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First three home in last year’s King’s Stand to meet again

16 Jun 2019

Blue Point, Battaash and Mabs Cross will meet again at Royal Ascot on Tuesday

Mabs Cross lost a shoe when behind Battaash at Haydock last time. Picture: Racingfotos.com

The first three home in last year’s King’s Stand Stakes – Blue PointBattaash and Mabs Cross – meet again in what promises to be an explosive rematch on the first day of Royal Ascot on Tuesday.

The five-furlong feature, which also features two Aidan O’Brien-trained runners and an intriguing American challenger in the prolific Imprimis, is one of three QIPCO British Champions Series races on the card and will be over in about a minute.

Twelve months ago, it was Blue Point who came out on top by a length and three quarters from Battaash, with Mabs Cross, the subsequent Prix De l’Abbaye winner, another neck back in third.

The trio have continued to shine, with Battaash, in particular, being imperious when landing the Group 2 Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes on his reappearance at Haydock last month, when he had Mabs Cross behind in third.

Michael Dods, the trainer of Mabs Cross, admits his stable star faces no easy task turning the tables but she had previously got the better of Battaash in the Prix de l’Abbaye and was not helped at Haydock by being burdened by a penalty and other factors.

“She lost a hind shoe at Haydock and at the time I didn’t think it probably cost her anything but she was a bit sore for the next few days,” Dods said. “Also, I don’t think the track at Haydock plays to her strengths. She likes to come with a finish but at Haydock the race is already over by the time she does – we’ve seen that two years running.

“Ascot does play to her strengths because it’s a stiff finish and a bit of juice in the ground will also help her. If it’s good to soft, or on the easy side of good, that will suit as it will bring her stamina into play.

“Battaash was incredible at Haydock and if that horse turns up then he is going to run a massive race. Blue Point has done well out in Dubai, probably at a lower level, but he couldn’t have been more impressive, could he?

“It’s a tough race and we are fully aware we are up against two very good horses in those pair, plus we don’t know what this American horse [Imprimis] is like with Frankie on. Mabs Cross is well and I’m sure she will again perform well.”

It was only two years ago that Mabs Cross was running in handicap company off a rating of 74. Her mark has since soared to 115. “Before she had ever run, I thought she’d be a decent handicapper- an 80 or 90 (rated) horse. Things didn’t go right in her early races, then she won a poor race at Newcastle and things have gone on from there. She’s kept on improving and improving – it’s been unbelievable.”

Paul Mulrennan, the regular rider of Mabs Cross, requires one more winner to reach 1,000 in Britain, so could be in line to achieve a famous double. “I hope he’s done it before Tuesday as he’s riding some of mine beforehand!” Dods said. “It will be a great achievement for him, he’s been out with injury for a while, and I know he’s looking forward to Tuesday. He’s been a vital part of the team for several years.”

Dods, based near Darlington, has yet to savour a winner at Royal Ascot but it has not diminished his admiration of the meeting. “I don’t think there is anything like Ascot, especially the Royal Meeting,” he said. “Anyone who has never been racing should go there – it’s a marvellous place to go and so well organised. I’d say it’s the best week’s racing in the world.

“We won the Abbaye at Longchamp last year but the facilities are nothing like Ascot. We were disappointed – I didn’t think people were well looked after and everywhere was too busy. Ascot do it right, they know how to put on a show. We’ve not managed a Royal winner but hopefully at some stage we will.”

Blue Point, trained by Charlie Appleby, seeks to become the third two-time winner of the King’s Stand in the past decade after Equiano (2008-10) and Sole Power (2013-14). He has warmed up for his defence with three successive wins in Dubai, capped by victory in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on his latest start.

Charlie Hills has a second string to his bow in the shape of Equilateral, a neck runner-up to Mabs Cross in the Group 2 Zoustar Palace House Stakes at Newmarket in May.

Three-year-old runners to note include Soldier’s Call, whose exploits last season included winning the Group 2 Wainwrights Flying Childers and finishing third in the Prix de l’Abbaye; Signora Cabello, winner of the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot last year;  and Sergei Prokofiev, impressive winner of the Group 3 Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes.

The latter is the principal hope of record-breaking trainer Aidan O’Brien, who is still seeking a first King’s Stand triumph. He is also represented by Fairyland, winner of the Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes last season.

A strong international challenge is spearheaded by Imprimis, trained by Joseph Orseno, who has won seven of his nine races. Houtzen, trained by  Toby Edmonds in Australia, and Enzo’s Lad, only the second New Zealand-trained horse to run at Royal Ascot after Seachange in 2008, will also take part.

Enzo’s Lad is trained by 64-year-old Michael Pitman, who has successfully fought cancer in the past year and has a prosthetic left limb after a car accident that left in hospital for six months as a young man.

Judicial, trained by Julie Camacho, completes the 12-runner field.