By Ray Hickson
The result of tonight’s Nunthorpe Stakes at York in the UK has the potential to unearth an Everest contender not only for the inaugural running but the 2018 edition as well.
Exciting three-year-old Battaash, an impressive winner of the Group 2 King George Stakes (1000m) at Goodwood on August 4 for trainer Charles Hills, has emerged as a horse that is being seriously considered by at least one slot holder.
The gelding will clash with 2017 King’s Stand Stakes winner Lady Aurelia, already earmarked for the 2018 Everest by trainer Wesley Ward, and Washington DC, a horse that Coolmore may consider bringing to Sydney if he upset the fancied pair.
Battaash has been a revelation since he was gelded in mid-2016 and his Goodwood win was his third on end following an all the way victory in the Group 3 Coral Charge (1000m) at Sandown on July 8.
Hills told the UK’s Betfred TV that Battaash has come of age in the last 12 months and is looking forward to taking on Lady Aurelia in the Nunthorpe.
“This fellow is blessed with plenty of speed,’’ Hills said.
“We’ve been delighted with the way he’s come out of (Goodwood), we’ve just been ticking him over and we couldn’t be happier.
“We have to respect Lady Aurelia hugely. We ran Cotai Glory at Royal Ascot and she ran past him like he was standing still.’’
There’s plenty of mutual respect, though, for Battaash in the Lady Aurelia camp and her jockey Frankie Dettori told the UK Racing Post he’s expecting the Nunthorpe to be no gimme.
Lady Aurelia hasn’t raced since her dominant Royal Ascot win in June.
“He’s definitely the horse I’ve got to beat,’’ Dettori said of Battaash.
Who Wins & who else is in your acca? ?? pic.twitter.com/3dDy7VzWb5
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“He brings a lot to the table and it’ll be a great race.’’
Coolmore had originally intended to bring Caravaggio out for The Everest but he lost form and has been given a break but may have a new hope in Washington DC.
The four-year-old finished down the track in the King’s Stand behind Lady Aurelia and fifth behind Battaash at Goodwood before bouncing back with a Group 3 win at The Curragh on August 13.
Battaash and Lady Aurelia are the $2.60 equal favourites with TAB Fixed Odds for the Nunthorpe, run at 12.35am tonight.