Horse Racing | Press Article 16/04/24

Battaash (1/4, Jim Crowley) will try once again to leave previous disappointments at York behind after a record-breaking third successive win in the G2 King George Qatar Stakes, in which he recorded a time just 0.19s outside the course record of 56.01s set by Rudi's Pet in the corresponding race 20 years ago.

The winning margin over former Australian speedster Houtzen (16/1) was just three-quarters of a length, but it was another impressive performance from the Charlie Hills-trained gelding, who never looked in much danger and whose busy schedule through the second half of the season could ultimately take him to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, via York, the Curragh and Longchamp.

Hills said: "It is such a pleasure to be involved in a horse like this. To win three King George Stakes, I think it is the first time it has ever been done. I am quite emotional - he is a special horse. Jim just said he seemed to be idling there in front, which is good because he is taking his racing much better and there are a good few races now we can target towards the end of the year.

"Sheikh Hamdan is keen to go to York next. He has not won there before, but I still scratch my head because there is no reason why he would not handle a track like that. Then we will probably go to Ireland after that, all being well.

"There are only so many Group 1s over five furlongs, so he's got to go back to York. He was only beaten a couple of lengths last year. In the past though we've driven him up the night before, and I think this time we'll take him up on the morning of the race."

He added: "Bob [Grace, the groom] and Battaash are a marriage made in heaven, they get on so well. I am so pleased for Bob. He has been in this game a long time and looked after Battaash's sire Dark Angel. Then we had Battaash's dam as well in our yard. It is lovely teamwork and it is just a pleasure to have a wonderful horse like him."

Hills, who pointed out that Houtzen had some very good form in Australia, has big plans for Battaash this autumn.

Looking ahead he said: "After York there's the Flying Five, and then we'll go to France for the Abbaye [which Battaash won two years ago when it was run at Chantilly].He's very lightly raced really and is taking everything in his stride. He's much less stressed at the races.

"There are [at least] three more races for him this year and then hopefully the Breeders' Cup, although we will have to talk to Sheikh Hamdan about that. It's five furlongs again and it's a lot of prize money. We don't want to be too greedy, but last year he had very little racing."

Battaash becomes the first horse to win the £312,000 King George Qatar Stakes three times. Seven horses have won the contest twice.


Battaash justified his position as the 1/4 favourite for the G2 King George Qatar Stakes, winning the five-furlong contest for the third year in a row - something which has never been done before.

The Charlie Hills-trained, Jim Crowley-ridden five-year-old son of Dark Angel, owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, didn't manage the four-length triumph of 2018, but held off 16/1 chance Houtzen by three-quarters of a length.

Crowley said: "He's brilliant. Obviously he was not as visually impressive today as last year; he wasn't doing a lot in front and to be fair, I never used my stick on him today, just hands and heels. Maybe if I had given him a reminder he would have gone on and been more impressive, but I really didn't want him to go on and win by five or six lengths and have a harder race than he had to. We've got other races for him this year and I'd love it to be third time lucky in the [G1] Nunthorpe at York.

"He's a special horse. He's all speed and he probably only just gets five furlongs. If there were four and a half furlong races around he'd be unbelievable. Ascot just finds him out a little bit; it's almost like six furlongs there, but he loves it here. Hopefully it's third time lucky for the Nunthorpe.

"He was quite on it early on. We went very quick, as you would imagine. The horse who led me along couldn't take me any further. There just aren't many horses around quick enough to lead him. It was a great performance; fair play to Charlie [Hills] and all the team. He's settling down a bit - he was much better going out and going down to the start today, and he's growing up a lot.

"Goodwood is my local track and it's fantastic to win here. It's a pleasure to be associated with this horse."


Owner Hamdan Al Maktoum was delighted to see Battaash win the £312,000 G2 King George Stakes for the third year in succession and become the first triple winner of the five-furlong contest.

Sheikh Hamdan said: "Every year, he runs in a different way. The first year he ran very fast from the beginning, the second year was alright but this year he idled a lot.

"The first year he ran at York, a dog came and barked behind him and he got nervous a lot. The second year, they held him like they did at Ascot last time. When they hold him, he gives up. I hope he is going to York this year and he will run better.

"There is no tactic - you should just let him run with the horses. He doesn't need to be put in behind or anything because it is a short distance.

"I am enjoying it, particularly because it is the third time here and Goodwood is a very nice racecourse."

Plans for second Houtzen and third Ornate

Martyn Meade, trainer of the second-placed Houtzen (16/1), who was three quarters of a length behind the hot favourite and winner Battaash, was delighted with the ex-Australian mare's run in the G2 £312,000 King George Qatar Stakes.

Meade commented: "I am thrilled to bits. She has really lived up to her reputation. The great thing is that when they do it at home then they come to the track and you end up saying what has gone wrong, but she has really showed every bit of ability she has at home on the track today.

"I think she gave Battaash a bit of a fright and I thought that she was going to get up there for one second. I think the big problem in the race was that Houtzen had to switch, that might have cost her the race. We were bumped and Ryan [Moore] has had to pull her round. I think if the race was run again, under a different set of circumstances - it must have cost her a length.

"She is a lovely mare and we have only had her for a short period of time, but she has adapted well. She is one of those horses that have been trained on the track in Australia and I think that maybe being in a different sort of environment has helped her. She has thrived on it. She was in Newmarket for a short time - how she was going to cope with the wide-open spaces of Manton and the different set-up was a question. She has absolutely flourished on it and I couldn't be more pleased.

"I think I will have to persuade the owners Aquis Farm, who are a big Australian stud, to keep her in training rather than put her in foal. They brought her over specifically to win the King's Stand (at Royal Ascot in June), and when that didn't work they decided to give her another go. I have trained horse for them before.

"She is a five-furlong horse - I think she was getting to the end of her tether there. She is very quick. I will have to twist there arm and see how convincing I can be and get the old champagne out and hope for the best."

David Griffiths, trainer of the third home, 33/1 chance Ornate, declared: "I am over the moon. I thought he was very over-priced. Obviously, the winner is exceptional and the second horse has run a blinder, but we were best of the rest. We are chuffed to bits.

"We gave him six weeks off after Beverley and then he needed the run at Ascot. That just tightened him up and he likes fast tracks like Epsom and Goodwood. I think he will improve again on whatever he does this year as he is only six, and I think that is quite young for a sprinter.

"We will he see how is - if he is OK tonight, if he eats up and everything - and make a decision in the morning. He has run a lot better than his handicap mark there, and the Stewards' Cup is a possibility. We are delighted today and will see about tomorrow."


3.35pm King George Qatar Stakes (Group 2), 5f

1 Battaash (Hamdan Al Maktoum) Charlie Hills 5-9-05 Jim Crowley 1/4 fav

2 Houtzen (Aquis Farm Pty Ltd) Martyn Meade 5-8-13 Ryan Moore 16/1

3 Ornate (Kings Road Racing Partnership) David Griffiths 6-9-02 Phil Dennis 33/1

9 ran

Time: 56.2s

Distances: ¾, 2½

Tote Win: £2.20         Places: £1.10, £4.00, £7.20   Exacta: £9.80

Breeding: b g Bahamian Bounty (GB) - Adorn (GB) (Kyllachy (GB))

Breeder: Cheveley Park Stud Ltd

Charlie Hills - 18th Goodwood winner (9th at Qatar Goodwood Festival)

Jim Crowley - 68th Goodwood winner (12th at Qatar Goodwood Festival)