By Craig Kemp
22nd August 2019
“There are only so many Group 1s over five furlongs, so he’s got to go back to York,” said trainer Charlie Hills in relation to superstar speedster Battaash ahead of the Nunthorpe Stakes.
In fact, there are only two Group 1 5f sprints in the UK racing calendar, with the Nunthorpe following the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. And Battaash is still waiting for a first career victory in either race.
Yet he remains one of the 7/4 joint favourites in the Nunthorpe Stakes betting.
Is Battaash really a level above over 5f?
He has finished fourth in each of the last two seasons in the Nunthorpe, including when sent off as an odds-on favourite 12 months ago.
Battaash has also chased home Blue Point for two successive years at Royal Ascot. In terms of victories, he’s been forced to mop up at Group 2 level, with routine wins secured this term in the Temple Stakes at Haydock and then most recently Goodwood’s Qatar Stakes.
Hills can’t put his finger on a reason why his five-year-old has failed to justify his sprinting hype at York, although he’s trying something different this year in that Battaash will travel to the course on the morning of the Nunthorpe, rather than making the journey the night before.
Is Ten Sovereigns fast enough to win over 5f?
The other 7/4 joint favourite for the Nunthorpe is Ten Sovereigns, despite the three-year-old having never previously tackled 5f.
Statistically, this isn’t a good omen, given that 15 of the last 17 Nunthorpe winners had previous winning form over the minimum trip.
Another negative is that six of the last nine victors ran at Goodwood last time out, with Battaash doing just this in the Qatar Stakes.
Instead, Aidan O’Brien’s challenger put his 2,000 Guineas and Commonwealth Cup disappointments behind him to win the July Cup at Royal Ascot.
What’s more, the form of this race has been working out exceptionally well since. Of the six horses to have run again, three have been victorious. Runner-up Advertise has won a Group 1, eighth Glorious Journey has landed a Group 2 and ninth Major Jumbo was first home in a Listed contest.
All of the other trio have got within three lengths of a G1 success.
Therefore, the form looks more than solid and the feeling is that O’Brien wouldn’t pitch Ten Sovereigns into a 5f Group 1 if there were concerns over his speed.
An alternative plan would’ve been to wait a month and run in the 6f Sprint Cup at Haydock.