By Duane Fonseca
Shadwell sprint ace Battaash has for his first assignment in 2020 the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. It will be the 6yo Dark Angel gelding’s third bid to land the race after finishing second twice behind Blue Point in previous years.
Trained by Charles Hills, Battaash is the highest-rated horse in the Shadwell ranks of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He returned to Hills’ yard at Faringdon Place in mid-March and since then his preparations have been stepped up gradually as he prepares for the race next month.
Hills is thrilled with what he has seen so far and believes Battaash has every reason to make it third time lucky.
“He’s come back very well,” Hills said.
“He was a little more wintry than last year, but the last couple weeks, his coat has really been coming through. He’s physically done well and I’m happy with him. He’s had one swinging canter and we’re just trying to keep him ticking over. He’s not a big horse, so he doesn't take as much training and is a good, clean-winded type.”
Battaash won three of five events in 2019, including turning up an exceptional performance in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York Racecourse, where he lowered the course record for the 1,000m contest by 1.4 seconds as he stopped the clock at 55.90secs.
It was one of 10 career wins in 20 starts for Battaash who was due to begin his season at Haydock in the Group 2 Temple Stakes. But the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has put paid to those hopes meaning Battaash will now head straight for the Royal Meeting next month.
Hills added: “It depends on how they programme the rest of the year for him, but I don’t think we will be able to get a prep in before Royal Ascot, unfortunately.
“The race we would use has been abandoned, so we’ll go straight to Ascot. I don’t think anyone knows how it will all happen, but hopefully they do run it and all goes well. He should stay fresher later on into the year and we’ll be able to keep him going well, hopefully.”