Ben Linfoot was at York to see Battaash take down Dayjur's 30-year course record in tremendous style in a turf-scorching Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.
Ebor Festival York Day Three
- Battaash destroys Nunthorpe rivals
- More millions for Stradivarius
- Threat claims Gimcrack glory
- Ebor Festival day 3 blog recap
Click on the above links for race reports & replays
Battaash breaks Dayjur record
Sheikh Hamdan-Al-Maktoum pointed to his temple and waved his hand like he was opening a jar when describing Battaash after his stunning Coolmore Nunthorpe win.
“This one is not straightforward, little bit sometimes,” were the accompanying words to the sign language that I interpreted as ‘he can be a bit of a headcase’.
His flaw, though, is his strength. Brute force. And when he’s on his A-Game he’s unstoppable. A course record in a staggering 55.90 seconds tells you that.
Faster than Dayjur, a horse that scorched the same Knavesmire turf in 56.16 seconds back in 1990, in the same silks for the same owner.
“I can’t compare them,” Sheikh Hamdan said. “Dayjur was three-year-old, he is five. Dayjur was more genuine than this one. If Dayjur was here I don’t know what would happen.
What happened on the final start of Dayjur’s career was that he was beaten a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Belmont Park.
The trainer, Charlie Hills, you sense, fancies going for the same prize. But ultimately, he said, it would be ‘up to Sheikh Hamdan’.
“I have doubts about it,” Sheikh Hamdan said. “European sprinters always went straight, America they have the turn and they slow down.”
It wasn’t a full rebuke, just merely a doubt. The good thing is, with him being a gelding, we’ll see him for the foreseeable future at least, all being well.
With nothing to lose, perhaps we’ll see him chase the American dream after all.
Arc poser for Nielsen
Another Weatherbys Hamilton Million for Stradivarius.
He’s done it all over staying trips. Twice. So, the big question is, will he drop in trip to a mile-and-a-half for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe either this season or next?
Owner Bjorn Nielsen seems tempted… but not yet.
“All the numbers guys, speed figure guys, say he ran three-to-five lengths faster than Roaring Lion and Cracksman last year on Champions Day over the last three furlongs,” he said.
“All those guys keep telling me you have to bring him back to a mile and a half.
“But there’s two things. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So why am I going to do that right now?
“And number two there is a filly called Enable whose ridden by the same jockey and I don’t know if he’d jump off her to jump on mine!
“We’ll see. As long as he can stay sound and enthusiastic there’s no reason why we can’t keep going to the Champion Stayers at Ascot and then next year.”
Perhaps, then, we’ll see him drop back in trip 2020. It would be great to see. Over staying trips he’s too good for everything, so why not find out what he can do at middle-distances?
Roger Varian is looking forward to running Barsanti in Saturday’s £1million Sky Bet Ebor.
“He’s in great form,” he said. “He’s a bit like Gibbs Hill in that he needs to bounce back. He’s run well this year but in races that he’d have probably won a year or two ago.
“I felt like he’s run like a seven-year-old, not a five-year-old, this year. He’s not run poorly but he’s just showing his legs a little bit. But, back in handicap company, and I know it’s a good handicap, the race will suit, I think he’ll run good.
“The blinkers are on because I just think he’s got a little bit wise in his old age. We’ve nothing to lose so we’ll see how we go.”
Meanwhile, Karl Burke is a bit concerned about the draw in 24 for Kelly’s Dino.
“The draw hasn’t done us any favours although the winner came from that draw last year. There are quite a few horses drawn high that like to go forward as well so hopefully they can take us into the race.
“The dream is to end up in Australia so if he can finish in the first three it would be fantastic. It’s brilliant to just be in there. Sod’s law we would’ve been the last horse in without the penalty but we couldn’t risk it.”
Lodge set for seven furlongs
Meanwhile, Burke was delighted with Lord Of The Lodge’s second place finish in the Gimcrack and expects his phone to be hot in the coming days.
Second to Threat today on his fifth start, the son of Dandy Man could now step up to seven furlongs – as long as his trainer keeps hold of him.
“He’s a lovely horse and has run a blinder. I quietly fancied him really and I thought he’d put up a big show. We had a change of tactics, letting him use his stride, he’s got such a lovely long stride, it worked at Haydock and I thought it would work again.
”They’ve always thought the world of the winner and I hope he’s as good as they think he is.
“The phone was buzzing from bloodstock agents after his Haydock run so I’m sure they’ll be on the phone again. Hopefully we can keep hold of him.
“He likes that good, quick ground, so we’ll be dictated to by that, but we’ll aim him at the better races. I wouldn’t mind stepping him up to 7f but the Lagardere is a mile now.”
Varian happy with Hill performance
And finally, Roger Varian was delighted to see Gibbs Hill bounce back to form in the opening Sky Bet Stakes where he was fourth under Andrea Atzeni.
Off for 724 days before being pulled up in the Northumberland Plate, Gibbs Hill finished his race well on the Knavesmire to finish just over a length-and-a-half off the winner under top weight.
“It was a good run,” Varian said. “Newcastle we had to put a line through really, Andrea wasn’t quite sure he was comfortable in the straight so he did the right thing and pulled him up.
“He’d been working well at home and that was a good run under top weight. He cantered into the race and I thought he was going to win.
“He didn’t quite get the room in the final furlong and I don’t know if it stopped him winning but he was short of room when he needed it.
“Just speaking to Andrea, we might even pull him back to a mile and a quarter. He was last off the bridle and I’d almost treat that like his first run for two years given Newcastle was a bit of a none event.
“I’m not sure where we’ll go next. I’m pleased he’s turned up today, he’s got a big prize in him. We’ll think about it, it’s not easy off his mark and there are not too many options left.
There might be something at Doncaster, but I don’t know where we’ll go. He’s given us reason to continue with him as he’s had a chequered last couple of years.”