He was a brilliant sprinter, but after failing to secure a fifth successive victory in the King George Stakes at Goodwood on Friday, the curtain has been called on the racing career of Battaash.
The seven-year-old was well beaten by Suesa at the feature race on the penultimate day of the Glorious Goodwood Festival, and despite York’s Ebor Festival looming – for which, the Charles Hills-trained gelding would have been one of the favourites in the Nunthorpe Stakes betting odds – connections confirmed his retirement over the weekend.
Battaash had formed a perfect partnership with jockey Jim Crowley, and the duo picked up four Group 1 and five Group 2 wins in their races together – including those four victories in the King George Stakes. So often the favourite, Battaash’s last win came at York racecourse in last year’s Nunthorpe Stakes, and his team would have been gunning for a third successive win in the race, but it wasn’t to be.
Battaash had been Timeform’s highest-rated sprinter every season between 2017 and 2020, but at the back end of last year, had suffered an injury while wintering at Shadwell Stud. The gelding underwent an operation on the joint fracture and consequently, this curtailed the start of his season.
Battaash raced just once this season prior to the appearance at Goodwood. He was the favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Having tracked the leaders and led narrowly, Battaash weakened in the final stretch and finished fourth – two and a half lengths behind the winner, Oxted. And it was a similar story on Friday afternoon. Highly-fancied at odds of 2/1, Battaash had been chasing the front pack, before disputing the lead, but it was short-lived – and in the final furlong, he gradually weakened, eventually finishing in seventh place.
Shadwell’s racing manager, Angus Gold said after the race:
“I think Battaash has done well to get back to the races,”
“He had an injury last year and it took him a long time to come right. He’s had issues all his life and I think it’s remarkable that he’s back with us at all. Jim said that he felt good, the enthusiasm was there. He didn’t like the ground, but he is a seven-year-old who has had a lot of problems.”
Last year was a great season for the Shadwell-owned horse, who won all three of his starts: the King’s Stand Stakes, King George Stakes and the Nunthorpe Stakes, and throughout his career, ran in 19 consecutive Group races, winning 11 of them. Amongst his stand-out victories was the four-length win at Chantilly, in the Prix de l’Abbaye (2017) – when he was three years old.
Trainer Charlie Hills paid tribute to the star sprinter, and tweeted:
And jockey, Crowley, who had partnered him for so long continued the praise:
“He’s a wonderful horse. We’ve had some great days and he’s going to have a happy retirement. He’ll be much missed. Riding him was something special. There was always a real buzz. When he won the Nunthorpe [breaking Dayjur’s course record] it was one of the best days racing I’ve had.”
While it’s disappointing that Battaash bowed out when he did, he remains the most successful horse in the history of King George, and it’s a record that will take some undoing. Battaash had a glittering career, and there’s no doubt that his performances will live long in the memory.