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

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.


What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

Updated 03 June 2020

What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

  • Restart to begin with 2 matches on June 17, to ensure every side played same number of games

LONDON: The Premier League's return is just two weeks away but there are plenty of details for the 20 clubs in the English top-flight to work out before competitive action resumes on June 17.

AFP Sport looks at what is on the agenda at the latest in a series of meetings between the clubs on Thursday.

There have been squabbles over how final league standings should be decided if the season cannot be completed but clubs need a contingency arrangement if a spike in coronavirus cases wrecks their plans.

Most of the teams in the bottom half of the table are reportedly pushing for relegation to be scrapped if the season is not completed on the field.

That still seems highly unlikely, with the English Football Association and English Football League both insisting on promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid.

A points-per-game formula is the most likely option and is part of the reason why the restart will begin with two matches on June 17, to ensure every side has played the same number of games.

Once the two outstanding games — Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United — have been played, all 20 sides will have nine games remaining.

No dates for other matches have yet been released, but fixtures are expected to continue from where they left off in March and be crammed into just five weeks ahead of the FA Cup final on August 1.

A long layoff, little time together in contact training and a gruelling schedule mean players' bodies will be pushed to the limits.

In an attempt to minimize injuries and fatigue, world governing body FIFA has allowed leagues to temporarily change their rules to allow five substitutes.

Chelsea have also reportedly proposed increasing the number of substitutes available from seven to nine.

However, critics have suggested those changes will simply play into the hands of the bigger clubs with deeper squads.

Premier League clubs appear to have won their battle to have games played in their own grounds rather than on neutral sites.

However, the UK's national lead for football policing confirmed last week that a "small number" of fixtures will take place at neutral venues.

That is likely to include any match that could see Liverpool crowned champions for the first time in 30 years, to try and avoid crowds gathering at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is unconcerned by playing at neutral venues, with results from four rounds of Germany's Bundesliga showing no advantage for home sides in a closed-doors environment.

"We will not have the help from the crowd but no team will have that, so where is the advantage?" Klopp told the BBC.

"Whoever we play it is the same situation, which is why I'm not too worried about it."

The use of VAR could also be dispensed with for the rest of the season should the clubs wish to further cut the number of people required for games to go ahead.

However, the Premier League's CEO Richard Masters is keen for it to remain.

"VAR has its own social-distancing issues, but we think there is a way of completing the season with VAR," Masters told Sky Sports.