Battaash out to retain Nunthorpe crown against young pretender Art Power
Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (Group 1) | 5f | 2yo+ | ITV/RTV
Charlie Hills has due respect for Art Power, the new kid on the sprinting block, but his attention is firmly focused on Battaash and he likes what he is seeing.
At York last year Battaash banished for good all suggestion that he could not cope with the track, or perhaps the idiosyncratic nature of the preliminaries there, producing one of his most sensational performances in a bulging CV.
If we forgive a subsequent heavy defeat at Longchamp, which Hills insists had nothing to do with what some call the ‘Battaash blip’, then he has done nothing wrong in the last 12 months, and massive performances at Royal Ascot and Goodwood — where he won the King George Stakes for a record fourth time — suggest that at six years of age he is as good, if not better, than ever.
If that is the case, the Nunthorpe is his to lose, and while temperament is no longer the concern it once was, Hills acknowledges that the lack of a crowd at York could be a plus. The same goes for the forecast drying wind.
Hills said: "Art Power's new to the division and it will be interesting to see how he runs. You have to be impressed with what he’s done, winning a good handicap at Royal Ascot in such style and then the Group 3 in Ireland, but we are really pleased with Battaash.
"He looked very fresh in his last canter here and he’s in great shape. He’s not put a foot wrong this year, and he’s enjoyed racing with no crowds. I’m not sure if the public will be allowed down near the start, but York certainly won’t be like it usually is. They say it will be windy there, and it won’t hurt if it dries out a bit."
He added: "The last blip seems a long time ago now. You can never rule out a racehorse getting upset, but he’s a lot more relaxed these days and so it’s not a particular concern any more.
"What happened at Longchamp in October [when Battaash was down the field in the Abbaye] had nothing to do with temperament. He behaved great but it was awful ground and from his draw he was on the worst of it."
Art Power is unbeaten in five starts and is held in the highest regard by all at King Power Racing, but he needs to improve significantly again.
Racing manager Alastair Donald said: "It will be a big ask for a horse having just his sixth lifetime start to beat one of the fastest sprinters we’ve seen and, although the ground looks like being okay for us, softer would have been better as we know that we cope with it and it might slow Battaash down.
"Battaash has beaten just about everything else around, and we are the young pretender, so we just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope Art Power can be the lion killer."
What they say
Kevin Ryan, trainer of Emaraaty Ana
While it will obviously be a tough task he’s working well and why not take a chance? He ran well at Chester and will have come on a lot for that run. He drops back to five furlongs and if he can travel and be there at the furlong-marker he’s going to finish.
James Bethell, trainer of Moss Gill
He's very well and it was a good effort when he won at York last time. It's a tough ask for him against Battaash, but we are hoping he can run into a place.
David Griffiths, trainer of Ornate
I was very happy with his run at Goodwood, where he was beaten only by two Group 1 sprinters, and he’s come out of the race well. It’s going to be tough, but I’m hoping he might nick a place.
Simon Crisford, co-trainer of A’Ali
He’s approached the race in fine fettle and as a four-time Group 2 winner he fully deserves his chance in a race like this. Apart from a couple of little blips he’s been a model of consistency and we expect him to run his usual good race. As a come-from-behind sprinter he’s a very different type to the favourite, but he’s certainly going to have a target to aim at.
Tim Easterby, trainer of Art Power
He’s in great form and the ground’s lovely. He's only a three-year-old and he’s not been overraced or over-trained. Winning this as a three-year-old takes some doing and I think he’ll be much better when he gets to four, but we'll do our best. He got the trip really well in Ireland and the ground was perfect. He’s in great form and I think he'll run very well, but Battaash is an unbelievable horse. It's all a stepping stone.
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