Battaash, Charlie Hills’ explosive sprinter, spearheads a star-studded posse of 18 Dubai-owned horses who will attempt to light up the opening day’s action at Royal Ascot, the annual highlight of the British flat-racing season.
Owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, Battaash is the hottest favourite on a mouth-watering six-race card that features three Group 1 contests including the five-furlong King’s Stand Stakes.
Runner-up to Godolphin’s Blue Point in this race 12 months ago, Battaash is likely to benefit from a strong pace on fast ground and gain revenge on his conqueror, who is trained by Charlie Appleby.
“In 16 starts he has only been out of the first four once,” Hills said in the build-up to Tuesday’s race. “I do not think he was ever quite right last year. He had a wind operation in the winter, which required an anaesthetic, and it might have just knocked him for six.
“This season he is doing everything with his ears pricked, he is much more at ease with himself. He is bright eyed, walks everywhere with a purpose and has never been so relaxed. I don’t think I have ever had him better.”
The horse standing between Battaash giving Shaikh Hamdan a second King’s Stand Stakes trophy after Dayjur in 1990, is once again Blue Point who strung together three imposing victory at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai earlier this year.
“Blue Point did nothing but thrive in Dubai over the winter, with the highlight being his victory in the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup Night,” Appleby told the Godolphin website.
“We have always felt that the stiff five furlongs at Ascot is his best trip and he seems to bring his A game to the course.
“It looks like it is going to be a great race and another strong renewal, but we are very happy with Blue Point.”
Tuesday’s card at the Royal Meeting kicks-off with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, a high-quality contest that traditionally attracts the best milers from around Great Britain, Ireland and Europe.
Godolphin, who have the best record in the race with eight wins, rely on Barney Roy who is bidding for a second Royal Ascot success following the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes in 2017.
The five-year-old son of Frankel makes his second European appearance of 2019, having finished a close fifth in the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp on May 26.
Godolphin are also represented by the Saeed Bin Surour-trained Dream Castle and Appleby’s second contender, Mythical Magic.
Other runners with a Dubai connection are Mustashry, who runs in Shaikh Hamdan’s colours, Matterhorn, trained by Mark Johnston for Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Obaid Al Maktoum representative, Sharjah Bridge.
Appleby’s well-regarded two-year-old Well Of Wisdom steps up in class to contest the six-furlong Group 2 Coventry Stakes, where he takes on 16 other juveniles.
Appleby said: “He brings a good level of form into the race and a bit of experience, which is what you need at a meeting like this.”
The third Group 1 contest on the card is the St James’s Palace Stakes where Charlie Hills holds the ace in Phoenix Of Spain, a 16/1 shock winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas on his seasonal reappearance.
A cracking looking race the Palace stakes has also attracted top milers like Too Darn Hot, Circus Maximus, Skardu and Shaman.