Talking Horses: Battaash may bow out after losing King George to Suesa
Suesa stamped herself as a new force in the sprinting division here on Friday with a three-length defeat of Dragon Symbol in the Group Two King George Stakes, but as Francois Rohaut’s filly moved centre stage, one of the fastest horses of recent years may have taken his final bow. Battaash, the winner of the race for the last four years, faded into seventh after travelling strongly to the furlong pole, and could now retire to his late owner Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Stud near Newmarket.
A final decision is unlikely for a day or two yet, and will be taken by Sheikha Hissa Hamdan al-Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan’s daughter, who has taken charge of his racing interests following his death in March. If Battaash has run his final race, however, the memory of the astonishing speed which secured four Group One wins and six more in Group Twos will endure.
In addition to several explosive performances down Goodwood’s straight five furlongs, Battaash is also the first horse since Lochsong, in 1994, to achieve the rare distinction of winning all three European Group Ones at five furlongs: the Nunthorpe at York, the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.
Charlie Hills’s gelding underwent an operation on a joint fracture during the winter and finished fourth in last month’s King’s Stand before Friday’s defeat, his first in five starts over the minimum trip at Goodwood. He travelled strongly to the furlong pole but when Jim Crowley asked for an effort, the turn of foot that carried Battaash to so many big-race wins was missing.
“I think Battaash has done well to get back to the races,” Angus Gold, Shadwell’s racing manager, said. “He had an injury last year and it took him a long time to come right. He’s had issues all his life and I think it’s remarkable that he’s back with us at all. Jim said that he felt good, the enthusiasm was there. He didn’t like the ground, but he is a seven-year-old who has had a lot of problems.
“After all the problems he’s had and him being seven, why would we go on now? He had such a brilliant year last year. He won three out of three last year and was at the top of the game. Ascot I thought was a good run given how long he had been back in the yard. Today was not so good. I’ve got to speak to Sheikha Hissa and until I speak to her, I don’t know. Obviously, Charlie and the team would like to keep him in the yard, but there comes a time for all of us.”
While Battaash was dropping away, Suesa burst clear to beat Dragon Symbol, a decisive reversal of their form at Royal Ascot last month where Dragon Symbol was first across the line in the Commonwealth Cup with Suesa, the 9-4 favourite, well beaten in ninth.
“The ground was bad that day,” William Buick, Suesa’s rider in both races, said, “and it was over six furlongs, and she had no cover. I learnt a lot about her that day, she’s full of speed.
“She came back to five furlongs today and travelled so smoothly. She was hard on the bridle the whole way and she has that good kick at the finish.”
Battaash’s defeat in the King George followed two valuable winners for the Shadwell operation’s blue and white colours, as Baaeed continued his rapid progress through the mile division in the Thoroughbred Stakes before Maydanny found a clear run against the rail to give Mark Johnston his sixth success in the Golden Mile.
Baaeed, a son of Sea The Stars, did not see a racecourse until early June but could now be aimed at Group One company on his next start, having eased six lengths clear of El Drama, the Dee Stakes winner in May, on a tight rein.
“Baaeed is in three races, the [Group One] Jacques Le Marois, the [Group Two] Celebration Mile back here and the [Group One] Moulin,” William Haggas, Baaeed’s trainer, said. “I would like to run in two of them. He has had four races and has been running in decent company against three-year-olds. It’s time he took on the better ones in the bigger races.”
Saturday TV races tipping guide
The last dozen runnings of Saturday’s Unibet Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood suggest that winners can come from anywhere, and the fact that Major Jumbo and Meraas, two of the most likely pace-setters, are drawn on opposite sides removes another potential angle to whittle the field down to a manageable shortlist.
Hurricane Ivor and Fresh will be popular after big runs at Ascot last time out, while Oisin Murphy’s army of fans will home in on Bielsa. The champion jockey’s record when riding a handicapper for the first time this year is 31 wins from 144 bets and a 12% profit at level stakes.
At the likely odds, though, Michael Dods’s thriving sprinter Commanche Falls (3.40) makes most appeal at around 12-1. He was back to winning form at Hamilton two weeks ago, the runner-up there was touched off in a valuable sprint at York last weekend, and Connor Beasley should be able to settle his strong-travelling partner behind the pace on the stands’ side before delivering a challenge inside the final furlong.
Goodwood 1.20 Farasi Lane has improved steadily this season and put up his best performance yet in a comfortable win at Sandown last time. He achieved as much there as either of the market leaders, Quintillus and Spirit Of Bermuda, in their latest start but is around twice the price in the early odds at 10-1.
Goodwood 1.55 Power Over Me bounced back from a sub-par run after a break to win convincingly at Epsom earlier this month, only to lose the race to an objection by the clerk of the scales when Kieren Shoemark weighed in 2lb light. He is off the same mark here, giving his excellent rider a swift chance to make amends.
Newmarket 2.10 A dozen runners for this six-furlong nursery and the outsider of the field is 14-1, so a race to treat with caution. Tadita Twitch seemed to improve for being allowed to dictate when she dropped back to this trip last time, so could be worth a small interest at around 12-1 with Hollie Doyle taking over in the saddle.
Goodwood 2.30 Prince Alex was a close second behind Nuits Saint Georges in a strong time over this course and distance in May and is 6lb better off now. He found trouble in running at Newmarket next time and with Nuits Saint Georges heading the market at around 5-1, Prince Alex looks big at around 8-1 to make a winning debut for Michael Bell.
Newmarket 2.45 Sayyida responded well when required to make a winning handicap debut over this track and trip last month and has more scope for further progress than most of his rivals.
Goodwood 3.05 A 3lb penalty for her gutsy win in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot is unlikely to be enough to stop Wonderful Tonight extending her winning streak to four.