Trainer Charlie Appleby is relishing the prospect of saddling Blue Point, the fastest horse to ever come up his gallops, against the blisteringly quick Battaash in a King’s Stand Stakes rematch the Godolphin trainer believes is good for racing. Both sprinters posted impressive victories on their most recent outings, whetting the appetite for a repeat of the Royal Ascot showdown that Blue Point won by a length and three-quarters last year. “Blue Point is in great order and it’s going to be exciting,” said Appleby. “This is what racing wants: you want these good horses clashing.
If Battaash and Blue Point turn up with their ‘A-game’, it’s going to be a great race.” Despite looking as good as ever in posting three victories at Meydan this year, Blue Point is playing second fiddle in the market to Battaash, who was a devastating winner of the Temple Stakes on his return. Appleby says Battaash deserves his position at the head of the betting but is not afraid of taking him on with Blue Point, who before victory in the Al Quoz Sprint the trainer said had developed into the finished article. He added: “I know Battaash has taken over as favourite and justifiably so on his reappearance win, when he was very impressive, but I’m not frightened of taking him on again, that’s for sure.” Appleby will be hoping Blue Point, whose King’s Stand clash is the third race on day one, can lay down an early marker in an important week for the Godolphin operation and kickstart a season that has been slow to get going in Britain.
The trainer, who sent out 12 top level winners last year, can rely on a strong team at the meeting including Ghaiyyath, Masar and Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter. Cross Counter is also set for a scintillating showdown at Royal Ascot as he bids to dethrone leading stayer Stradivarius in the Gold Cup. Appleby admits it will be a tough task to topple Stradivarius, who has won his last six starts and was unbeaten last season, but is hopeful Cross Counter is up to the challenge. He said: “This is going to be his acid test now, stepping up to two and a half miles, and if he does stay then it’s going to open up new options for him. He’ll become a proper Cup horse for the summer. “This is going to be a sterner test for him taking on the proper staying division in Stradivarius and one of the younger contenders in Dee Ex Bee.” Like Blue Point, Cross Counter was imperious on Dubai World Cup night, getting the better of stablemate Ispolini to win the Dubai Gold Cup, and he has compiled an excellent CV in a short space of time.
“You can’t fault what he’s done, he broke the track record over a mile and a half at Goodwood and ran well in what worked out a good race in the Great Voltigeur,” added Appleby. “The rest is there for everyone to see, winning a Melbourne Cup and then coming out on his reappearance to win in Dubai. I thought it was impressive given there was a good bit of improvement in him on World Cup night, not that you want to be turning up on that stage undercooked, but we felt he wasn’t 100% ready. He did it on class that night. “William Buick climbed off him and was very confident that stepping him up to two and a half won’t be a problem.” The Hardwicke Stakes is on the agenda for the lightly raced and highly regarded Ghaiyyath, who tackles a mile and a half for the first time. Appleby added: “We’ve always been saying that we can’t wait to step him up to the mile and a half and this is going to be his chance. “He’s in good order, worked well this morning and it’s all systems go towards the Hardwicke.”