Brilliant Battaash blitzes to Nunthorpe Stakes record

When Dayjur flew down the straight five furlongs on the Knavesmire in the Nunthorpe Stakes and stopped the clock in 56.16 seconds, he set a mark that few who saw it believed would ever be beaten. Twenty-nine years later to the day, and in the same blue-and-white colours of Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, Battaash proved them wrong here, as he won the same race by three-and-a-quarter lengths and became the first horse to cover the five furlongs here in less than 56 seconds.

It was an astonishing performance, not least because of the sharp contrast to his two previous attempts to win this race. Both ended in disappointment, including a run into fourth place 12 months ago when Battaash set off at odds-on, leading to concerns that he simply did not enjoy his trips to the Knavesmire.

Within a few strides of this year’s Nunthorpe, however, it was clear that Battaash was out to set the record straight.

He broke well and travelled with the same zest and power that is a hallmark at tracks like Goodwood and Haydock, and when Jim Crowley let out an inch of rein at halfway, he exploded into a lead that none of his rivals, including the warm favourite Ten Sovereigns, ever looked likely to threaten. Moments later, he crossed the line and stopped the clock at 55.9, while also looking as though he could have gone faster still had there been any need.

Dayjur, now the second-fastest horse in Knavesmire history, is remembered not only for his brilliant performance in 1990, but also for his agonising defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on dirt a couple of months later, when he jumped a shadow a few yards from the line just when victory seemed inevitable.

Battaash may now attempt to succeed where Dayjur failed, to some extent at least. The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita over five furlongs, rather than the dirt event over six, could be his ultimate target this year, after trips to the Flying Five at The Curragh in September and the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp a month later.

“You look at this track and you’d think it was made for him,” Charlie Hills, Battaash’s trainer, said. “The question had crossed my mind after he’d finished fourth on both starts here before but he’s a lot more experienced now and now I think he’s one of the fastest horses there’s ever been. We don’t want to be too greedy with him because he’s a gelding and we’re looking to keeping him in one piece when he’s seven and eight, but if there’s a year to really go for it, this could be it as he’s in great form and we can go on to the end of the year.

Battaash surges clear of the field.





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Battaash surges clear of the field. Photograph: Steven Cargill/racingfotos.com/Rex/Shutterstock

“Our draw really helped today, he was on the wing and got a great lead. He’s so fast, it’s ridiculous and it’s trying to get the sections right and use that speed in the right moment of the race. It’s hard to ask a sprinter to sprint, it’s all about balance and an even keel. To lower Dayjur’s record is pretty amazing, he’s a horse I grew up with and I thought, there will never be another one faster than him. But there is now, and Willie Carson [Dayjur’s jockey] always said to me that he looks like he could be the next Dayjur.”

The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint would require Battaash to race around a tight bend, and since Dayjur’s failure nearly three decades ago, Sheikh Hamdan has sometimes seemed less enamoured of the Breeders’ Cup than many other leading owners.

But it would be a remarkable spectacle to see Battaash’s brilliance unleashed at one of the world’s most spectacular racing settings. The five-year-old is currently top-priced at 5-2 to carry the blue-and-white colours to victory in California in November, but is likely to be much shorter on the day if he makes the trip to the States.

Quick guide

Tips for Friday 23 August

Ffos Las  1.45 Lexington Quest 2.15 Tritonic 2.50 Royal Residence 3.25 Gilt Edge 4.00 Last Look 4.35 Motfael 5.05 Tigerskin 

York 1.55 Caradoc 2.25 Falcon Eight 3.00 Spartan Fighter nb 3.35 Battaash (nap) 4.15 Fox Duty Free 4.50 Fastman 

Newmarket 2.05 Thread Of Silver 2.40 Conga 3.15 Never Alone 3.50 Romola 4.25 Great Bear 4.55 Geranium 5.30 Concierge 

Goodwood 5.00 Lethal Angel 5.35 Volkan Star 6.05 Forbidden Land 6.35 Show Stealer 7.05 Whistler Bowl 7.35 Infanta Isabella 

Salisbury 5.15 Fieldsman 5.50 Hamish Macbeth 6.20 Walkonby 6.50 Governor Of Punjab 7.20 James Park Woods 7.50 Fields Of Fortune  

Chelmsford City 5.45 Foad 6.15 Aljari 6.45 Deconso 7.15 Let Rip 7.45 Star Of Southwold 8.15 Mon Frere 8.45 Canasta 

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