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Lady Aurelia and Battaash head 14 in King’s Stand

17 Jun 2018

Charlie Appleby believes Blue Point can upstage market leaders in Royal Ascot sprint.

Lady Aurelia enjoys a drink from Ward after his King’s Stand success 12 months ago. Picture: Racingfotos.com

The £500,000 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot (3.40) on Tuesday, the first race in the sprint category of this year’s QIPCO British Champions Series, is likely to take less than a minute to run but it promises to be one of the highlights of the year with two of the fastest horses in the world, Lady Aurelia and Battaash, meeting head on.

Lady Aurelia, trained in America by Wesley Ward, has been a star turn at the Royal Meeting for the past two years – cruising home in the King’s Stand last year, in a time 0.01s outside the track record, having been a runaway winner of the Queen Mary Stakes 12 months earlier.

She became the first three-year-old to succeed since Equiano in 2008 in the King’s Stand last year and would become only the fourth horse since the Second World War to win it twice – the other trio being Elbio (1991 and 1993), Equiano (2008 and 2010) and Sole Power (2013-14).

Battaash is owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, whose famous blue-and-white silks were carried to victory by the outstanding Dayjur in the 1990 King’s Stand Stakes.

Like Dayjur, Battaash has speed to burn and he was scintillating when thrashing Marsha by four lengths in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly on his final start last season and the Charlie Hills-trained gelding was tenacious when landing the Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes on his reappearance at Haydock.

In the latter race he gave weight and a narrow beating to Washington DC (second), Kachy (third), and Mabs Cross (fourth), who all re-oppose.

Charlie Appleby, who saddled Masar to win the Investec Derby at Epsom this month, has yet to win a Group 1 contest at the Royal Meeting (four wins overall) but seeks to put that right with Blue Point, the track record holder over six furlongs at Ascot – when beating Harry Angel in last year’s Pavilion Stakes – and whose only defeat in three starts at the course was when a close third in the Commonwealth Cup 12 months ago.

“He’s gone under the radar and has only really run one disappointing race in his life – and that was in Hong Kong last time,” Appleby said. “It was my first experience there and I learnt plenty. We tried to take them on at their own game but sprinting is their forte and it didn’t materialise.

“We gave him a break afterwards and he did well for it. We’ve been winding him up last fortnight and he’s really turned the corner – putting in a serious bit of work last Saturday.

“He showed he’s got the pace for five when he was second to Ertijaal, who we know is in no slouch, in Dubai [in March], and five up the hill at Ascot is going to be ideal. He’s got bigger and stronger as he’s got older. Some may have written him off after last time, but he doesn’t know that.”

The final field of 14 also includes a second American challenger in the shape of Bucchero, a $43,000 purchase who has won his connections $780,000. The six-year-old has an unlikely back story because his dam, Meetmeontime, was rescued by Marion County Humane Society in the summer of 2009 when she was found among 33 neglected horses on a farm in Ocala, Florida.

Other runners include Finsbury Square, winner of the Group 2 Prix Du Gros-Chene at Chantilly this month. He will attempt to give France an eighth King’s Stand success since 1956.