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Can anyone apply the brakes to lightning Battaash?

19 Aug 2020

Charlie Hills-trained rocket aims for back-to-back Nunthorpe wins

Battaash will face seven rivals when he attempts to consolidate his position as the fastest horse in the world in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on the third day of the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival at York on Friday.

The Charlie Hills-trained sprinter broke the track record when storming to victory in the five-furlong feature 12 months ago and this summer has continued to scorch the turf – winning the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on his return in June before landing the King George Qatar Stakes for the fourth successive year at Goodwood on his latest start.

The official ratings point to the six-year-old, owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and ridden by Jim Crowley, having an outstanding chance of retaining his title as he is officially rated between 11lb and 27lb superior to his opponents. However, he is unlikely to have things all his own way as he faces an intriguing pair of new opponents in Art Power and A’Ali, who are half his age and arrive on the upgrade.

Art Power, trained by Tim Easterby, has impressed in winning each of his three races this term, comfortably landing the Group 3 Coolmore Sioux Nation Lacken Stakes at Naas on his latest start, having previously easily won a handicap at Royal Ascot.

Meanwhile, A’Ali has lost just one of his six races over distances of about five furlongs – by a neck on his debut – and was winning in Group 2 company for the fourth time when landing the Holden Plant Rentals Sapphire Stakes at The Curragh on his latest start a month ago.

It was a striking success as the colt, trained by Simon Crisford and his son, Ed, surged to the front late on under Colin Keane after racing away from the bulk of the field.

Crisford Sr said: “He was racing alone and slightly detached from the rest of the field so he had to do it the hard way but his finishing sectionals were impressive and he looked very good throughout that final quarter-mile.

“It was always the plan after his victory in Ireland to head towards the Knavesmire and, touch wood, everything has gone very smoothly and he’s in good shape. He very much deserves his chance and is approaching the race just as we’d want. He’s been training very well and goes pretty much on any type of ground.”

Asked about the challenge of lowering Battaash’s colours, Crisford Sr said: “He’s been absolutely fantastic this campaign and has been through the last few years to be fair – it’s not just suddenly happened for him. He’s an amazing racehorse with fantastic early speed and he maintains that speed throughout the finishing quarter of a mile, if not quickening and building on what he does in the early part of a race.

Moss Gill has yet to finish out of the first two in four visits to York, winning the Listed John Smith’s City Walls Stakes at the track last month on his latest visit, when he had the filly Que Amoro behind in third. The latter, a winner at the Ebor meeting 12 months ago, is trained by Michael Dods, who landed the Nunthorpe twice with Mecca’s Angel (2015-16) and also went close with Mabs Cross, who was beaten a nose, in 2018.

Emaraaty Ana is another to have won at the meeting, having landed the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes over six furlongs in 2018. He will be having his first run over the minimum trip since winning on his debut earlier that year.

Kurious won last year’s Group 3 Coral Charge at Sandown Park but finished well adrift of Battaash at Royal Ascot in June. The speedy Ornate won last year’s Investec Dash Handicap at Epsom but has finished behind Battaash the four previous times they have met.