Charlie Hills senses Battaash can lay his Ascot hoodoo and show his true colours in the King’s Stand Stakes on the opening day of the Royal meeting.
Battaash has yet to score at the Berkshire venue but has finished second in the last two runnings of the Group One dash over five furlongs. Only Blue Point has been superior on both occasions, and Godolphin’s ace has since been retired to stud.
It was a similar story for Battaash at York before the Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned gelding smashed the course record there when winning the Nunthorpe Stakes in August.
Hills has been pleased with the way the six-year-old’s preparation has gone as Battaash bids to make it third time lucky in the King’s Stand.
“We’ve been pleased with him. His work has been nice, the same as ever,” said the Lambourn trainer.
“As for the ground, I don’t think there’s too much rain to come before the race now, maybe a shower tomorrow. We’re happy enough with him.
“If you take Blue Point away he’d have won the race twice, and everyone would be saying he loved Ascot.
“York was a very special day, and he put paid to his critics there.”
Hills has a decent second string to his bow in Equilateral, who had two runs in Dubai during the winter.
He was impressive on his first start in January when sweeping Waady aside, but that rival got his revenge when they clashed again in February.
Equilateral appears to put in his best performances when returning from a break, and Hills is hoping that will be the case on Tuesday.
“He comes out for his first run since Dubai. We’re happy with him,” he said.
“He’s a horse that likes to run fresh. If he gets it all together, he could hopefully be in the frame.
“We’re looking forward to running him and see where we stand for the rest of the year.”
Glass Slippers ruffled a few feathers when running out a smooth winner of the Prix de l’Abbaye last October. However, that performance at ParisLongchamp came as a no surprise to trainer Kevin Ryan, who has always held a high opinion of the filly.
“She’s a high-class filly and has done fantastic from three to four,” the Hambleton trainer told the Qipco British Champions Series.
“In a normal year she’d have had a run before, but I’m not worried that she hasn’t.
“She travelled great in the Abbaye and put it to bed very quickly. Before that, she had won a Listed race and then a Group race, and has just progressed.
“We made her entry for the Prix de l’Abbaye before those two earlier wins, which tells you plenty. We’ve always thought a lot of her.”
Another northern raider with strong claims is the John Quinn-trained Liberty Beach.
Winner of the Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last summer, the daughter of Cable Bay had earlier finished fourth in the Queen Mary Stakes at the Royal meeting.
She got a flying start to her three-year-old campaign by taking the Listed Cecil Frail Stakes at Haydock earlier this month under her regular partner Jason Hart.
“She won well at Haydock but was a bit free early doors,” said the jockey.
“She’s got a lot of natural pace, so the boss has decided to drop her back to five.
“We’re drawn next to Battaash, so hopefully we get a nice lead off him. We’re quite happy – she’s not going there without a chance.”
Shades Of Blue was third to the Quinn-trained Signora Cabello in the Queen Mary two years ago and got within a short neck of Glass Slippers at ParisLongchamp in September – only to disappoint in the Abbaye.
Clive Cox’s charge struggled to make an impression in the Palace House Stakes on her reappearance, but the trainer put that down her being unsuited by the undulations at Newmarket. He expects her to put in a better show here.
“She gave us a great buzz going into the race, but it was her first run on an undulating track, and I’m very much of the opinion that she didn’t handle it,” said Cox.
“It was disappointing, but she’s come out of it really well, and her form is very respectable.”
Cox also runs Tis Marvellous, a two-time course-and-distance winner and runner-up in the Wokingham Stakes 12 months ago.
“He had a hold-up in the spring, and we were slightly resigned to not making the meeting, but he’s thrived through the last couple of weeks and is in great nick,” said the Lambourn trainer.
“He has put up some nice performances there and seems to save his best for the track. We are putting him in at the top level, but he’s at home over five or six furlongs, and we feel it’s worth rolling the dice.”