Jim Crowley: “I hope Battaash can make it third time lucky, he deserves it”
Coral ambassador previews his Tuesday rides at Royal Ascot
Ascot 13.15 – Motakhayyel
It’s obviously going to be a very different Royal meeting this year, with an extra six races over the five days, and of course no crowds.
When we’re out on the track we are so focused on the job in hand we don’t really notice the lack of spectators in the stands, but at a meeting as big as this it might be more noticeable. Where it will definitely make a difference is in the build up to the races, the lack of general hulabaloo will help those horses that can get a bit buzzy around noise, and the unraced two-year-olds in particular will benefit.
Coming back to an empty winners’ enclosure will be strange, but that would be more than made up for by riding that precious winner in the first place!
Sheikh Hamdan has a really strong team of horses this season, and the way things have gone since we started back has been encouraging, hopefully that will continue in what is such an important week for the whole team.
That strength in depth does mean however that I face some big decisions when choosing between multiple runners, and in this opening race I had a tough choice between four of the boss’s entries.
I’ve gone for Motakhayyel in the Buckingham Palace, even though both Daarik and Mutamaasik are shorter in the betting than my pick. I had to make my decision based on the feel the horses have given me at home, and this horse has been working very well at Richard Hannon’s. If he can reproduce that form on the track, then hopefully he will run very well.
I have had to ignore the betting and go with my own gut feeling, but of course I know there’s a chance I could be beaten by another wearing the famous blue and white silks!
There are an extra six races this year, making 36 in total, but for every jockey getting a winner on the board as early as possible is what we all hope for, it sets you up for the week.
Ascot 13.50 – Mohaather
I had another tough decision to make in the first Group 1 of the week, the Queen Anne, between Mustashry and Mohaather.
I’ve won a Lockinge on the former, and he ran well in this race last year. He’s a really solid, strong horse, I know what I’ll get from him, so it wasn’t easy to get off him, but Mohaather came back from a long break after his excellent Greenham Stakes win to run well in the QE II last autumn. His home work recently has been exceptionally good, and Marcus Tregoning is very happy with him.
He looks a million dollars as well, and in what is a wide-open race hopefully they’ll both run big races, but I’ve gone for the younger horse as I do believe he’s the most unexposed horse in the field.
Ascot 15:35 – Battaash
Battaash is an absolute star, and hopefully it will be third time lucky for him in this race, having finished second the last two years.
People said he didn’t like York but it proved to be third time lucky when we won the Nunthorpe last summer, and he’s run two good races in defeat in the King’s Stand, both times beaten by Blue Point, now retired of course.
Two years ago, looking back, I feel he was there to be shot at, and he perhaps wasn’t in the absolute best form he can be going into the race, and twelve months ago we got outstayed by an outstanding sprinter who went on to win the six furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes as well.
This will be his first run of the season this time, but he’s run well first time up before, he looks well, has been working well, the ground should be beautiful, and when he’s on a going day, as at York, there isn’t a sprinter who can live with him.
We’ve seen in the past that he can get warm before a race, so the lack of crowd noise will be of help to him. It almost goes without saying that he is one of my favourite horses, I just hope for the horse he can make it third time lucky here, he deserves it.
Ascot 16.10 – Nazeef
Nazeef is a filly who has done nothing but improve, winning three at the end of last season, and then beating a Guineas winner [Billesdon Brook] in the Snowdrop at Kempton first time out this season.
We were getting weight that day, but she still took another big step forward to win as she did. She’s a gorgeous filly, big and strong, and although this is another step up to Group 2 company, it looks the obvious race for her and she goes here with a good chance. I’m looking forward to her.
It’s a huge positive that the trainers I ride for have all started this unusual season in such good form. With Royal Ascot coming around so soon after the restart it was important to hit the ground running. A lot of the horses running this week will be having their first run of the season, so a yard in good form is a big plus.
Ascot 16:40 – Quloob
My final ride on this opening day is Quloob in the Ascot Stakes. He looks a nice spare to have picked up, ironically he was previously owned by Sheikh Hamdan, and I won on him a couple of times three years ago when he was trained by Owen Burrows.
He’s been running over jumps most recently, so this 2 ½ mile trip will be no problem to him, and there isn’t the usual strong Irish challenge we see in this race. He’ll have to improve on the flat form he has shown so far but he’s with an excellent trainer and hopefully he can run well.