Battaash & York

Battaash and trainer Charlie Hills at Faringdon Place, Lambourn

Day three’s feature race from York’s Ebor Meeting is the Nunthorpe Stakes, a fast and furious Group One over five furlongs, with the market headed by Ten Sovereigns, Battaash and Mabs Cross.

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Charlie Hills’ star sprinter Battaash has been defeated on five occasions since his juvenile days, two of which have come in previous runnings of the Nunthorpe.

With his two worst RPRs outside of his first season on the track, coming at York, a five-length defeat in 2017 and a two-and-a-half length fourth in 2018, there are questions for the five year old to answer in this year’s renewal.

Does the track not suit him?

On one hand, it would appear that it doesn’t suit. Peerless at Goodwood, a very sharp track, he is more fallible at more galloping tracks, with both York and Ascot providing four of his five defeats since turning three.

York’s configuration also provides a very different proposition, with there being no hiding place both. His 2017 disappointment can be attributed to pre-race histrionics that blighted his earlier career. Very reluctant to load then, he expended too much energy beforehand, fading from the front.

Whilst better behaved in 2018, he raced too close to the pace, looking in control until around the furlong marker before being outstayed.

York’s five furlongs is however, one of the quicker in the UK. Jim Crowley acknowledged that Battaash only just stays the minimum trip, and whilst Ascot’s stiff five is obviously beyond his best, York should really present no issues.

Furthermore, he has displayed a lot more maturity in his fourth year on the track. Having blown his chance in 2017 at the start, that doesn’t appear to be a concern this time around. He was ridden with far more patience on his reappearance at Haydock this year. Attempting to make all in premium sprints like the Nunthorpe is a fool’s errand. Patient tactics would work wonders.

Previous Form

Battaash came into the 2017 and 2018 renewals with far more impressive performances at Goodwood previously, posting RPRs of 125 and 129 respectively. Long odds-on for this year’s edition, he put less than a length between himself and 16/1 shot Houtzen, with the 103 rated Ornate not beaten far at all in third.

With that performance, running to an RPR of 122, coming at his favoured track, surely there should be worries about how well he is going to perform at York?

Well, perhaps not. Connections have since revealed that Battaash wasn’t ridden to his limit, Crowley riding with one eye on York, as they always knew he’d have enough. Still able to score with a chunk in hand, that performance must be upgraded. As a result, he comes in theory to this contest, just three weeks later, with more left in the tank than in previous years.


People have bemoaned Battaash for his lack of consistency, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Since returning to the track in 2017, he has won eight of his thirteen starts, and hasn’t finished out of the first four.

His only defeats have come at the highest level, winning all seven races outside of Group One company, and landing the Prix de l’Abbaye in 2017 with one of the most explosive performances ever witnessed on a racecourse.

He has finished second in two King’s Stand’s, only finding Ascot specialist Blue Point too good. To finish second in a race under conditions he finds too testing, at that high a level, is surely consistency personified. Additionally, despite blowing his race before the start in the 2017 Nunthorpe, he was still a respectable fourth behind Marsha and Lady Aurelia.

His competition

Michael Dods’ speedy mare Mabs Cross was beaten just a nose in this last year before going on to win the Prix de l’Abbaye, the second time she finished ahead of Battaash last year.

Judged on 2018’s form, she would appear a decent bet at double the price even if she was beaten comfortably by Battaash in the Temple and the King’s Stand.

Three-from-three as a juvenile over six furlongs, Ten Sovereigns failed to stay the trip in the 2,000 Guineas. O’Brien said of his next run in the Commonwealth Cup, that mentally the return to sprinting hadn’t quite clicked.

He was a different proposition when switched to front running in the July Cup, overcoming a previous near three-length defeat by Advertise with an impressive win from the front. O’Brien has since said that his work at home has been unbelievable. Given that and the recent front-running display, the drop back in trip should really be of no concern.

There are nine other rivals, although it’s pretty tough to make a case for any of them, Soldier’s Call rated the joint highest at 114, nine pounds inferior to Battaash.


Rated just a pound inferior, receiving two pounds, it would appear Ten Sovereigns is more than a match for Battaash. It would be no surprise at all were he to win, and Mabs Cross is a solid each-way option.

Too much has been made regarding Battaash and York however. Reflections on his appearances in previous Nunthorpes have resulted in him, one of the quickest horses on the planet, being available at a bigger price than a horse attempting five furlongs for the first time.

The issues that blighted his runs at York previously have largely been resolved. Connections now attempt to ride him with more patience and he is a far more mature animal this year.

I for one, believe that he will be at his very best in the 2019 Nunthorpe, and at current odds, he looks well worth a bet, the current 9/4 the joint biggest price he’s been available at since 2017.

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