Battaash delighted his followers with an unprecedented third victory in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood.
For the second year in row, the Charlie Hills-trained speedball had found the now-retired Blue Point too strong in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, but he was a prohibitively-priced 1-4 favourite to claim a ninth career win in a five-furlong Group Two he dominated in 2017 and 2018.
The five-year-old jumped out of the stalls smartly and after taking an early lead from outsider Ornate, he took over passing the two-furlong marker.
Just when it looked he would go on to record another emphatic success, the high-class Australian mare Houtzen – making her first start for Martyn Meade – came from out of the pack to throw down a challenge, and briefly looked set to make a real race of it.
In the end, however, Battaash was well on top as he passed the post three-quarters of a length to the good, with Ornate boxing on admirably for third.
Hills said: “It’s very nerve-racking. It’s just such a pleasure to be involved with a horse like this
“I think it’s the first time it’s ever been done – to win three King Georges – so we’re quite emotional.
“He seemed to be idling there in front today, which is a good sign. He’s taking his racing much better and there are a good few races we can target towards the end of the year.
“We’ve got a good routine with him at home now and know exactly what to do.”
Battaash will now bid to make it third time lucky in the Coolmore Nunthorpe at York on August 23, having disappointed on the Knavesmire in each of the past two seasons.
Hills added: “Sheikh Hamdan is very keen to go to York with him and it’s good timing for that race. Obviously he hasn’t won there before, but I sort of scratch my head because there’s no reason why he shouldn’t handle a track like that.
“We’ll probably go to Ireland (Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh, September 15) after that, all being well.
“There’s a good programme for him and we can look forward to York.”
Meade was understandably thrilled with the effort of Houtzen.
He said: “I think the big problem was she had to switch. I think if it was run again in a different set of circumstances, it might have been different. It must have cost her a length doing that.
“She is a lovely filly. We’ve only had her for a short period of time, but she has adapted well. She is one of those horses that has been trained on the track before and being in a different environment she has thrived on it.”
David Griffiths was equally thrilled with Ornate, who has been declared for the Stewards’ Cup on Saturday.
He said: “He has run above his handicap mark and was only beaten three lengths by Battaash. I’m delighted with him.
“It is still a possibility (Stewards’ Cup). We wanted stall 13 in that, but we have 15 so that is fine. We will see how he is.
“I thought he would be this good and he will probably be better next year. He has run a phenomenal race and I thought he was very overpriced.
“The winner is very good, but I’m chuffed to bits.”