Lady Aurelia tackles budding star Battaash in Nunthorpe, “Win & You’re In” for BC Turf Sprint

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August 22nd, 2017

Ebor Festival preview continued from Part I on Juddmonte International and Part II on Yorkshire Oaks

“It felt like we were going a million miles an hour – she hasn’t lost her speed.”

So declared jockey Frankie Dettori after steering Lady Aurelia in a work over York Racecourse last week, sending a chilling message to her rivals in Friday’s Nunthorpe (G1). The five-furlong dash down the straight serves as a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at that same trip, around a turn, at Del Mar – Wesley Ward’s fall objective for his flying filly.

Last seen spreadeagling the King’s Stand (G1) field at Royal Ascot, Lady Aurelia has already proven her superiority over the likely re-opposing Profitable, Marsha, Take Cover, Alpha Delphini, Cotai Glory, Final Venture, Goldream, Priceless, and Washington DC. They couldn’t live with her on that stiffer course, and the flat Knavesmire should only suit her warp speed even better.

But there is one opponent who might be capable of challenging Lady Aurelia – Battaash from the yard of Charlie Hills. Three-for-three this season, Sheikh Hamdan’s runner has been a revelation. His 11-1 upset of fellow sophomores in the Scurry at Sandown was just the beginning. Battaash dusted the older brigade in the Coral Charge (G3), setting a Sandown course record of :58.57, and was similarly dismissive of Profitable and Marsha in the King George (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. On a literal reading of the formline, Battaash is in the same neighborhood as Lady Aurelia. Only an on-course showdown can decide for certain.

Adding fuel to the fire, Ward and Hills have gone back and forth in Racing Post Monday about who has the upper hand in the Nunthorpe.

Ward believes Lady Aurelia has a freshness edge, having rested since Royal Ascot.

"I can only train my horse and not Battaash,” Ward said, “but if I look at his races and I look at my races, I prefer my sprinters to have good spacing between their races.

"The really great sprinters give you 120 percent and I like to give them ample time to recover before preparing for the next race. Battaash ran a very big race the last time at Goodwood, so on that basis, I think the spacing is on my side."

Hills countered by citing precedent:

"We're very happy with our horse. He's on an upward curve and plenty of horses have won the King George and then the Nunthorpe, so we're happy with the timing."

Battaash is currently nipping at Lady Aurelia's heels in the antepost market, and it will be a shock if anyone else overturns them.

York also plays host to the stayers on Friday with the 16 1/2-furlong Lonsdale Cup (G2).

The Willie Mullins-trained Thomas Hobson is the market leader in light of two rousing efforts at the Royal meeting, a six-length romp in the Ascot S. and a valiant second in the Queen Alexandra. But the sometime hurdler will face some real crack performers in The Queen’s Dartmouth, hero of the Yorkshire Cup (G2), and Dal Harraild, victorious in the Grand Cup here. They were fourth and sixth, respectively, to Idaho in the Hardwicke (G2) last time out. Sheikhzayedroad would also be a force if rebounding from subpar efforts in the Ascot Gold Cup (G1) and Goodwood Cup, St Michel exits a bang-up second in the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (G3), and Varian’s blueblood UAE King, a Frankel half-brother to Dubawi, could be anything as he takes a class hike off three straight wins.

Friday’s card will be finalized Wednesday.

Although Saturday’s finale isn’t punctuated by a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, North American interest is still in play.

Mondialiste, who didn’t wheel back on short rest to defend his Arlington Million (G1) title, is among those remaining in the Strensall (G3). Two years ago, Mondialiste captured this nine-furlong race en route to Woodbine Mile (G1) glory.

Ward’s Elizabeth Darcy is penciled in for the Roses, a five-furlong sprint for two-year-olds.

The meet’s marquee juvenile event, the six-furlong Gimcrack (G2), could yield a rematch of the top three from Glorious Goodwood’s Richmond (G2) – Barraquero, Nebo, and Cardsharp – this time on better ground. Coventry (G2) near-misser Headway, sixth when strangely going it alone on the stands’ side in the Richmond, should do better with a more sensible trip. Among others on the list as of Monday, Simon Crisford has the intriguing Newmarket winner Nobleman’s Nest engaged.

The field for the eponymous Ebor Handicap will become clearer by Thursday’s final declarations. But in the meantime, note that one of Mullins’ entrants, Riven Light, hopes to launch a Cox Plate (G1) challenge to the mighty mare Winx.

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Lady Aurelia photo by Frank Sorge/