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Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Key contenders and trainer views as Battaash bids to banish Nunthorpe blues

Battaash: bidding for a second Group 1 success in the Nunthorpe
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3.35 York
Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes | 5f | Group 1 | 2yo+ | ITV/RUK

At Goodwood Battaash was brilliant. It is not, however, lost on Charlie Hills that Battaash was also brilliant at Goodwood last year. Then he went to York and flopped.

Now the sport's fastest thoroughbred returns to the Knavesmire as odds-on favourite, with connections hoping to erase the memory of 12 months ago.

When at his best Battaash is a rare and speedy sight to behold. Yet although magnificent in the last two runnings of the King George Stakes and the 2017 Prix de l'Abbaye, Hamdan Al Maktoum's four-year-old can throw away his chance before a race has started, as he did prior to that first Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes tilt.

Battaash is miles in front of all his rivals at Goodwood

"As soon as I got on him in the paddock I knew he’d got out of bed on the wrong side," said jockey Jim Crowley, who believes a barking dog at the start only made matters worse. He will this time be hoping for no canine interventions and a display that will enable Battaash to reverse this season's King's Stand Stakes defeat by Blue Point.

"If he brings his A-game he'll be mighty competitive and should win, but there is always that concern with him half an hour before the race," said Hills, whose stable star faces 15 opponents.

Battaash is led on to the track before last year's Nunthorpe

"We are going back to the place where he heated up last year, so I can understand why there are so many runners – if I was in the position of the other trainers I would probably be taking him on as well."

Hills added: "Blue Point beat us at Ascot and I would imagine his plan will be to follow us. However, Battaash was amazing last time and he does seem better behaved this year. He had a wind operation over the winter and it's possible something in that regard was previously making him anxious."

Pros: The best and fastest horse in the field and magnificent last time
Cons: He boiled over on this day last year and connections admit they cannot be confident he won't do it again

Appleby confident of a big Blue effort

Blue Point trades at a much bigger price than Battaash for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes but the one time the two horses met it was Blue Point who emerged victorious. You sense in-form trainer Charlie Appleby believes he can triumph once again.

Appleby has enjoyed a stunning season for Godolphin, one of the many highlights being Blue Point's length-and-three-quarter defeat of Battaash at Royal Ascot.

Since then William Buick's mount has disappointed in the July Cup, but Appleby feels there were legitimate excuses for that defeat and is looking forward to seeing his former Ebor festival winner take on the Nunthorpe challenge.

"He comes to the race in great order – I'm confident with him," said Appleby.

"I've been pleased with his preparation, he has course experience at York, dropping back to five furlongs doesn't worry me and we're in the fortunate position of not being odds-on favourite, so the pressure is off us.

"We also have a nice draw as we're right where the pace is going to be, which is close to Battaash. If we can follow him through we'll just have to see if this time our horse is good enough to pick him up and produce a repeat of the Ascot performance."

Blue Point (William Buick) beats Battaash (Jim Crowley) in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot

Appleby added: "You can put a line through his July Cup run. The first thing William said after the race was the track didn't suit. He is one of those 'shouldery' sprinters who likes to meet the ground or be on a flat track."

Pros: Current odds seem to ignore the fact Blue Point beat Battaash in the King's Stand and they now meet on a track where Blue Point has the better record
Cons: Battaash was almost certainly below-par at Ascot, while Blue Point has to bounce back from a tame effort in the July Cup

What they say

Bryan Smart, trainer of Alpha Delphini
He is in great form and looks amazing. From stall seven we have options.

Mick Appleby, trainer of Caspian Prince
He is drawn in between the big two. He can't trouble them if they run to form but can hopefully sneak a place. He has run very well the last few times and is still in good order.

Karl Burke, trainer of Havana Grey
We were going to swerve the Nunthorpe and another meeting with Battaash but after he came out of Goodwood so well we decided to run. Five days before going to Goodwood he got loose and galloped half a mile down the road. He wasn't right for 24 hours but we didn't say anything at the time as he bounced back at home and we obviously wouldn't have run him if we hadn't thought he was 100 per cent. However, he did come out of the race a little tight and muscle sore, so we think there's reason to believe that was the reason for him running two or three lengths below his best.

Julie Camacho, trainer of Judicial
We were going to run him at the Curragh after Sandown but he just wasn't 100 per cent so we decided to take him straight to the Nunthorpe fresh and well. We're not daft. If Battaash is in the form he was at Goodwood he will win but we are hoping he doesn't like York.

Judicial posted a Group 3 success at Sandown in July

Michael Dods, trainer of Mabs Cross
Mabs Cross is more suited to a track like Ascot, which is a stiff five furlongs. She's a finisher so might not be as effective on a flat track like York but deserves her chance.

Richard Fahey, trainer of Mr Lupton
We’d hoped a few of them weren’t going to run to give us a bit more of a chance! He’s run twice at York this season and won twice, so you can’t knock him. He’s going to need to find an A-game that he hasn’t done before though.

David Griffiths at home with stable star Take Cover

David Griffiths, trainer of Take Cover
He ran a cracker at Goodwood. Battaash was seriously good but there were Group 1 winners in behind us. He's come out of that brilliantly and his work since has been very good.

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Washington DC, Battle Of Jericho, Declarationofpeace and Sioux Nation
When Sioux Nation ran at Goodwood it was his first time back over five furlongs since early in the season. They went very fast and we're hoping the experience of that race will have brought him on. Washington DC and Declarationofpeace are similar in that they like to come from off a fast pace. The trip and the ground will suit but they'll need things to fall their way. We think Battle Of Jericho has progressed since his last run and the ground and trip will suit.

Clive Cox, trainer of Heartache
After running very well in the Commonwealth Cup she didn't appear to show her best form at Goodwood. She has worked well since.

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If he brings his A-game he'll be mighty competitive and should win, but there is always that concern with him half an hour before the race
E.W. Terms
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