-runner field, the daughter of Jimmy Creed made a big impression when romping home on her debut at Keeneland two months ago.

Aidan O’Brien relies on The Acropolis to give him a record 10th victory in the Group Two for two-year-olds over six furlongs. Masseto, trained by his son, Donnacha, is the other Irish-trained raider.

John and Thady Gosden have two live contenders in Dhadab and Tolstoy, as does Richard Hannon in Gisburn and Secret Strength.

Euchen Glen heads the Wolferton Stakes field
Euchen Glen heads the Wolferton Stakes field (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Jim Goldie’s admirable eight-year-old Euchen Glen heads 14 runners for the Wolferton Stakes.

The Authorized gelding took the Group Three Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown last month and has to carry a 5lb penalty.

A competitive line-up includes Solid Stone, Stormy Antarctic, Felix and Patrick Sarsfield.

If Felix can triumph, he will provide trainer Marco Botti with a second Royal Ascot success after Aljazzi triumphed in the 2018 Duke of Cambridge Stakes.

Aljazzi triumphed for Marco Botti three years ago at the Royal meeting
Aljazzi triumphed for Marco Botti three years ago at the Royal meeting (John Walton/PA)

Felix made significant strides on the all-weather in the winter before taking his form to a new level in Dubai when third to Lord North in the Dubai Turf – the outstanding piece of form on offer in the Listed line-up.

“The Wolferton is the plan, and it has been for a while – he loves good ground, and a mile and a quarter should suit him,” said Botti.

“He seems in good order. We freshened him up since Dubai, and everything has gone well with him.

“Oisin Murphy will ride. He rode him well in Dubai, and it’s nice he can maintain the partnership.

“He’s arguably got the best piece of form in the race – finishing third in a Group One – but while he’s dropping down into a Listed race, because it’s at Royal Ascot, it will be as strong as a Group Two or a Group Three really.

“It’s a good race, but if he can show the same form he did in Dubai he should have a good chance.

“We weren’t tempted by the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. We’d like to run in the Arlington Million later in the year if all goes to plan – and because he’s a gelding, we’ll avoid the really top-class horses if we can.”

Willie Mullins is three-handed with M C Muldoon, Rayapour and Royal Illusion as Ireland’s champion jumps trainer bids to win the Ascot Stakes for a fourth time in seven years.

Coeur De Lion and Thore Hammer Hansen triumphed last year
Coeur De Lion and Thore Hammer Hansen triumphed last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Alan King-trained Coeur De Lion, winner 12 months ago, is among the 20 final declarations.

King has a leading fancy in top-weight On To Victory in the concluding Copper Horse Handicap.

Mullins goes for this mile-and-three-quarter prize with Saldier after 16 horses were declared, plus three reserves.

American speedster Extravagant Kid all set for King’s Stand

Brendan Walsh is relying on his American raider Extravagant Kid to atone for Benbaun’s narrow defeat by Takeover Target in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Walsh worked for Newmarket trainer Mark Wallace when Benbaun was beaten a short head by the Australian challenger back in 2006.

Takeover Target was seven when he landed the Group One dash over five furlongs – and although Extravagant Kid is a year older, he is in the form of his life and won the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan on his most recent start in March.

“Being an Irishman, I grew up and worked in Europe for many years – I worked for Godolphin for many years,” Walsh told a virtual press conference hosted by Great British Racing International.

“When I worked for Mark Wallace at Newmarket we had a horse called Benbaun, who was just touched off in the King’s Stand Stakes by Takeover Target.

“I’ve been around Royal Ascot all my life. You come over here and don’t expect it. We’ve watched (fellow US trainer) Wesley (Ward) over the last few years – but for me it was the last thing I would have expected to have a runner at Royal Ascot.

“It’s very special, knowing how big it is at home.

“It is nice to be able to run over there and compete with the very best of European trainers and jockeys.”

Walsh, who bought Extravagant Kid out of a claimer, has 65 to 70 horses in training in Kentucky.

“I think the travel and a different track, when you get to an age like him – an eight-year-old – you are trying to find something a little different,” he said.

“They have pretty much seen it all before, and this for him suits his character and it’s really picked him up – maybe that’s what most of his improvement is accredited to.

“My assistant Charlie Lynch is with him. He says he hasn’t missed a beat since he got there, pretty much like was doing in Dubai. You can’t beat that. We’ve prepared him for it, and it looks like it’s all going to plan.

“The Dubai thing was in my mind for a couple of years. I travelled a lot of horses with Godolphin back in the day and I thought this was the right year to go with Extravagant Kid.

“He thrived in Dubai when he got there, and he seems to be thriving in Newmarket since he got there.

“I’ve got no real hang-ups about it. I think it’s as we would want it, and if we get a good trip we will see if he’s good enough or not.

“I’m gutted I’m not going to be there. The way things are at the moment, it makes it very tough for us to travel. All the same it is still very exciting.”