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Crowley excited by blistering Battaash ahead of Nunthorpe

23 Aug 2017

Jockey looking forward to taking on American super filly Lady Aurelia


Lady Aurelia and Battaash head a final field of 12 for what promises to be an exhilarating renewal of the £350,000 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday.

The pair, both three-year-olds, have established themselves as this season’s outstanding performers over five furlongs and their first clash, over the minimum trip on the Knavesmire, should provide 56 seconds or so to savour in what is the fifth leg in the Sprint category of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

Lady Aurelia has been beaten only once in six starts and was an emphatic winner of the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on her latest start. Wesley Ward’s filly will attempt to go one better than Acapulco, runner-up for the trainer in the 2015 running, and in the process become the first American-trained winner of the Nunthorpe.

Battaash is owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum and the gelding’s scintillating wins at Sandown (twice) and Goodwood this campaign have revived memories of dazzling speedster Dayjur, who carried the Sheikh’s famous blue-and-white silks to a four-length victory in the Nunthorpe in 1990.

Jim Crowley rode Battaash for the first time in public when winning the Group 2 King George Stakes on soft ground at Goodwood last time, but had got a feel of his pace on the gallops of trainer Charlie Hills beforehand. “I pulled him out in his work and he was gone – it was a great feeling,” the Stobart Champion Jockey said. “He’s not overly big but he’s just got such a high cruising speed.

“What impressed me at Goodwood was the way he coped with the ground because there’s always a doubt in your mind when a horse has got so much speed. He’d broken the track record at Sandown the time before. If York get any rain it won’t inconvenience him but he’s equally effective on fast ground and I think the track will suit him.”

Crowley finished fourth on Muthmir in the King’s Stand, finishing three and a half lengths behind Lady Aurelia. He also finished fourth on the same horse behind Battaash in the Coral Charge at Sandown the following month, when beaten an aggregate of about seven lengths.

“He beat Muthmir much further than she beat him, but under different circumstances,” he said. “Fillies can be a little in and out, plus she has to cope with the travelling backwards and forwards, but what she’s done so far she has been impressive. She’s a very fast filly and it’s going to be a great race.”

Clive Cox is well positioned to assess the “big two” because his principal contender, Profitable, chased home Lady Aurelia in the King’s Stand, when seeking back-to-back victories in the race, and also finished runner-up behind Battaash at Goodwood last time. Cox has not given up hope of turning the tables on the pair and says Profitable’s below-par sixth behind Mecca’s Angel in the Nunthorpe 12 months ago, when he got a bump leaving the stalls, should be excused.

“Profitable is in great form and I’m really pleased with him,” he said. “I’d say Lady Aurelia is the one to be beat, but we are 4lb better off with her compared to Ascot. Last year, Take Cover put pay to his chance at the start and he never really found any rhythm. He’s a Listed winner at York, so the track is not a worry.”

Cox will also be represented by Priceless, winner of the Group 2 Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes at Haydock in May. She had Goldream, Alpha Delphini, Final Venture,  Washington DC, Take Cover and Cotai Glory behind on that occasion.

In common with Lady Aurelia and Profitable, Marsha (the 2016 Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp) and Goldream (the 2015 King’s Stand and 2015 Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp) also boast winning form at Group 1 level.

“Marsha’s the fastest filly around, except for Lady Aurelia, who made us look slow last time,” Prescott said. Asked if he had a cunning plan to defeat her, he smiled and said: “No, not really, but these sprinters need it all to go their way, so you’ve got to hope to get lucky.

“Mr Hills’ horse [Battaash] also beat her fair and square at Goodwood, so we’ve got it all to do really, but I’ve never thought that is her best track. She’s a winner there [York] and I think it will suit her a fraction better, although I don’t think it will suit her any better than Ascot, and Lady Aurelia beat me there. I think I need a bit of luck.”

The David Griffiths-trained Take Cover, third last year in what was the fastest 5f race run in the world, will attempt to go two places better and, at 10, become the oldest winner. His stablemate Duke Of Firenze is up against it on official ratings but is a dual course winner.