Connections of Battaash have high hopes of him bouncing back from Royal Ascot disappointment to successfully defend his King George Qatar Stakes title at Goodwood on Friday.
The four-year-old really came of age in winning the Group Two for Charlie Hills last season and after subsequently adding a Prix de l’Abbaye victory at the end of last year and the Temple Stakes on his return this term, he was a leading fancy for the King’s Stand at Ascot.
Battaash had to settle for second behind Blue Point after trying to make all the running and Angus Gold, racing manager for owner Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, felt he was perhaps not quite on his A-game on that occasion.
He said: “The impression I’m getting is that Charlie is happier with him than he’s been in a while. I hope he’s right.
“I don’t think he was at his best at Ascot, personally. I know he went hard, but he got very tired and he’s gone hard before and picked up again.
“I’ve seen him look better than he did before Ascot, Charlie seems much happier with him now and he’s back at the scene at the crime, so to speak.
“He’s got plenty of speed and if he’s back to his best, he’s going to take a bit of beating.”
The owner has a capable second string in Muthmir, who won this race in 2015 and will be fitted with first-time blinkers by William Haggas after he finished in the money on his last two starts at Sandown and York.
Gold added: “William has felt for a while a pair of blinkers might help him. He’s worn cheekpieces and had the hood on in the stalls and things like that.
“I wouldn’t say he’s been unlucky, but he’s missed the break once or twice recently and things just haven’t gone totally right for him.
“He’s a fast-ground horse. He still has plenty of speed for an eight-year-old and I know William is particularly happy with him at the moment.
“If Battaash is at his best we wouldn’t expect him to beat him, but William is hopeful he’ll finish in the first three.”
Havana Grey was beaten into sixth by Battaash at Haydock in May, but arrives on a high after landing the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh last month.
Karl Burke’s charge is also proven on the track, having won the Molecomb Stakes at this meeting last term, and his trainer believes the start will be crucial to his chances.
He said: “It’s a tough race and there’s certainly plenty of speed in there. It’s one of the most competitive renewals of the King George I can remember.
“There’s probably three, four or five horses who could win and hopefully we’re one of them.
“Battaash is going to be very hard to beat, but you should never run scared of one horse and our lad is in great form and I think he’ll strip a little bit fitter for the run in Ireland. I would say the start will be the key to the race.”
Take Cover has won the race twice for David Griffiths in 2014 and 2016 and he will be joined by stablemate Duke Of Firenze this time.
Kachy was well beaten behind Battaash last year and again was down the field at Royal Ascot but tries his luck again, while Aidan O’Brien runs Sioux Nation, who finished fifth in the July Cup last time.