Battaash continued his brilliant sprinting CV with a hard-fought victory in defence of his Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes crown at York.
Charlie Hills’ speedster had to defy rain-softened ground which put hopes of bettering the course record he set last year off the agenda.
He also faced an unexpectedly stern challenge from outsider Que Amoro, before getting firmly on top in the final furlong to land the odds as the 1-2 favourite and see off the 22-1 runner-up by a length.
Jim Crowley was capping an outstanding day in the saddle, completing a four-timer in the first four races – following the victories of Alfaatik, Enbihaar and Minzaal, all like Battaash for his retained owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
Hills said: “He’s had to really work hard in very tricky conditions. There was a lot against him, the wind was howling, the pace was on the other side, but I think experience won him it today. It’s not easy, it’s similar ground in which he’s been beaten on, but his experience pulled him through.
“If every horse I trained behaved like this today then it would be a very easy job. He was immaculate, the way he behaved – brilliant down at the start, just the ultimate professional now.
“We’ve been working hard on him the last four years, everybody knows it hasn’t been easy, but this season he’s probably been the best he’s ever been, especially down at the start.
“The second showed amazing speed and with the tailwind it can be hard to reel them in, so I knew it was going to be tough.
“I’m so proud of him today, he was brilliant and I probably think it was the best run of his career as conditions were against him – he had to knuckle down and work really hard.”
On plans, he said: “The Abbaye is the obvious route to take, but if the ground is like last year we’d probably avoid it and look elsewhere, but I don’t know where that might be. I’d have to speak to Sheikh Hamdan. At the moment Plan A would be Longchamp.”
Asked about the Breeders’ Cup, Hills said: “That’s definitely going to be a decision from Sheikh Hamdan himself. Plan A is definitely to go to France – then, who knows?
“The world we’re living in at the moment, it’s not easy to have too many set-in-stone plans.
“He’s just the horse of a lifetime really. To show us that enthusiasm throughout – it’s emotional now.”
He added: “It’s been an amazing day for Sheikh Hamdan – it’s great to be involved with that operation, they are so professional and they are being well rewarded.
“Jim’s brilliant. He is amazing, works very hard at what he does. We’re all very proud of a great team.”
Crowley said: “He tried very hard. They went a serious gallop, but he was a real man and stuck his head out. In the past he has always won his races at halfway, so fair play to the second horse. He’s an amazing horse.
“We’re lucky to have him about and it’s fantastic for Sheikh Hamdan – he’s a big supporter of racing and has been for a long time and I’m glad I can repay him in some way. It’s been a golden summer.”
He added: “He’s the horse of a lifetime, you get one in a career, a horse like this.”
Meanwhile, Michael Dods reflected with pride on such a fine run in defeat from his filly Que Amoro.
The County Durham trainer said: “She would have preferred faster ground, and so would he, but I didn’t think we’d get that close – so she’s run a blinder.
“To get that close to a horse like that is a hell of a performance.
“She’s seriously quick – when she ran here the other month, because the ground had gone a bit, we half-saved her to get home. I said to (jockey) Paul (Mulrennan) to take no prisoners today, to just go – because that’s the only way to ride her. She burns horses off.
“She’s not in the Abbaye – we decided we wouldn’t put her in, and if she ran a big race here we’d supplement her. With what’s going on, we didn’t know what would happen, but that is probably where she’d go.”
Royal Ascot winner Art Power was sent off the main market rival to Battaash, but Tim Easterby’s charge never seemed totally happy and finished sixth of the eight starters.
He was ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, who said: “I don’t think he’s run his race. He likes heavy ground and he didn’t have that today. He just didn’t go the pace early on, but he still wasn’t beaten too far.
“Even still, I’d like to think he’s better than that.”