Battaash maintained his side of the bargain as he set up a mouthwatering clash with Lady Aurelia at Royal Ascot by winning the Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes at Haydock.
Charlie Hills’ speedster has the tag of the fastest horse in Europe after blowing away the opposition in the Prix de l’Abbaye last season, and he picked up where he left off.
Giving away a 5lb Group One penalty was going to make it tougher, but a weight of money for local horse Kachy before the off enabled Battaash to go off a generous-looking 10-11 favourite.
Kachy went straight to the far rail and certainly led at one stage, but Dane O’Neill always looked confident and he beat Washington DC by a head, with a short head back to Kachy.
Battaash remains the 5-2 favourite for the King’s Stand next month.
Hills said: “He jumped slowly today, which meant he got a lead, which helped, but they were spread across the track and the race developed away from us.
“He got a bit tired in the last half-furlong, but we’ve left a bit to work on and this was always a prep.
“It was his first run and he hasn’t even come in his coat yet. Giving 5lb to some very good horses was always going to be hard.
“There are a few things we can learn from heading to Ascot, but he’s given some good horses weight and a beating – Kachy is a very good horse.
“Whatever the ground is doesn’t bother him, he’s broken track records and won an Abbaye on soft.”
O’Neill said: “The race developed away from us, which didn’t help.
“He’ll improve a lot for that, he hasn’t even come in his coat yet and it’s a long season.”