Hills confident speedball Battaash is ready to fire

Aiming to reclaim Abbaye title

  • Saturday 05 October
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Charlie Hills is confident Battaash is at the top of his game ahead of his bid for a second victory in the Prix de l’Abbaye on Sunday.

The five-year-old was a brilliant winner of the five-furlong Group One when it was run at Chantilly in 2017 – but could only finish fourth when a hot favourite to become the first dual winner since the mighty Lochsong (1993 and 1994) 12 months ago.

However, he returns to ParisLongchamp on the back of what was arguably a career-best performance in the Nunthorpe – dispelling doubts about his ability to produce his best at York with a scintillating display – and Hills feels his stable star is in the same shape now.

Hills said: “I’m very happy with him. His preparation has been very similar to what it was going into York and his weight is the same.

“I think the draw (stall 11) is pretty much perfect, to be honest. Hopefully we’ll be able to ride our own race from there.

“We won’t know what the ground is like until we get out there, but he has won on soft ground before.”

Hills felt being able to travel his charge from his Lambourn yard to York on the morning of the Nunthorpe was beneficial, but he will have to travel to France the day before his latest big-race assignment.

The master of Wetherdown House is hoping it will not be a major problem, adding: “He’s travelling on Saturday, just as he did when he won the race at Chantilly.”

Battaash is set to face 15 rivals, including last year’s winner Mabs Cross, with the event live on Sky Sports Racing.

The top-class mare has finished behind Battaash the last three times they have met and trainer Michael Dods expects the Hills-trained superstar to prove a tough nut to crack again.

“She seems in great form. She did a nice bit of work last week and we’re very happy with her,” said the Darlington-based trainer.

“A bit of ease in the ground will suit her. The way she races now, she almost looks like she wants six furlongs, so soft ground over five would help her.

“The biggest problem we’ve got is Battaash. I’ve yet to see a horse that can beat him when he’s on his A-game – when he’s at his best, he’s so far superior to every other sprinter.

“The problem they might have is they were able to travel him up to York on the morning of the race this year, whereas they’ve obviously got to take him to France this weekend. Whether that will be a problem, I don’t know, as he’s obviously been there and done it before.

“If he runs up to his best, I don’t think any of us will beat him, but she won the race last year and deserves to be there again.”

Archie Watson’s Soldier’s Call was third 12 months ago and has again run with credit in a string of top-class sprints this season – including a runner-up finish behind Battaash at York.

He was last seen finishing fourth in last month’s Flying Five at the Curragh – a race in which Mabs Cross finished sixth.

Watson said: “He has been running very well all year. He is in good order at home and I’m hoping he will run well.

“He does deserve to get his head in front, but unfortunately there is a very good sprinter called Battaash around.

“He is in stall 15, but I think the winner came from 13 last year.”

James Tate’s Invincible Army bounced back from a couple of below-par efforts to finish third in the Flying Five on his latest outing.

“He ran a great race in Ireland and I’ve been very happy with him since,” said Tate.

“Battaash is obviously going to be very hard to beat, but I hope he’ll run a good race.”

Recon Mission (Tony Carroll), El Astronaute (John Quinn), Glass Slippers (Kevin Ryan) and Shades Of Blue (Clive Cox) complete the British challenge, while Aidan O’Brien sends Flying Five winner Fairyland and So Perfect from Ireland.

Pascal Bary’s Spinning Memories is the chief hope for the home team.

Hills confident speedball Battaash is ready to fire
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