Jim Crowley dubbed crack sprinter Battaash the “Batmobile” ahead of his bid for a fourth King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood on Friday.
The six-year-old is unbeaten in three outings at the Sussex track, having claimed the five-furlong event in each of the last three years, and he arrives fresh from a first Royal Ascot win in the King’s Stand Stakes.
Crowley is hoping Battaash can now gallop his Goodwood rivals into submission once again, improving on his own benchmark in the race’s 109-year history.
The jockey said: “Battaash is the fastest horse I’ve ridden by far – he is the Batmobile.
“He is a very special horse that has become synonymous with Goodwood and it would mean the world to everyone involved if he can win the race for the fourth time.
“We’ve got to go out there and get the job done. It’s hard enough to get one winner at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, so if Battaash was to get four wins in such a prestigious race, that would be something special.”
While Crowley has hailed Battaash’s superhero tendencies ahead of another race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series, trainer Charlie Hills does not expect to handle another sprinter of his ilk any time soon.
The Dark Angel gelding has won 11 of his 21 starts, placing on a further five occasions, and while he has disappointed badly on a couple of occasions, Hills believes he and his team have got to grips with his keen-going nature now.
He said: “At Ascot, I thought he always looked in command. He travelled sweetly through the race, picked up and won pretty comfortably.
“Battaash came out of the King’s Stand at Ascot really well. He has been fresh since then and he goes into Goodwood in similar form to last year. I couldn’t be happier with him at this stage.
“He’s very straightforward these days. We have got a good routine with him now – we have got a good team of people that ride him and look after him.
“The lack of crowd I think helps all the horses. Having said that, when he was clear at Ascot, he looked around as if to say, ‘where’s all my crowd gone?’.
“Goodwood is a speed track – you go down a hill and that really plays into his favour. He is so quick mid-race that he tends to get his rivals uncomfortable with the pace he’s going and that is really where it plays into his advantage.”
Hills underlined the importance of Battaash to his yard, adding: “For me, he is a horse of a lifetime.
“Very rarely would you get a horse as good as he is – he has regularly been the top-rated sprinter on Timeform.
“He has not been the most straightforward through his career and there have been times earlier on when he was very tricky to manage, but it’s great credit to all the team to have turned him into the superstar he is.”
Battaash will be a very short-priced favourite to add to his Goodwood tally, but he will nevertheless face six rivals – including the King’s Stand third, Liberty Beach.
John Quinn’s charge will be getting 12lb this time as opposed to the 9lb she received at Ascot, but she needs to bounce back from a subsequent defeat at Sandown if she is to topple the reigning champion.
Quinn said: “I don’t think there was too much wrong with her last run at Sandown. The horse that gave her a lead dropped away and she probably hit the front a bit too soon on a day there was a strong headwind.
“It looked like she would go away and win, but the other horse (A’Ali) had a bit of cover and was the best horse on the day. The winner has won a Group race at the Curragh since, so it looks good form.
“Our filly is in good order and we know she likes the track. Battaash will be very hard to beat, but we’ll give it a go.”
Last year’s Prix de l’Abbaye winner Glass Slippers runs for Kevin Ryan with Al Raya, Dubai Station, Ornate and French raider Ken Colt completing the field.