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07 Aug 2018
Issue Number: Issue 647
Seemar can only hope for another upward performance from North America
Dubai playing a key role in British racing, says Jockey Club boss
Busybody Tadhg looks to scale mountains after climbing Hills
Nass’ trial and error style seems to be working wonders for him
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Crowley strikes three times for Sheikh Hamdan - Glorious Goodwood

07/08/2018
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It certainly was a Glorious Goodwood for Sheikh Hamdan who celebrated three winners, including the Group One Purebred Arabian contest and the week’s featured sprint. That, the 5f Group 2 King George Stakes, looked a quality renewal with Battaash seeking to defend his crown for Sheikh Hamdan, opposed by the same owner’s 2015 winner, Muthmir and the veteran, 11yo Take Cover, victorious in the race in both 2014 and 2016 for David Griffiths. In reality, those three dominated. More accurately, Battaash, under a Group One penalty, produced a stunning performance under Jim Crowley, just as they had done 12 months earlier.

Drawn closest to the centre, with Take Cover on his inside, Crowley aimed left after about half a furlong, joining the main body of the 11 runners, leaving Take Cover in splendid isolation in the centre. At halfway, Battaash powered to the front, quickened and left the nine rivals closest to him, headed by Muthmir and Dane O’Neill, toiling in his wake. Take Cover gave chase, snatching second in the final furlong but beaten by four lengths and relegating Muthmir to third. But they were just the supporting cast to the very easy winner and, basically, star sprinter extraordinaire. For trainer Charlie Hills it was a welcome victory after a difficult spell when his horses, including Battaash at Royal Ascot, had not fired as hoped. 

Crowned the best 5f horse on the planet last year, Sheikh Hamdan’s 4yo gelded son of Dark Angel must have every chance of being such recognised again in 2018. And, as a gelding, potentially for a few years to come. Sheikh Hamdan, who reported the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York is next on his agenda, which Hills later confirmed, said: “Battaash is a very fast horse. He was under a shadow at Ascot but he was right today. I hope that he will keep sound and healthy.” Hills added: “He was going so well and Jim just had to let him be happy going forward. “Nothing was fast enough to give him a lead and I think today he was back to his best; it was probably a career best.

He had a penalty and it was a good time. “I always thought the faster the ground the better he’d be; he has the most amazing action and is so light on his feet.” The horse has not always been easy, in the preliminaries, on the way to start, in and around the stalls but, here, he was ‘a gentleman’. “It’s probably the best he’s behaved in his whole career in the preliminaries and I think that’s because he’s having more racing and growing up,” added the Lambourn trainer. “That nervous energy seems to be out of him. He’s been training a lot better at home and we have a lot to look forward to.

“It’s not been an easy summer, but there’s plenty of the season to go and the horses are running much better and that’s certainly helped today. “The Nunthorpe is the obvious next stop with a defence of his Abbaye title in October. He could go to Ireland for the Flying Five in September as well.” Crowley explained: “He was a lot more relaxed than last year. I was a bit conscious not to let him wing out of the stalls as I wanted to get a lead. “However, even Take Cover couldn’t lead him and when I saw the race developing over on the left side, I switched across. “It worked out fine. This year I’ve noticed he is a bigger horse and has filled out.

Last year he was quite narrow.” That was Friday, two days after the £400,000 Group 1 International Stakes was won almost as easily by the 6yo Muraaqib with Crowley riding for his main employer and Francois Rohaut from France. Rohaut said: “He has been in my yard for four years now and in my eyes has always been a champion. He is the best Arabian horse I have trained and probably right now he is the best in the world, certainly at a mile. “He was wearing blinkers for the first time today and it made a big difference; he was beaten last time out, but we wanted to keep them for today’s race.” The trainer also confirmed we could expect to see the striking grey back at Abu Dhabi in November to defend his crown in the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian race, the Group 1 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown in the UAE capital.

Crowley added: “It was the first time I sat on him since he won in Abu Dhabi in November. The blinkers were a big help for him today. “I was just waiting for the gap to appear and when it did, he won well. He travelled on the bridle and it is a great feeling to win this race.” The owner could not have made a better start to the meeting: landing the very first race, a 1m2f handicap, with Alfarris, trained by William Haggas. Again, Crowley was in the saddle and rode a patient race, biding his time, settling his mount in midfield and wide of his rivals before throwing down a telling challenge 2f out. Haggas said: “It was very good and I’m very pleased. “He’ll probably go to York as he likes the northern a i r , like his trainer! I fancy h i m going up in grade at some point. I think he’s decent.”

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