Hills hopeful as Battaash defends Temple Stakes crown

Top sprinter returns after minor wind operation

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Charlie Hills is looking forward to Battaash starting his new campaign in defence of the Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes at Haydock.

The 2017 Prix de l’Abbaye hero led close home in Saturday’s Group Two dash 12 months ago, to defeat Washington DC by a head – and although he also scored at this level in the King George Stakes, a second Group One victory eluded him.

The closest he came was when second in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot – a race that beckons again next month.

“The field size is a bit different this year to last year, but we’re obviously happy with the horse and looking forward to getting him back on the racecourse – and we haven’t got a penalty like we had last year,” said Hills.

“It looks like there will be some pace on, and we like to be up there as well. They might go quite quick, I’d have thought.”

The Lambourn trainer feels Battaash is in a good place, after having minor wind surgery during the close season.

“It was just a tiny procedure, nothing major that we had looked at towards the end of last year. He seems a happy horse,” he added.

Mabs Cross got up close home to deny Battaash’s stablemate Equilateral in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, on her first run since lifting the Abbaye in October.

That victory in France means she is burdened with a Group One penalty, which her trainer Michael Dods points out will inevitably make her task tougher.

“The penalty makes life difficult, giving weight to the likes of Battaash, but she’s well,” said Dods.

“It’s a small field and it looks like they’ll go pretty quick – with Battaash and Kachy, and Caspian Prince too.

“There are three horses that all want to be bang there, and three horses that probably don’t.

“She’s stepping up, and you’ve got Battaash for one. But she’s in good form, and I’m sure she’ll put up a good performance, wherever she finishes.

“On his day Battaash is a very good horse. He has a few off-days, and I hope he has one on Saturday.”

Kachy made most of the running 12 months ago – and has a second bite at the cherry on the back of three blistering wins on the all-weather, culminating in the Sprint Championship at Lingfield on Good Friday.

Trainer Tom Dascombe believes his six-year-old has improved with age.

“Kachy has to be a better horse this year,” he said.

“He ran at Lingfield off his highest-ever rating, and everything about him makes you think he is a better horse in 2019.

“He ran well in the Temple Stakes last year when he was beaten a head and a neck, and we are hopeful of another good performance.”

Alpha Delphini had his finest hour when denying Mabs Cross by a nose to cause a 40-1 upset in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

Bryan Smart’s sprinter has not raced since being unplaced behind Mabs Cross in the Abbaye at ParisLongchamp in October.

Smart admits Alpha Delphini may lack race sharpness – but expects a decent show as he looks to return to York in August.

“He’s in good form,” said the Thirsk trainer.

“He’s as fit as I can get him without a run – he looks very well in himself.

“Obviously the fancied horses have all had a run, but I’m very happy with him.

“You have to start somewhere – and my job is to get him right, hopefully, for the Nunthorpe again.”

Caspian Prince has not run since finishing 11th to Alpha Delphini in the Nunthorpe.

Trainer Mick Appleby reports the evergreen 10-year-old to be ready to return to the fray.

“He’s in good order,” he said.

“I hope he should run well. It’s a very good race, and they’ll be going quick.”

Hills hopeful as Battaash defends Temple Stakes crown
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