IT would appear that age is merely a number to the bookies, with seven-year-old Battaash (6/4) the firm favourite (according to the British horse betting companies) to land his fifth King George Qatar Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
First raced in 1911, the event was founded to mark the coronation of King George V, and the Charles Hills-trained horse is the most successful in the race’s 110-year history – all wins under the expert guidance of jockey Jim Crowley.
Bred in Ireland by the County Limerick-based Ballyphilip Stud, he is tipped to make it five in-a-row on the Sussex Downs, despite having raced only once in the last 11 months. That run was a fourth-placed finish behind Oxted in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, but connections are confident he can land the five-timer at Goodwood.
He may be giving his main rivals several years and several pounds in weight, but he is expected to strip a lot fitter for his run at the Royal meeting, and extend his Goodwood form which reads: raced four times, won four times, reported Horse Racing - BBC Sport.
His major rivals for the Group 2 clash include the Tim Easterby-trained Winter Power (9-2), who made it four wins in his last five races with an impressive performance over the minimum at York in the Listed John Smith’s City Walls Stakes. His one defeat, however, in the last 10 months was in the King’s Stand where he was down the field, and a length-and-half behind fourth-placed Battaash, and he is 3lbs worse off for the rematch.
According to the horse betting experts at BritishGambler.co.uk, The John Quinn-trained Liberty Beach (10/1) wasn’t far behind Battaash at the Royal Meeting but, like Winter Power, is 3lbs worse off against the betting favourite, so will need a big turnaround to push Battaash on ground that is likely to be similar to that faced in the King’s Stand.
Other contenders include Dragon Symbol (5/1) and Rohaan (6/1), with the Archie Watson-trained former finishing first or second in all of his career starts to date, with one of his defeats at the hands of the latter, by a whisker, on heavy ground at Haydock in May. However, both horses have limited experience over five furlongs with Dragon Symbol boasting the only form over the minimum with a Conditions Stake win at Hamilton in May this year.
With Battaash’s form at Goodwood clearly impressive, it seems unlikely that he’ll be too far away at the finish line, even if he is facing his toughest test yet in a race he has made his own, reported The Irish Field. With eight of the last 12 winners being aged five or over, three-year-old pair Dragon Symbol and Winter Power both have their work cut out, but both look genuine threats to the seven-year-old. A reverse forecast featuring Battaash and either of the two currently second and third in the betting would not be the worst strategy in the world.
For each-way fans, Liberty Beach was far from disgraced in his performance at Royal Ascot, and offers decent value at around 10’s, and boasts a previous win over five furlongs at Goodwood. And it would be foolish to completely rule out Clive Cox’s Supremacy (20/1) if he runs, rated as Britain’s best juvenile last year and the trainer’s highest ever rated two-year-old, despite this being his first run over the minimum, and having disappointed in his only two starts this year.