Hills up for the fight as Battaash targets Lady Aurelia at York

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BRING it on. That’s the message from Charlie Hills who has come out fighting ahead of stable star Battaash’s eagerly awaited head-to-head clash with American speedster Lady Aurelia at York later this month.

Both horses are due to put their burgeoning reputations on the line in the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes over five furlongs on August 25, with Hills saying the contest is “what racing is all about”.

The hype is not misjudged. Lady Aurelia, trained by Wesley Ward, put up a sensational display to land the Group One King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot under John R Velazquez who was replacing the injury-sidelined Frankie Dettori.

Meanwhile Battaash, owned by Sheikh Hamdan, has emerged as the leading British-trained speedster this season with three victories. The first two successes were at Sandown before an emphatic victory in the prestigous King George Stakes under champion jockey Jim Crowley at Goodwood’s revitalised flagship meeting earlier this month.

Hills has been pleased with his charge since that latest success and is relishing the York race. He said: “Battaash has come out of his win at Goodwood really well and we are looking forward to York now.

“He isn’t a horse who a needs a lot of work between his races so it is a case of ticking him over and keeping him in good form.

“I am happy with him. We were obviously delighted with his performance at Goodwood. He showed that he goes on any ground and beat a number of very good horses.

“It is not going to be easy at York – Lady Aurelia is obviously very good but there are plenty of other top sprinters in there too. Clashes like this are what racing is all about and we are looking forward to it.”

It won’t be a two-horse race. Other likely participants include Group One winners Marsha, Profitable and Goldream while Bawtry trainer David Griffiths intends to run the veteran Take Cover, last year’s third, and Duke Of Firenze.

Meanwhile, Aidan O’Brien’s dual Guineas winner Churchill is likely to step up in trip for the 10-furlong Juddmonte International, the £1m feature race on day one of the Ebor festival.

The horse has not run since a disappointing run in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot – he was a late absentee from the Group One Sussex Stakes at Goodwood because of the bottomless ground.

However, jockey Ryan Moore has not lost faith. “Things just didn’t go his way in the St James’s Palace Stakes,” he said earlier this week. “York is a lovely track and hopefully it should suit him. Churchill is a brilliant horse.”

Like the Nunthorpe, the Juddmonte promises to be a race for the ages if Churchill’s old adversary Barney Roy travels to York.

Trained by Richard Hannon, the colt chased home Churchill in Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas before winning the aforementioned St James’s Palace Stakes. James Doyle’s mount was subsequently beaten a photo-finish by Sir Michael Stoute’s Ulysses in Sandown’s Coral Eclipse.