Hills has eyes on George glory
Connections of Battaash are as much in the dark as anyone as to how the rain-softened ground will affect their exciting sprinter in the Qatar King George Stakes at Goodwood on Friday.
The Charlie Hills-trained three-year-old has burst on to the scene with impressive victories on his last two starts at Sandown but track conditions will be the worst the son of Dark Angel has experienced.
"We don't know what the ground will be," said Angus Gold, racing manager to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
"Obviously it was desperate on Wednesday. I suggest it might be sticky, but I just don't know.
"He's had knee problems so you never know if they will go on this ground. It's going to blunt his speed a bit, I would have thought.
"I don't want to put people off but until we see him go on it, there is no way of knowing.
"Charlie is very keen to run him so I can only imagine we'll be there.
"He was very good at Sandown. You certainly can't fault what he's done this year. I'm just mindful about last year – plus the ground is an unknown."
While the ground is an imponderable to all, Take Cover is reported in top shape as the 10-year-old bids to become the first horse to win this race three times.
David Griffiths' stable star was not only successful in 2014 and 2016 but was only beaten a head in 2015.
"He worked on Monday and worked well. He's come out of it in good form and he's ready to go," said Griffiths.
"I'm not worried about the draw as we're near the favourite (Battaash) and I would imagine the rest will follow us.
"The one worry would obviously be the ground. He can handle soft, but he's better on quick ground and in these races you want everything spot-on.
"Having said that, they've all got to go through it, our horse looks a million dollars and I think he goes there with a big chance.
"It would be great to complete the three-timer."
Clive Cox has two solid contenders in King's Stand Stakes runner-up Profitable and Temple Stakes winner Priceless – though the testing ground could be more of a problem to the latter.
"Of the two of mine, I think Profitable would probably be more favoured on the ground," said the Lambourn handler.
"He has winning form in soft ground and I thought he ran a fantastic race at Ascot on ground that was quicker than ideal for him. He was giving 9lb to Lady Aurelia and I was very proud of his performance.
"Timing wise, the gap between Ascot and Goodwood is perfect and he goes there fresh and well.
"Priceless probably wouldn't be as well suited on softer ground, but she's in good form.
"She's had a good year, winning a Listed race and the Temple Stakes at Haydock. I'm not sure Ascot suits her."
Marsha was just a head behind Profitable when third in the King's Stand and has since suffered a narrow, but surprise, defeat by Caspian Prince in Ireland.
The Sir Mark Prescott-trained four-year-old, winner of last year's Prix de l'Abbaye, is taking in this race on her way to the Nunthorpe at York in three weeks' time.
"She came back from Ireland fine and because we felt it was quite a long time until the Nunthorpe at York, we thought we'd let her run here first," said Dan Downie, racing manager for owners Elite Racing Club.
"Five furlongs at Goodwood is probably as sharp as she'd wanted, so we were hoping for genuine good ground rather than rattling quick ground, but obviously soft ground wouldn't be ideal."
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