Jim Crowley: “I think Battaash will take all the beating”
Reflections on the Lockinge Stakes
It was great to get a Group One win on the board, as I said in last week’s column it looked to be a wide open Lockinge, with only a couple of pounds between the whole field, but in the end he’s ended up winning with real authority, putting 2 ½ lengths between him and Laurens in second. The handicapper has put him up to 121 now, which is fair enough, he’s such a consistent, tough sort, and from 7 furlongs to 1m 2f, so he’s versatile too. His only blip came on soft ground at the Breeders’ Cup, but even that experience has improved him.
He’s a worthy favourite for the Queen Anne, which I’m sure will be his next target, Laurens will improve for the Newbury run but she’ll need to, as the stiff mile at Ascot will suit my fellow, he’s an uncomplicated sort who gets further than a mile so we will go there full of hope. I couldn’t pull him up at Newbury, he had plenty of Group One winners behind him there, so anyone knocking the race would be doing so unfairly.
He’s also another example of what an unbelievable trainer Sir Michael Stoute is with these older horses, to find further improvement as a 6-y-o. Sheikh Hamdan has been so patient too, as some horses just don’t come fully into themselves until they are 4 or 5. Being a gelding helps too, as his mind is fully on the job of racing!
Oaks hopeful Maqsad
Another potential Group One horse I am looking forward to is Maqsad, who looks likely to take her chance in next week’s Investec Oaks. I’m obviously pleased that she’s running at Epsom, we are going into the unknown with regard to the mile and a half trip, but unless we try we won’t know, and if she doesn’t stay there are plenty of nice options for her back in trip. She’s fourth favourite in the betting at the moment, and I do think she’s open to plenty of improvement. She’s a well balanced filly who handled the dip well at Newmarket, so I don’t think Epsom would be a problem for her. Ideally it wouldn’t be a big field as she does want to be held up, but the form of her Pretty Polly win is working out nicely enough so she’s an exciting ride to look forward to.
One of the main benefits of riding for Sheikh Hamdan is the chance to ride these Group One horses, winning the championship was a great achievement and can never be taken away from me, but now it’s about riding in the big races, and hopefully winning some of them! I don’t always pick the right ones, but that’s a high class problem I guess, the most important thing is that we have some nice horses coming through, the likes of Khaadem and Jash for example.
Saturday Haydock rides
Nakeeta has been a grand old runner, who has won an Ebor and run really well in Melbourne Cups, so this is obviously a drop in class for him. He is carrying top weight here, but Iain Jardine has done a brilliant job with him, so this is a nice ride to pick up and I’d be hopeful he has a squeak here.
Masaru has won his last two, including the Esher Cup well last time, but a negative here is his wide draw in 16, as a mile around Haydock is tricky from there. The long straight will give us a chance, but we will need the race to pan out OK for us from that stall.
It goes without saying I’m looking forward to getting back on board one of Sheikh Hamdan’s stars, Battaash, in the Temple Stakes, a race he won twelve months ago. I’ve been to Charlie’s [Hills] to have a sit on him at home, normally you ride him with your feet on the dashboard when you’re going up the gallops, but this year he’s much more relaxed, Dane O’Neill has ridden him in a lot of his work and has done a good job on him, so it’s a real team effort.
This is a really strong race, a Group Two in name only to be honest, Mabs Cross, Kachy and Alpha Delphini are proper Group One horses. The former carries a penalty but like my fellow has won an Abbaye and won well at Newmarket earlier this month, while Kachy wasn’t beaten far in this race last year and will lead us a merry dance here I’m sure.
If Battaash is back to his brilliant best, as we saw when he won the Abbaye at Chantilly, and at Goodwood last summer, then I do think he will take all the beating here, he does need things to go right for him but he’s more relaxed now so that should help me ride more of a race on him.
4.35 Heavenly Holly
I thought Ryan [Moore] gave Heavenly Holly an absolutely brilliant ride when she won at Lingfield on Good Friday, he rode the others to sleep that day. She hasn’t run since then, connections will be trying to get some black type for her here, she’d have a chance off 97 in an open looking race here.
Thoughts on the Irish 2,000 Guineas
Was I surprised when connections chose to run Too Darn Hot in the Irish 2,000 Guineas? Yes and no. Yes because it comes just nine days after his run at York, but no, as I’ve seen this horse in the mornings and he is just a bundle of energy, and John Gosden wouldn’t be running him in Ireland if he wasn’t 100% happy with him.
Magna Grecia was impressive when winning at Newmarket, yes he was on the right side, and I think Skardu – third that day – will finish a lot closer, which would put him right there, but Aidan’s horse won well. The big two dominate the betting which is fair enough, I really couldn’t call it, if anything I would say Magna Grecia has had the better preparation so if pushed I would just side with him.