The third time proved to be the charm today for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's 5-year-old gelding Battaash (IRE), who after consecutive fourth-place finishes the last two years, finally won the five-furlong, $512,000 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) at York in a scintillating 3 ¾-length course record victory under jockey Jim Crowley. With this win, Battaash earned an automatic berth into the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) through the International Breeders' Cup Challenge.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 86 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, California, Nov 1-2.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for Battaash to start in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, which also will be run at five furlongs. Breeders' Cup also will provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
Battaash becomes the third horse to qualify for the Turf Sprint this year through the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series. The 4-year-old World of Trouble, winner of the Jaipur Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park on June 8, and the 5-year-old Blue Point (IRE), who won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot on June 22, were the first two qualifiers. Blue Point has been subsequently retired.
Battaash, a bay son of Dark Angel (IRE) out of Anna Law (IRE) by Lawman (FR) completed the five furlongs in 55.90 over a course listed as good to firm, a broke the course record of 56.16 set in 1990 by the 3-year-old Dayjur, also owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum.
Placing himself again at the top of Europe's turf sprinters, Battaash, trained by Charlie Hills, won his 10th race in 19 starts, and his second Group 1, also having captured the 2017 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines. Today's win also was his third triumph in four starts this year after having minor wind surgery over the winter. Battaash captured the King George Qatar Stakes (G2) in his last start on Aug. 2 at Goodwood, and the Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes (G2) at Goodwood on May 25. His lone defeat of 2019 was a second-place finish to Blue Point (IRE) in the King's Stand Stakes (G1) on June 18 at Royal Ascot.
Sent off today as the 7-4 second choice in an 11-horse field, Battaash broke well from post 1 and steadily gained ground from third place to the final two furlongs where he opened up under Crowley to a stirring triumph. Battaash drew away well ahead of 20-1 Clipper Logistics' 3-year-old Soldier's Call (GB) in second. The Aidan O'Brien-trained 3-year-old filly, So Perfect, finished third at 25-1, followed by the 5-year-old mare Mabs Cross (GB) in fourth and Cooper Knight (IRE) in fifth.
“Fantastic,” said Hills afterward. “All the chat saying he doesn't like York and he's broken the track record, and that's Dayjur's track record as well.
“I was really pleased with the draw and Jim gave him an absolute peach of a ride,” added Hills. “He got a lovely tow in there. This is some horse – he's seriously fast.”
“He's obviously been gelded so we can come back here again next year,” Hills told Racing TV. “I'd love to go to Ireland (Flying Five at the Curragh) with him in a few weeks and then hopefully go to France and why not the Breeders' Cup.”
The major disappointment in the race was Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor's 3-year-old Ten Sovereigns (IRE), the 13-8 favorite, also trained by O'Brien, who came into the Nunthorpe with an impressive score over older horses in the Darley July Cup (G1) at Newmarket, but failed to fire today, finishing sixth.
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