BATTAASH will spearhead a strong team for trainer Charlie Hills at The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, which gets underway on Wednesday 21 August at York.
Battaash is currently the bookies’ favourite for August 23’s Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes after winning the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood for the third straight year.
In 2017 and 2018 Sheikh Hamdan’s five-year-old speedster followed up by running in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, finishing fourth on both occasions.
But Lambourn-based Hills is hoping it’s third time lucky in Battaash’s quest to land the Group 1 sprint on the Knavesmire.
Hills said: “Battaash has come out of Goodwood very well. He didn’t lose much weight there and is actually heavier now than what he was before, so that’s good news.
“We were quite conscious not to try and give him such a hard race at Goodwood this year. Maybe try and have him a bit fresher for York.
“So we are happy with him. He is back doing routine canter work at the moment. We’ll do that for another week and then we’ll just give him a couple of pieces of faster work leading up to the race.”
Battaash may have yet to win at York but Hills remains positive about the gelding’s future prospects at the course.
He added: “I would have thought a track like that should really suit him. For whatever reason so far it hasn’t. But at the same time he hasn’t run bad races. Anyway, we’ll give it another go.”
Battaash may well be joined by stable-mate Garrus in the £400,000 five-furlong contest. The four-year-old, owned by Paul and Susan Roy, won in Listed company at York’s Dante Festival and has since run second and third in respective Group 3 and Group 2 assignments.
Hills said: “I know from speaking to the owners of Garrus, they are quite keen to run him there. He has obviously won at York before. There is a Group 3 in France as well for him though, so we’ll have to decide nearer the time for that one. I think he’s done really well – he has grown a bit actually. He’ll be a lovely horse next year as well.”
In Dutch Connection (2014) and Phoenix Of Spain (2018) Hills has sent out two of the last five winners of the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes and he’ll have a ‘live’ chance with his candidate for the latest renewal on Wednesday 21 August in the shape of Persuasion.
He impressed with victory on his debut in a seven-furlong maiden at Glorious Goodwood and the Group 3 at York should prove informative for connections as they plan for the future of the Acclamation colt.
Hills said: “He is a very professional horse – he has got a great mind. And the Acomb looks the perfect race for him.”
Hills has a clutch of talented two-year-olds to run over the four days of the meeting. Flippa The Strippa will contest either the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes or the Sky Bet Nursery, while Royal Commando is under consideration for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes
Hills said: “We’re probably going to run Royal Commando in the Gimcrack. He got a very unlucky run at Goodwood last week.”
In the same Goodwood race Hills charge Fleeting Prince was another to endure a less than straightforward passage. Connections are now eying up the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes.
Hills confirmed: “Fleeting Prince is going to run in the sales race. He is a nice horse, has got a bit of a class and I think he’d have a good chance in a race like that.”
The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival is always one that Hills looks forward to and he said: “It’s certainly one of the highlights of the season – lots of championship races. And we’ve always enjoyed going up there. It’s always great to try and have winners there.”
The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival runs from Wednesday 21 August until Saturday 24 August inclusively.