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The Charlie Hills-trained Battaash, the highest-rated horse among the hundreds worldwide carrying the Shadwell blue and white of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is on schedule for his 2020 and 6-year-old debut, according to his handler.
The gelded son of Dark Angel returned to Hills’ yard in mid-March and has been incrementally amplifying his preparation.
“He’s come back very well,” Hills said. “He was a little more wintry than last year, but the last couple weeks, his coat has really been coming through. He’s physically done well and I’m happy with him. He’s had one swinging canter and we’re just trying to keep him ticking over. He’s not a big horse, so he doesn’t take as much training and is a good, clean-winded type.”
In 2019, the 126-rated sprinter won three of his five races, including an impressive performance in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York, annihilating the course record by 1.4 seconds, as he stopped the clock at 55.90 seconds for five furlongs.
Earlier in the season, he was runner-up for the second consecutive year to subsequently crowned champion sprinter Blue Point in Royal Ascot’s Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes.
This year, the multiple Group 1 winner of 10 races from 20 lifetime runs and whose 136 Timeform rating makes him the top-rated horse in Europe, will hope to make it third time lucky in the King’s Stand, but without a prep race.
“The race we would use has been abandoned,” said Hills, “so we’ll go straight to Ascot. I don’t think anyone knows how it will all happen, but hopefully they do run it and all goes well. He should stay fresher later on into the year and we’ll be able to keep him going well, hopefully.”
Hills is also excited about his 2-year-olds who will carry the Sheikh Hamdan silks this season:
“I am really happy with the ones I’ve seen. A son of Ghanaati arrived a couple weeks ago and he looks like a really nice horse. He’s the best-looking of any of hers that I’ve seen. I’m really happy with them.”
Ghanaati won the Group 1 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and later took the Coronation (Group 1) before placing in two other races at the highest level, the Sussex Stakes against males and the Sun Chariot against older fillies and mares. Her offspring include 2019 Royal Ascot winner Afaak and Mahab Al Shimaal (Group 3) winner Wafy.