Confident Ward looks to fast Lady to prove herself best in the world
Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes | 5f, 2yo+ | ITV/RUK
The brilliant Lady Aurelia puts her unbeaten record over five furlongs on the line in a race which could earn her the title of the fastest horse in the world according to trainer Wesley Ward.
The US-trained filly has a record of five wins from six starts and suffered her sole defeat in last year's 6f Cheveley Park Stakes. She had won the Prix Morny over the same distance, but her two races at this 5f trip – both at Ascot – have resulted in victories by three and seven lengths.
On her last outing, Lady Aurelia overcame an outside draw to dominate a strong field in the King's Stand Stakes, sustaining her effort from the front to beat Profitable in impressive fashion by three lengths.
Unlike other US runners she is not limited by ground having produced an electric display last year to win the 2016 Queen Mary Stakes by seven lengths on soft going.
The filly has been back to Keeneland since the royal meeting and has been based at York since she arrived for her latest British mission. In the meantime a new sprint rival has emerged in Battaash, with whom she clashes for the first time.
Ward said on Wednesday: "I haven't seen much of Battaash, but I'm sure he's a very good horse, which you expect in a race like this. The score will be settled on the battlefield.
"Lady Aurelia is getting more seasoned. She travelled over well, has had ample spacing between races and has done beautiful work.
"She's had a couple of nice breezes over the track. I couldn't ask for a horse to train any better than she did this morning. There have been no hiccups in her schedule, so we're in great shape."
Ward challenged for the Nunthorpe two years ago when 13-8 favourite Acapulco was beaten by Mecca's Angel.
"This is the most coveted midsummer sprint race in the world," he said. "She could be the fastest horse in the world if she wins it."
Pros Brilliant Royal Ascot winner who is unbeaten at the trip
Cons Filly is 4lb worse off with older horses under weight for age than in June
Red-hot Crowley out to ambush Aurelia with Battaash
Jim Crowley has masterminded defeats of Barney Roy, Ribchester and Churchill and now has his sights set on lowering the colours of leading US sprinter Lady Aurelia on rising star Battaash.
Crowley had not won a Group 1 race for three years but in the last seven weeks the reigning champion jockey has landed the Coral-Eclipse on Ulysses, the Sussex Stakes on Here Comes When and the Juddmonte International, again on Ulysses.
He now has the chance to strike at the highest level for his employer Hamdan Al Maktoum on King George Stakes winner Battaash, who takes on the brilliant Lady Aurelia in a race where the bookmakers are going 9-1 bar those two.
Battaash has made rapid strides this year winning all three starts at Listed, Group 3 and Group 2 level, breaking the 5f track record on fast ground at Sandown and then proving equally at home on soft ground at Goodwood.
Crowley, who was riding Battaash for the first time when the three-year-old won at Goodwood, said: "What impressed me was the way he coped with the ground because there’s always a doubt in your mind when a horse has got so much speed.
"He’s equally effective on fast ground and I think the track will suit."
Crowley has seen plenty of main rival Lady Aurelia, finishing fourth to her on Muthmir in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Muthmir was also fourth behind Battaash at Sandown in July.
"He beat Muthmir much further than Lady Aurelia beat him, but under different circumstances," he said. "Fillies can be a little in and out, plus she has to cope with the travelling back and forth, but what she’s done so far has been impressive. She’s a very fast filly and it’s going to be a great race."
Battaash is drawn nine and is away from Lady Aurelia who breaks from stall three.
Trainer Charlie Hills said: "I’ve been really pleased with him since he won the King George and I think he looks a bigger horse; he’s got a lot more confidence.
"I described Battaash as a bull in a china shop earlier in his career, but he’s getting better all the time. That said, York’s not an easy lead-up in the preliminaries with the stables across the track, so we’ll box him over instead of walking."
Pros Fast-improving sprinter who copes on all ground
Cons Will need to keep temperament in check ahead of first test at Group 1 level
What they say
David Griffiths, trainer of Take Cover and Duke Of Firenze
I can't see any of us getting near Lady Aurelia and Battaash if they both turn up. Take Cover ran a cracker at Goodwood given the ground was terrible and came out of it fine. He's drawn well in the middle and ran a big race in this last year. Duke Of Firenze was beaten a nose in the Dash by a horse who beat Marsha in Ireland. He loves York. It's another step up, but he'll run a lot better than his price. All being well Take Cover will go off from the front and maybe Duke Of Firenze will come from off the pace at the end.
Paul Midgley, trainer of Final Venture
There's the big two, but third place is up for grabs. We can only hope one or both of the favourites underperform to have a chance of beating them. He couldn't cope with the ground at Goodwood, but hopefully it will dry up. He's ready to go and doesn't need to rely on anyone else – he does is own thing.
Robert Cowell, trainer of Goldream
He's visored for the first time. We're just trying to see if we can add a little dimension to him that might help him find a pound or two. He's got it all to do to beat the top two, but he'll be giving it his best. He looks a picture.
Clive Cox, trainer of Profitable and Priceless
Profitable is 4lb better off with Lady Aurelia and comes into it fresh and well. He's very consistent and I'm pleased he's drawn closer to Lady Aurelia than he was at Ascot. I'm buoyant about his chances. Priceless would like things to dry up. She needs to find a bit on the book, but she's trained very well.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Washington DC
He's in good form and think a strongly run five furlongs will suit as he likes to come from off a fast pace.
Sir Mark Prescott, trainer of Marsha
She and Profitable always finish within a length of each other. They are wonderfully consistent and to date they are not good enough to beat the other two. Tiny little things make a difference in sprints, but I have the feeling we need the luck.
Read exclusive previews from 6pm daily on racingpost.com