Even greased lightning might have trouble keeping up with Battaash. Regarded as the fastest horse on the planet, the Charlie Hills‐trained speedster hit a staggering 48.63mph when winning the King George Stakes for a record fourth time last year.
The champion sprinter has kept his thousands of fans waiting this season. A tiny joint fracture had to be pinned during the winter, so he heads to Royal Ascot for the King’s Stand Stakes without a recent race.
Lack of a run didn’t stop him in the five‐furlong thriller 12 months ago. Having twice finished runner‐up behind Blue Point in the Group 1 contest – part of the British Champions Series ‐ Battaash scorched to glory with a stunning all‐the‐way success to land his first Royal Ascot prize.
In the familiar blue‐and‐white colours of his late owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, he went on to smash his own course record when winning the Group 2 King George Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival for an incredible fourth time.
The best was still to come as he landed back‐to‐back victories in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York to take his record for the season to a perfect three out of three.
It was a far cry from his early days when his pent up energy was bursting out in all directions.
His debut came in the spring of 2016 in an uninspiring early‐season Bath novice race. Despite not enjoying the starting stalls having gone off an unfancied 14‐1 shot, he showed a fair glimpse of what was to come by overcoming his troubles in a four‐length victory.
The raw talent and turbo‐charged speed was clearly there but so was an excitable temperament. It got the better of him on his first visit to Royal Ascot for the Windsor Castle Stakes.
The son of Dark Angel twice reared up in the stalls and his race was run before the gates opened as he trailed home in 12th place.
An unusually early decision was taken to geld Battaash to try to concentrate his mind on racing. It meant a potential stud career, which had seemed somewhat unlikely anyway, was over before it had started.
In his juvenile season, Battaash was still a little erratic but he came to life as a three year‐year‐old. He won the Scurry Stakes, Coral Charge and his first King George Stakes before grabbing Group 1 glory with a stunning performance in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc de Triomphe day. The world seemed at his ferociously‐fast feet.
The following season followed suit but a second defeat in the Nunthorpe meant a first British Group 1 prize remained elusive.
It was in that same race 12 months later that he was finally to join the sprinting greats. Although the lightning‐fast five‐furlong track at York was perfect for his searing speed, the walk across the course from the stables on the far side of the Knavesmire tested his temperament.
But Battaash had grown up. Led around the parade ring by his loyal groom Bob Grace, in his last year with Hills before retiring, he had clearly matured from an head‐strong adolescent into a more focussed athlete.
With all of his energies pointing towards the winning line, he scorched home to smash Dayjur’s 29‐year‐old track record.
His three wins last year show age has not blunted his speed. Trainer Charlie Hills puts his brilliance down to his flexible joints and feet quicker than the fastest flamenco dancer.
His fans will be hoping for another winning waltz with jockey Jim Crowley when the pair line up for the defence of his King’s Stand crown at this year’s Royal Ascot. It is going to take a very fast one to stop him winning his fifth top‐level prize.