(Published 18th July, 2018) – A race of pure speed, the Group 2 Qatar King George Stakes is run on the straight course at Goodwood and is downhill just about all the way from the starting stalls to the finishing line. Staged on the fourth day of the five-day Glorious Goodwood fixture, it attracts the very fastest horses in the business and boasts a roster of previous winners including some of the greatest names in sprinting since the race was established in 1911.
The last horse to win back-to-back renewals was Ian Balding’s superb filly Lochsong, who won the race in both 1993 and ‘94, and prior to that you have to back to the legendary Abernant who won in both 1949 and 1950. The only other horse to have won it twice in modern times is the admirable veteran Take Cover, who powered home in 2014 then bounced back to win again two years later. David Griffiths’ star is a probable starter once again this time around, despite being 11-years-old.
Is It Battaash’s Race For The Taking?
Charles Hills has a fine sprinter on his hands in the shape of the four-year-old Dark Angel gelding BATTAASH, winner of the King George Stakes 12 months ago and likely to take all the beating in his bid to become the first since the great Lochsong in 1994 to win this breathtaking dash in successive years. Last year the power-packed sprinter slammed the high-class Profitable by two-and-a-quarter lengths in this race (see below) to complete a seasonal hattrick, travelling with tremendous ease throughout before scooting by and drawing away to win as he pleased.
How good was Battaash? ?️
Will be see another performace like this in this year's King George Stakes? pic.twitter.com/Ud6NNL4lHl
— Goodwood Racecourse (@Goodwood_Races) February 23, 2018
He went on to suffer his only defeat of that campaign in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York three weeks later when he ‘boiled over’ before the start and was never travelling particularly well He came home fourth behind Marsha and Lady Aurelia, but well and truly bounced back to slam Marsha by four lengths in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly in October to prove himself Europe’s, and arguably the world’s best five furlong sprinter.
This season Battaash began by recovering from a slow start to beat Washington DC in the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock in May, before heading to Royal Ascot for the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes and another clash with US star Lady Aurelia. He comfortably saw off the Wesley Ward-trained filly a furlong-and-a-half from home before going clear, only to be reeled in inside the distance by Godolphin’s Blue Point, eventually finishing runner-up.
On official figures Battaash is well clear of his rivals in this year’s King George Stakes. As long as he doesn’t get worked up before the start and jumps away on terms with them he should prove very hard to beat. This fast, downhill track is perfectly suited to his style of racing, and if forced to make a book on the race at this point in time I personally would take no chance and make Hills’ flyer a shade of odds-on. On that basis, the 7/4 currently offered by Bet365 looks very good value and he is a confident choice to land the prize again.
The Other Main Contenders
As they say though, there’s no such thing as a certainty in racing, so if there is to be a surprise, where might it come from?
The fairytale success would be Take Cover, the 11-year-old speed merchant who has been such an outstanding servant to the David Griffiths yard. The 14-time winner just loves this track. He was runner-up in the 2013 Stewards Cup over six furlongs before landing the 2014 King George Stakes, then was beaten in a photo-finish 12 months later by Muthmir before regaining the crown in 2016, beating Washington DC (see below).
Is the impossible…possible?
— Goodwood Racecourse (@Goodwood_Races) July 15, 2018
Last year Take Cover was fourth to Battaash, but this term he hasn’t been running to the same level in three starts. While the Singspiel gelding may well recover his form at his happiest hunting ground, it is probably asking too much for the current 20/1 chance with SportPesa to beat the favourite, but you wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him sneaking into a place if back on song.
Another very fast horse is the Tom Dacombe-trained Kachy (7/1 with Sky Bet), a horse with a mixed record at Goodwood. He won the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes over the course and distance as a juvenile, but has been well beaten in two previous tries in the ‘King George’, last year finishing only 10th behind Battaash after trying to go with the eventual winner to the two furlong marker. He got much closer, however, when beaten just a neck by Battaash in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock in May having shown blistering early dash racing alone on the far side, but the winner had missed the break, so Kachy is probably a little flattered by his proximity on that occasion. He has since finished only ninth behind Blue Point at Royal Ascot.
Aidan O’Brien is always to be feared and throughout this season the word from Ballydoyle has been that their Sioux Nation (12/1 with Betfair) is a real flying machine. Last year’s Group 2 Norfolk Stakes winner went on to land the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in August and was clearly a very smart juvenile. This term he won in Group 3 company at Naas, cosily beating another O’Brien speed merchant Fleet Review (see below). He was then sent off 11/4 favourite for the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup over six furlongs, but ran poorly, finishing a disappointing 16th behind Eqtidaar.
?Sioux Nation scorched to victory in the Lacken Stakes at #Naas yesterday.
All roads now lead to the Commonwealth Cup for the latest Aidan O’Brien sprint star.
— Sportsman Racing (@SPORTSMANRAClNG) May 21, 2018
He did better recently in the Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket finishing fifth behind stable companion US Navy Flag (not entered for this race), and if ridden more positively at Goodwood may well get into the action. He certainly is hard to rule out of a place.
Fleet Review (12/1 with 10bet) also holds an entry for the ‘King George’. Like Sioux Nation he ran poorly in the Commonwealth Cup but bounced straight back by defeating another O’Brien inmate, Intelligence Cross in a tight finish to a listed race over six furlongs at the Curragh on Irish Derby Day. Even better, he ran a blinder when third in the July Cup last week and seems to be improving fast. It will be interesting to see which of the Ballydoyle horses is chosen by first jockey Ryan Moore, and my suggestion is that if you’re wanting to stick with the greatest trainer then Moore’s choice of Sioux Warrior or Fleet Review would probably be the best policy.
O’Brien also has the likes of Washington DC, Murillo and Intelligence Cross entered for this race.
Two More To Consider
John Gosden’s Godolphin colt Dreamfield (14/1 with Paddy Power) is another interesting contender who is still not fully exposed. The son of Oasis Dream won both races as a juvenile then missed his three-year-old season due to a setback. He reappeared in May, making all to win a good Ascot sprint handicap as he pleased off a mark of 95 and was duly a massive gamble for the Wokingham Handicap in which he eventually found only Bacchus too good for him in the 28-runner cavalry charge (see below), going under by just a neck off a mark of 103. He backed that effort up with a very creditable sixth to US Navy Flag in group 1 company last time.
The drop back to the minimum trip may be no bad thing for this talented four-year-old as he has a high cruising speed, and it will be interesting to see how he fares early on against the likes of Kachy and Take Cover, and how much he has left to attempt to repel the anticipated finish of Battaash. If the favourite underperforms then Dreamfield may be the one to step up to the plate.
Of the remaining runners still engaged in this race at the time of writing, one who has the potential to run better than his form figures suggest is Karl Burke’s Havana Grey (20/1 with Betfair). The Yorkshire-based three-year-old was a very quick juvenile, winning the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes over course and distance at this meeting last term (see below) before finishing runner-up to Unfortunately in the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville. He ended the campaign being beaten just half a length by Heartache in the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster.
— Goodwood Racecourse (@Goodwood_Races) August 2, 2017
Entitled to improve for his reappearance run, Havana Grey wasn’t disgraced after being slightly hampered inside the final furlong in finishing within two lengths of the smart Mab’s Cross in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket in May, then disappointed when more than four lengths behind Battash at Haydock last time out. Back at Goodwood though, and with his yard still in fine form, the Havana Gold colt could do much better and he appeals as a sporting each-way alternative to the favourite – who realy will take all the beating.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.