FOR MANY this year’s Ebor Festival is all about today’s Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, which features some of the fastest horses on the planet.
LADY AURELIA blasted herself into the history books when flying clear of her King’s Stand rivals at Royal Ascot, supplementing her win in the previous year’s Queen Mary Stakes.
That proved that she had trained on and is clearly an exceptionally fast filly.
Wesley Ward would have been covering his eyes when the rain was lashing down on Wednesday morning, but the forecast is set fair for today and conditions should suit her fine.
There is very little not to like, but she’s still only a three-year-old and is travelling to England for the second time in the space of a few months.
After her magnificent display in the King’s Stand you would have said nothing trained in Britain would have a chance of beating her in the Nunthorpe.
However, since then we’ve been blessed by the meteoric rise of new star sprinter BATTAASH, who has been a revelation this season.
Described as a “bull in a china shop” by trainer Charlie Hills last season, a gelding operation has worked the oracle and the son of Dark Angel is unbeaten this term, with each performance stronger than the last.
A Listed win at Sandown in June was followed by an even more impressive display in the Group Three Coral Charge at the same venue.
Everyone seemed to disregard his chance in the King George Stakes at Goodwood because of the soft ground – he’d been 5/2 ante-post and was sent off 9/2 on the day – but those fears were short-lived as he won in emphatic style.
Jim Crowley never had a moment’s worry and Battaash looks to be another star speedball from Hills’ fast-growing production line.
It’s always dangerous to label any race a two-horse race, but this really looks like one and it would be surprising if these two top class sprinters don’t finish first and second.
The order is difficult to be dogmatic about, but I’m just leaning towards Battaash, as he’s in such good form and there has to be a slight question mark about Lady Aurelia away from her beloved Ascot, especially after her no show in the Cheveley Park Stakes last autumn.
The battle for third could be just as competitive, but the one who looks most likely to pick up the bronze medal is Sir Mark Prescott’s MARSHA.
In May she became the first horse since Lochsong to carry a 7lb penalty to success in Newmarket’s Palace House Stakes, which backed up her success in last October’s Prix de l’Abbaye.
The daughter of Acclamation ran well to be third in the King’s Stand and although she was disappointingly beaten by Caspian Prince at the Curragh last month, she was a respectable third behind Battaash at Goodwood last time.
York’s quicker surface will suit her much better and it’s encouraging that she’s one from one over this course and distance, as it has always been a specialist’s track.
There are a number of other classy sprinters in this race, although none with as much talent as the top two.
Sadly, Meccas Angel isn’t here to land a hat-trick, but there would be an equally big roar if the 10-year-old Take Cover could come home in front.
This very fast sprinter has been a credit to his trainer David Griffiths and he was unlucky that the ground went against him at Goodwood a few weeks ago.
He has run very well at York in the past, winning three times, and can never be disregarded on the Knavesmire when conditions are quick.
His trainer adds a further string to his bow in the shape of another veteran Duke Of Firenze.
Admittedly, he is probably out of his depth here, but he’s a talented sprinter on his day and could pick up the pieces if some of the leading protagonists go off to quick.
Profitable had a 2016 to remember, winning at Newmarket, Haydock and Ascot and has been knocking on the door since, finishing second on all three of his appearances this season and could make the places.
Bill Esdaile’s Nunthorpe Stakes 1-2-3
- Lady Aurelia