Older and wiser Battaash saunters to record-breaking fourth King George success
There have been times when Battaash, blistering at his best, has not always been bombproof, but if there is one place he has a brilliant record it is Glorious Goodwood, and he lit up a red-hot day with another scorching display in the King George Qatar Stakes.
It was on rain-softened ground three years ago that Battaash made people stand up and take notice of his talent and uncommonly powerful engine, and he has yet to disappoint in three return visits.
His task this time round was straightforward as the King's Stand winner went off the 2-7 favourite and won like that in the hands of Jim Crowley, who never seemed to have a moment of worry on the horse regarded as the fastest on the planet – a claim backed up by Goodwood now possessing a new track record for five furlongs and it belonging to, well, guess who.
He was way too good for Glass Slippers and Ornate, and Charlie Hills, who trains the six-year-old for Hamdan Al Maktoum, was able to wear his customary summer smile on the Sussex Downs.
"The conditions were great for him today," he said.
"They went a very fast pace, but the key is not to take him back. His main advantage is mid-race where a lot of horses can become uncomfortable. He gets them out of their comfort zones.
"He's a six-year-old now and knows more about racing than all of us. Horses need racing and it does them good. He's got very professional now and we've got him in a great routine at home.
"You've got to give credit to the horse and for a six-year-old sprinter to have his enthusiasm every day is wonderful."
Led up by devoted groom Bob Grace – a stalwart at the yard – Battaash is now booked for York's Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, which he won so devastatingly last year.
The son of Dark Angel is a best-priced 10-11 with William Hill for that, which comes before a likely trip to France for the Prix de l'Abbaye, a prize that found its way on to the gelding's CV in 2017.
Hills has not ruled out a trip to America for the Breeders' Cup, but does not seem in a hurry to change what has worked well for the turbo-charged speedster.
"York will certainly be the plan and it's good timing from here," he added. "America would be very exciting, but we'll speak to Sheikh Hamdan and the team. It could depend on France if the ground was soft for the Abbaye."
A crowd of only essential personnel were on course, but Battaash still received a champion's welcome to the winner's enclosure, which warmed the normally chilled-out Hills.
"It was great and he seems to have captured people's imagination and the public's," the Lambourn trainer went on. "He has his quirks, but I'm very proud to be involved with him and my kids at home – James and Eddie – love him; he's like a family pet. He's not big or imposing, but he loves the attention and he's like having a little pony in the yard.
"I think that's the first time he's had a Group 1 penalty in this race, but we knew if he did what he did in the King's Stand he'd be very hard to beat on a track that suits him.
"You could say sprinters are at their best when they get older and he's fully matured. Mentally he's fantastic and in a really good spot. He's been moving fantastically on the gallops. He's done only two swingeing canters on the gallops, but one of them was arguably the best I've seen him do."
Those at Goodwood and watching on television got a hint of it too from an animal who clocked an average speed of 11.24 seconds per furlong in the £125,000 event, which is like covering the length of a cricket pitch – 22 yards – in just over a second.
How's that for speed.
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