Timeform preview Saturday's Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock Park, which is set to be headlined by Battaash...
"...anything at Evens or better is worth taking."
Timeform on Battaash
The Temple Stakes may be a Group 2 in name, but it often feels like a Group 1 race due to the runners who take their chance in it. The headline act this year is the reappearing Battaash, Timeform's joint highest-rated European horse in training on 136 alongside Cracksman - a big contrast to his BHA rating of 123.
Battaash enjoyed a stellar campaign last year, in which he rapidly became one of the best five furlong horses of recent times, winning four of his five starts and breaking the 130-barrier on Timeform ratings when strolling to success in the Group 2 King George Stakes at Goodwood. Temperament remains a niggling issue with him, as shown when getting too worked up before finishing fourth in the Nunthorpe at York, but he is an outstanding sprinter who signed off last term with a first Group 1 success in authoritative fashion in the Prix de l'Abbaye on Arc day at Chantilly.
Battaash is 8 lb clear on weight-adjusted ratings for this, and though he is conceding race fitness to all but one of the 15 declared at the five day stage, he produced a then career-best effort to win on reappearance last season. It is very difficult to look past him for win purposes and with the race likely to cut up, anything at Evens or better is worth taking.
Examining the pace in a race is a useful starting point when decoding sprint contests, and it's likely that there will be a frenetic one here. Battaash races prominently, and he's likely to be stalked by Kachy, who would be the biggest threat to the favourite on Timeform ratings should he take his chance. The five-year-old has shown a tendency to hang left in the past, including when finishing second in the Commonwealth Cup two years ago, but has been rejuvenated by a campaign on the AW over the winter. He returned to turf in devastating fashion at Chester last month, showing his effectiveness on tight, turning tracks, and whilst he would get conditions that suit here, his trainer has hinted that he could instead head straight to the King's Stand at Royal Ascot next month.
Another runner who possesses bags of pace is Take Cover, who enjoyed a stellar season in 2017. He has won twice at this level, both wins coming in the King George Stakes at Goodwood, and is generally game from the front. However, he found Battaash too strong in the most recent renewal of the King George Stakes, and it's likely that this will be too hot for him, too, particularly if he tries to take on the favourite up front.
The race could be set up for a hold-up performer, though there are doubts over the participation of three who fit that category, including Muthmir, one of the senior figures in the field who rarely runs at bad race at this level. He will be sharper for his reappearance at Longchamp last week, though he may instead attempt to complete a hat-trick in the Prix du Gros-Chene at Chantilly in a fortnight's time. Washington DC is another to consider, though he is regularly campaigned at this level and consistently falls short, whilst Mabs Cross would be the most interesting of the three, and deserves her place after winning the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket last month. She would be a popular winner for the race sponsors, though would be unlikely to run if the ground became any firmer.
Three-year-olds have a good record in this race, with Hot Streak and Fleeting Spirit winning in recent years, and several from that age group make appeal receiving plenty of weight here. The most interesting of those is Mrs Gallagher, who is set to receive over a stone from Battaash. She showed plenty of speed when winning a listed race at Naas last time, suggesting that she deserves her place in Group company, and makes most appeal from an each-way angle with more improvement a possibility. Different League is another three-year-old filly worthy of a mention; last year's Albany winner is interesting on her two-year-old form, but would need to show more than she has on two starts since being sent to Aidan O'Brien.
Another unexposed runner is Dreamfield. Injury meant we were denied the chance to see him in action in his classic season, but his raft of Group 1 entries give an indication show just how highly his connections think of him. He's unbeaten in three starts so far, and returned from a 595-day absence in flawless fashion in a hot handicap at Ascot a fortnight ago, tanking along and having plenty in hand. He's sure to improve yet, and fully deserves his place in this line-up should he take his chance.
This is a tricky race to assess, with several uncertain to take their chance. As such, it's impossible to oppose Battaash, who should make a winning return in comfortable fashion, and he's likely to be far shorter than the Evens currently on offer. Mrs Gallagher continues to improve, and is the most interesting each-way proposition at a bigger price, which is currently around 20/1.
Back Battaash at Evens in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday