Charlie Hills reports dual Group One winner sprinter Battaash to be looking as strong as ever ahead of what he hopes will be another season filled with success.
The six-year-old son of Dark Angel returned to the Lambourn handler earlier this week following his winter break back at owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stud.
Although Battaash beat only one home on his final start in the Prix de l’Abbaye on his final start of last season, Hills is confident a line can be put through that effort.
Hills said: “Battaash came back in a couple of days ago and he looks great. He is a little bit hairy on his belly, but he is looking really strong and I couldn’t be more pleased with him.
“He has had two canters since being back and is moving well, it is all systems go again with him for another season.
“I think the ground and the draw didn’t help him in France. He never picked up a leg and you could see after half a furlong out that would be the result, but before that he had been getting better as the season had gone on.”
Before his below-par effort in France, Battaash had previously produced one of the performances of the Flat season when laying to rest his York ghost to make it third time lucky in the Nunthorpe Stakes – a performance which Hills hopes he can repeat this year.
He said: “He was amazing at York and it was a terrific day. He really showed what a superstar he is that day. It would be nice to go back there and do it again, it will be one of his big targets.
“I just couldn’t believe why York wouldn’t suit him – it is one of the fastest tracks in the country and he is one of the fastest horses around, so I couldn’t understand why he had never shown up there before.
“He is so good mid-race and that is when he really went out and left them, but at the end of the day he is just a very fast horse.”
With his King’s Stand Stakes conqueror of the previous two seasons Blue Point now at stud, Hills hopes Battaash can finally gain a first Royal Ascot success by going one place better than the previous two years in the Group One, provided racing in Britain has resumed by June.
He added: “It is hard to know when we will be up and running, but he would probably go to Haydock again for the Temple first, failing that he would go straight to Royal Ascot.
“Going to Ascot is very much on the agenda as if you take Blue Point out of equation, and he won’t be there this year, he would have won the race twice.
“We have got a long year ahead with him and the races fit in well so we are looking forward to getting going again.”