Charlie Hills is confident Battaash will be unhindered by his lack of racecourse action since last August as he bids for back-to-back victories in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The brilliant sprinter finally broke his duck at the Berkshire venue in last year’s renewal of Tuesday’s five-furlong Group One before going on to win a fourth King George Stakes at Goodwood and a second Nunthorpe at York.
Battaash has not been seen in competitive action since the latter of those triumphs 10 months ago, after a winter setback delayed his reappearance, but Hills has been delighted with his preparation for this Qipco British Champions Series contest.
The Lambourn trainer said: “Battaash came in a couple of weeks later than usual this year, so we were never going to fit in a prep run, but I couldn’t be happier with him.
“They found a tiny hairline fracture in a sesamoid when he had his usual MOT at the end of last year, but that was attended to in December.
“They’ve done a great job with him at Shadwell over the winter, and spring was so awful that coming back later has probably helped him.
“We’ve taken our time, and he hasn’t missed a beat.”
Royal Ascot Group 1 races
2.30 Tuesday – The Queen Anne Stakes
3.40 Tuesday – The King’s Stand Stakes
4.20 Tuesday – The St James’s Palace Stakes
3.40 Wednesday – The Prince of Wales’s Stakes
4.20 Thursday – The Gold Cup
3.40 Friday – The Commonwealth Cup
4.20 Friday – The Coronation Stakes
4.20 Saturday – The Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Among the opposition in a field of 16, Tim Easterby is looking forward to saddling exciting filly Winter Power – who won at Listed and Group Three level last autumn and picked up where she left off with a hugely impressive comeback performance in last month’s Westow Stakes at York.
Easterby said: “She’s in good form. She has a good draw (stall seven) and will handle the track, so she should run well.”
Roger Teal drops last year’s July Cup hero Oxted down to the minimum distance for the first time.
The five-year-old was last seen finishing third over six furlongs in the Duke of York Stakes.
“The draw is not too bad (stall 14). It looks like there’s plenty of pace around him, so we’re happy enough,” said Teal.
“We’re very happy with him going into it. He’s trained well – all his work is done now, and we’ll see what happens on the day.
“You always need a bit of luck, so fingers crossed.”
There are two leading contenders from America, in Brendan Walsh’s Extravagant Kid and the Wesley Ward-trained Maven.
Extravagant Kid was last seen winning the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Walsh said: “We’ve had a good start to the year, and Extravagant Kid winning in Dubai was massive. Hopefully we can follow up on it at Ascot.
“Last year he was beaten a length in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He’s won or been placed in multiple stakes and graded stakes – he’s never far away.
“It’s not Dubai. Meydan is a flatter track – it (Al Quoz Sprint) is six furlongs, whereas this is a stiff five. He’s an athletic horse, and there’s no doubt he’ll handle the undulations.
“The ground looks like it’s going to be perfect. It’s going to be the first day of the meeting, so it’s going to be really nice ground.”
Ward won the 2017 King’s Stand with Lady Aurelia and hopes he can add to his tally with Maven.
He said: “When Maven ran in an allowance race at Keeneland in April, we felt he was a bit short fitness-wise. On the day he bounced out in front – and when they came to him, I thought he was going to surrender, but he just took off again.
“I was delighted with that performance – and then once I saw the numbers, it inspired me to put him on the team for Royal Ascot.
“He will have to move forward from that again to be in the mix for the King’s Stand, but I think he is entitled to do so.”
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