YORK, England – Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Battaash (IRE) is set to take on seven rivals as he bids to repeat last year’s win in the 5-furlong Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) at York on Friday. The Nunthorpe Stakes winner will receive an automatic berth into the US$1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is a series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which is scheduled to be held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 6-7.
Battaash, now a 6-year-old, has been better than ever in 2020, gaining a first success at Royal Ascot in the King’s Stand Stakes (G1) before setting a new track record when winning the Qatar King George Stakes (G2) at Goodwood for the fourth year in a row. Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider, Jim Crowley, will again be in the saddle.
Battaash’s trainer, Charlie Hills, enjoyed Breeders’ Cup success with Chriselliam (IRE) in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and has been delighted with his stable star in the three weeks since Goodwood.
Hills said: “He came out of his Goodwood run in good shape, and we’re happy with where we are with him at the moment. Goodwood was a great day, but this game moves on pretty quickly, so you have to come back down to earth. York is a fast track, which obviously suits him.”
The two 3-year-olds in the race, Art Power (IRE) and A’Ali (IRE), are expected to provide the toughest opposition. Art Power, trained locally by Tim Easterby and ridden by former champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa, has won his last four starts, including the Coolmore Sioux Nation Lacken Stakes (G3) in Ireland last month.
A’Ali, a contender in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) last year, won for the fifth time at Group 2 level last month, capturing the Holden Plant Rentals Sapphire Stakes (G2) at the Curragh. The Society Rock (IRE) colt is trained by the father and son team of Simon and Ed Crisford and ridden by William Buick.
Moss Gill (IRE) and Que Amoro (IRE), first and third in the listed John Smith’s City Walls Stakes over course and distance last time out, re-oppose, while others lining up at York and looking to earn their place at this year’s Breeders’ Cup are the Kevin Ryan-trained Emaraaty Ana (GB), veteran sprinter Ornate (GB) and the outsider of the field, Kurious (GB).
As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes to start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, which will be run at 5 1/2 furlongs over the Keeneland turf course. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a travel allowance of $40,000 for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must already be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program or it must be nominated by the Championships’ pre-entry deadline of Oct. 26 to receive the rewards.
Photo: Battaash wins the 2019 edition of the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes. Credit: York Racecourse