When it comes to finding a winner at Goodwood, trainer Charlie Hills has been able to rely on Battaash and his stable stalwart delivered once again with a record-breaking third success in the King George Qatar Stakes.
Plenty of head scratching was done by the Lambourn handler after Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Phoenix Of Spain suffered defeat in the Sussex Stakes on Wednesday, but that burden was lifted off his shoulders thanks to the lightning-quick son of Dark Angel.
Having failed for a second time in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, the 1-4 favourite returned to what has become a happy hunting ground in recent seasons, taking the Group Two prize he has made his own by three-quarters of a length.
Hills said: “Having an odds-on shot in a Group Two is stressful and to win three races consecutively takes a lot of doing – it is the first time it has been done in this race, so we take big pride in that.
“Phoenix will have his day again, I’m sure, but yes, it was frustrating. He was only beaten four and a half lengths and when he beat him (Too Darn Hot) he beat him by three lengths, so we know we can turn it around.
“Certainly there was a bit more pressure on today, but to be involved in a horse like Battaash is great. Shadwell are a great team and they are a truly professional outfit.”
The manner of Battaash’s victory may have not been as visually impressive as his previous two, but for Hills it was a success he felt was in little doubt from the moment the gates opened, and with it a record he was only too pleased to see the horse secure.
He added: “I think the second (Houtzen) has some really good form, but he always looked like he was in command.
“He was idling a little bit in front, but that is a good sign and that means he is taking his racing better. It is fantastic to get the record – Goodwood is one of the best meetings of the year and it is great to have winners here.”
In the saddle for each of his Goodwood triumphs has been Jim Crowley and with another outing in next month’s Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on the agenda, the former champion jockey hopes a change in tactics can lead to a different result at York.
He said: “It is a pleasure to be associated with this horse. I didn’t want to give him a smack today as he is a flight animal and when you do give him a smack he does go. I wanted to leave something in the locker for York this time.
“He is one of those horses that gives you his all and twice now he has gone to York off big performances here and has come up short. We had a plan to try not to win too far. Hopefully we have left a bit in the locker.
“Visually he wasn’t as impressive as in previous years, but hopefully it will serve us well later on.”
Having served as racing manager to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell operation for more than 25 years, Angus Gold has seen the powerful owner’s famous blue and white silks carried to glory by some great sprinters, and feels Battaash is up there with them.
Gold said: “It is special for any horse to win a race three years running – you are lucky enough if you can keep them sound enough and willing enough to do it. Full credit to all the team, they have managed to keep him going. He has got a lot of toe and this track suits him.
“For me, probably because I was younger, but Dayjur was a freak in my opinion and I would never say anything is in the class of him, but this is a very good sprinter.
“Muhaarar was a good six-furlong horse, he was a horse we thought would go further but he never got the chance to prove it.
“This fellow is very fast and consistent and he very rarely does anything wrong. He is a small horse, but we’ve had an enormous amount of fun with him and he has done the team incredibly well.”