One of last season’s sprint stars Battaash, who waltzed away with the Group 1 Prix De L’Abbaye to round off a successful three year old season, reappeared in Haydock’s Temple Stakes as a prelude to a crack at Royal Ascot’s Kings Stand Stakes.
Trainer Charlie Hills appeared nervous beforehand and was visibly relieved after the race. “He’s nowhere near in his coat yet but that race should really help that move. This is good timing to Royal Ascot and that was his main plan. He’s an exciting horse for the year.”
The race took on an unusual shape from the off as second favourite Kachy made straight for the far rail leaving the field spread pretty evenly across the track. “It was a very tactical race – I’ve watched plenty of Temple Stakes and they don’t normally do that. He didn’t really jump properly and I think that helped him”, said Hills adding “He was probably a little bit tired in the last few strides, but I’m just delighted we’ve got this day over with and now we can look forward to Ascot.”
Battaash had a 5lb penalty in this Group 2 race courtesy of his Group 1 in the Abbaye, becoming the first horse since Airwave 15 years ago to win this under a penalty. Jockey Dane O’Neill, deputising for retained rider Jim Crowley who was on duty in Ireland, was impressed saying “He’s going to improve a lot for that. He’s still quick.”
The team involved with third placed Kachy are planning to take the winner on again at Ascot with owner Dave Lowe tweeting “I don’t see any reason why Kachy can’t be competitive in the Kings Stand #RoyalAscot & as long as he comes out of the race this week bouncing again we will go there! For the record he didn’t swerve to the rail yesterday @haydockraces that was our plan & it almost came off!”
There will be stiffer opposition to Charlie Hills’ star in the Kings Stand, in many ways the most international of Ascot’s royal meeting events having been won in the past by horses such as Choisir, Takeover Target, Miss Andretti and Little Bridge. Leading the challengers to Battaash will be the US trained
Lady Aurelia who won the King’s Stand in convincing fashion last year, following up an even more convincing win at the meeting the previous season. She’ll be a tough nut to crack but she’ll know she’s been in a race if Battaash turns up in top form.