Battaash still the one to beat as flat season gets set to go up a gear

Battaash still looks like the one to beat a few weeks out from Royal Ascot.
Updated 28 May 2018
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Battaash still the one to beat as flat season gets set to go up a gear

  • Battaash did everything wrong in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday, but still won.
  • Invincible Army outgunned by Richard Fahey’s Sands Of Mali in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.

LONDON: It has been a busy few days of top flat racing across Europe. With the season ready to go up a gear, Arab News serves up the five things we learned from the weekend’s races.

BATTAASH STILL TOP OF THE TREE

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, the Minister of Finance in Dubai, still has the best five-furlong sprinter in the world. For now. Battaash did everything wrong in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday, but still won. On the face of it beating Washington DC is not going to be good enough to beat American challenger Lady Aurelia, who warmed up for their clash in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in three weeks with a sparkling gallop at Keeneland on Friday. Battaash has put on 30kg over the winter, has had a wind operation, and this race will have been a perfect pipe-cleaner for next month.

DON'T GIVE UP ON DEFOE

Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s Defoe was eclipsed by the Aidan O’Brien pair of Lancaster Bomber and Cliffs Of Moher in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in Ireland on Saturday. There are good reasons for the defeat, though. It was the first time in nearly a year that Defoe had tackled a distance as short as 10 ½ furlongs. Jockey Seamie Heffernan rode a race that completely flummoxed his rivals aboard Lancaster Bomber, too. He sent his mount to the front and increased his lead by halfway. Defoe may well have the stamina reserves, but to catch a miler with a head start is near impossible and Andrea Atzeni will have better days in the saddle.

ARMY NOT SO INVINCIBLE AFTER ALL

UAE businessman Saeed Manana’s Invincible Army is a likeable and tough competitor but he was outgunned by Richard Fahey’s Sands Of Mali in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock on Saturday. Invincible Army went down by a nose at the end of the six-furlong contest, but it was the second time he had lost to Sands Of Mali. It is hard to see him turning the form around in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
Lying in wait there is likely to be Aidan O’Brien’s experienced Sioux Nation, but Prince Khalid Abdullah also has the deeply impressive Equilateral, who demolished a decent field of sprinters ten days ago.

COULD IT BE THAT BRITISH FILLIES ARE THE BEST?

It is early days in the European Flat turf campaign but there are increasing signs that the British three-year-old fillies could dominate throughout the season.
Royal Ascot in three weeks will further shuffle the deck, but you only have to look at Sunday’s results to see a trend forming.
Laurens, a horse trained in the north of England by Karl Burke and who was second to shock English 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook at Newmarket, bravely held off all comers in the Prix Saint Alary at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.
She edged out previously unbeaten French filly With You and three other representatives from the home team.
In Dusseldorf Nyaleti, also trained in Yorkshire by Godolphin feeder Mark Johnston, performed a smash and grab raid for the German 1000 Guineas.
With Alpha Centauri causing an upset at the Curragh in the Irish 1000 Guineas, it suggests for now the English might hold sway for the time being.

AIDAN O’BRIEN IS FALLIBLE AFTER ALL

It is fair to say that Aidan O’Brien gets it right far more often than others. The Irish maestro turned up an almost every Group One party last year around the world and broke the record by winning 28 times at the highest level.
It was refreshing and good for the sport, therefore, to see him upstaged at the Curragh on his home patch at the weekend.
Romanized caused shock in the Irish 2000 Guineas for trainer Ken Condon, who had sent out a disheartening 26 runners in 2018 without success before the biggest win of his career.
We have already touched in Alpha Centuri’s Irish 1000 Guineas success, and Billesdon Brook at Newmaket in the English equivalent. That leaves only Saxon Warrior’s English 2000 Guineas victory as his sole Classic triumph this season. Roll on the English Oaks and Derby at Epsom on Friday and Saturday.


A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

Updated 20 March 2019
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A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

  • Can the Whites and Green Falcons find the back of the net more often?
  • Both teams need to set the tone ahead of the important World Cup qualifiers.

LONDON: Ahead of Thursday’s friendly between the UAE and Saudi Arabia Arab News looks at the main priorities for both sides as they embark on their new eras after the Asian Cup and ahead of the all-important the World Cup qualifiers.

FIND THOSE SCORING BOOTS

For the past 18 months both sides have struggled for goals. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the UAE scored just 10 goals in the past nine matches — five of those coming against lowly Kyrgyzstan and India — and likewise the Green Falcons have also struggled to find the back of the net. Heading toward the World Cup qualifiers, now is the time to find those scoring boots.

PUT ON A SHOW

Both sides have technically gifted players, can keep the ball and at times trouble opposition defenses. But both have been too defensive, too safety-first and, at times, too dull. Football is supposed to be entertainment, and the friendlies ahead of the World Cup qualifiers might be no bad time to throw caution to the wind and see what the players can do in the final third.

SET THE TONE

As the modern cliche goes, a week is a long time in football. With all the sackings and player movements, it is not hard to see the kernel of truth in that overused saying. But, conversely, time can also move very fast in the “Beautiful Game.” It may be six months before the World Cup qualifiers begin, but it will be September before the coaches and players know it. Set the tone and tactics now and triumphs will be easier to come by then and, more importantly, further into the future.