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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

The three big questions as Battaash bids to bounce back in the Abbaye

Battaash and Jim Crowley storm home in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood
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4.25 Longchamp
Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines | Group 1 | 5f | 2yo+ | ATR

Can Battaash hit the heights again?

After a scintillating performance for the second year running in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, Battaash was all the rage to follow up in the Nunthorpe at York but failed to fire, finishing a dim fourth, just as he had done in the race 12 months previously.

That, however, did not stop him producing a brilliant effort when thrashing his rivals in last year's Abbaye, which took place at Chantilly.

The four-year-old, who will be ridden by owner Hamdan Al Maktoum's main jockey Jim Crowley and heads the betting at a general 6-4, has his quirks but is behaving better than ever and is one of the world's best sprinters on his day.

Trainer Charlie Hills wanted a draw lower than nine and the gate gods have been kind to his stable star, placing him in stall six.

"He's got a good draw, it looks perfect, and we've got some fancied horses around us - it will all be pretty quick," said Hills.

"He's looking good. I don't think there are many, if any, negatives. He's behaving well and he should take all the beating, I'd have thought."

Will the Nunthorpe form be confirmed?

In front of Battaash in the Nunthorpe were Alpha Delphini and Mabs Cross, who were separated by the tightest of margins after lengthy analysis of the photo-finish.

They reoppose, and Alpha Delphini's trainer Bryan Smart, an Abbaye winner with Tangerine Trees seven years ago, said: "He's a special horse. He's going out there with a Group 1 under his belt, so he owes us nothing. I'm very pleased with him. He's out there and has settled in well.

"I'm hoping the best Alpha turns up. You get what you're given with the draw [stall nine] and you've got to make the best of it, while the ground won't worry him one way or the other."

Mabs Cross (red) and Alpha Delphini clashing in the Nunthorpe

The seven-year-old did not wear cheekpieces in the Nunthorpe, which connections believe played a part in his narrow victory.

"Graham Lee felt he wasn't seeing horses coming until the last minute and it seemed to have worked at York, where he stuck his head out," Smart added. "If he goes and does that again he won't be far away."

While Smart was floating on cloud nine at York, Michael Dods, the trainer of Mabs Cross, was left deflated. However, he understandably took huge pride in the four-year-old's performance and is optimistic of a bold show.

He said: "They say it should be good ground, but she'll be fine on most ground. I'd have rather had a lower draw than stall 13 as all the speed is up the stands' rail. She's well and she always tends to run her race. It's shame Paul Mulrennan and Tom Eaves are injured, but we've got a good deputy in Gerald Mosse."

Can Soldier's Call end 40-year hoodoo?

Archie Watson, an emerging force of the training ranks, has enjoyed a superb season, which he hopes to cap in style with Soldier's Call, the juvenile who gets plenty of weight from his older rivals.

The majority of the field will concede 18lb to the son of Showcasing, who also gets 14lb from the four fillies in the race.

He gave Watson his first Royal Ascot winner in the Windsor Castle and also made the trainer a Group-winning one when landing the Prix d'Arenberg at Chantilly in September.

That was followed by a slick success in the Flying Childers at Doncaster, and Soldier's Call bids to become the first two-year-old Abbaye winner since Sigy 40 years ago.

"He's come out of Doncaster well and we're very happy with him at home," the Lambourn-based Watson said. "He deserves to take his chance in Group 1s now. All-aged company is obviously very tough and it will be interesting to see how he gets on."

What they say

Stephane Wattel, trainer of City Light
He needed a prep race to regain his confidence by passing horses and that went well in the Petit Couvert, when he was beaten only by a very good filly in Tantheem. I would have preferred to have been drawn lower than 12 so he could slipstream the other fancied horses.

Karl Burke, trainer of Havana Grey
He seems in great form – if anything, he's in better form than he was going to Ireland for the Flying Five, which he won, and we've got a good draw in stall one. I wouldn't want too much rain, but he's won on all sorts of ground.

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Lost Treasure, Sioux Nation, Declarationofpeace and Different League
Sioux Nation ran well in the Flying Five and the better the ground the more he'll like it. We think five furlongs is Lost Treasure's trip, and although he's never run in a Group race we think he's progressing. Declarationofpeace was slowly away in the Nunthorpe. He needs covering up and to come late, so he'll need plenty of luck in running. Different League hasn't run to her best this year but she has plenty of ability.

Mauricio Delcher Sanchez, trainer of Finsbury Square
He is perhaps coming towards the end of his career but he loves this trip and is a fresh horse. I think we're running for a place.

Freddy Head, trainer of Tantheem
There wasn't much debate about supplementing her after the Petit Couvert, apart from the fact that Sheikh Hamdan already has Battaash. It's the logical race for her. She's well drawn in stall five and most of the good horses are around her.

You might also be interested in

'If you sit on Battaash . . . it's a different kettle of fish altogether'

Hills puts trying time behind him as Battaash returns to brilliant best

The rest of Longchamp's card

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He's looking good. I don't think there are many, if any, negatives
E.W. Terms
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