Dubai: After suffering a shock defeat on his most recent start at York in England, elite sprinter Battaash will hope to bounce back and win a second successive Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines (Group 1), at Longchamp, France, on Sunday.
Trained by Charlie Hills at Lambourn, Berkshire, the four-year-old son of Dark Angel won this contest in emphatic fashion 12 months ago, and is the big ante-post favourite to repeat the feat despite not carrying winning form into the five-furlong sprint.
The Abbaye is one of seven mouth-watering races that comprise the Prix de l’Arce de Triomphe (G1) card, the definitive highlight of the European Flat racing season.
Victory on Sunday will see him join an exclusive club of four horses who have posted back-to-back wins in the race. They are Texanita (1963, 1964), Gentilhombre (1976 (dead-heat), 1977), Committed (1984, 1985), Lochsong (1993, 1994).
Battaash carries the famous colours of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, who also won the Abbaye in 1990 with Dayjur.
Shaikh Hamdan is also likely to be represented by the Freddy Head-trained Tantheem. Head has the distinction of having won the race first as a jockey aboard Sigy in 1978 and then as a trainer, with Marchand d’Or in 2008.
The Hamdan duo take on some of the best sprinters in Europe, among them City Light (Stephane Wattel), Mabs Cross (Michael Dodds) and hat-trick seeking Soldiers Call (Archie Watson), an unexposed two-year-old.
However, sprint King Bryan Smart is hoping Alpha Delphini can bring his A Game to Longchamp and prove himself to be a real superstar sprinter.
A seven-year-old veteran Alpha Delphini ran a real cracker of a race in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York last month, the race in which Battaash looked out of sorts and finished fourth.
“Graham Lee rode him a piece of work on Friday and we’re all happy with him. He’s in good order,” Smart told The Sun.
Beside the Abbaye and showpiece race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Group 1), Longchamp’s card also features the Prix Marcel Boussac — Criterium des Pouliches (Group 1), Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere Sponsorise Par Manateq (Group 1) and Prix de l’Opera Longines (Group 1).
At Longchamp Racecourse, France (Sunday, October 7)
6.35pm (UAE) Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines (G1)
Purse: €350,000 (2yo) 1,000m
Latest Odds (leading contenders): Battaash 6/4; City Light 13/2, Mabs Cross 8; Soldiers Call 8, Tantheem 10; Havana Grey 10; Good Vibes 16; Alpha Delphini 20; Dreamfield 20; Finsbury Square 2o’ Signs of Blessing 20; Caspian Prince 20.