Alpha Delphini set for comeback

Bryan Smart admits his Nunthorpe Stakes winner Alpha Delphini may not be as sharp as his rivals in today’s Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes at Haydock.

flashback: Alpha Delphini ridden by Graham Lee (right) wins last years Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

The eight-year-old enjoyed his finest hour when denying Mabs Cross by a nose to cause a 40-1 upset on the Knavesmire last August, which is the ultimate aim once again.

The sprinter has not raced since being unplaced behind Mabs Cross in the Abbaye at ParisLongchamp in October.

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“He’s in good form,” said the Thirsk trainer.

“He’s as fit as I can get him without a run – he looks very well in himself. Obviously the fancied horses have all had a run, but I’m very happy with him.

“You have to start somewhere – and my job is to get him right, hopefully, for the Nunthorpe again.”

Charlie Hills is looking forward to Battaash starting his new campaign in defence of the Group Two contest.

The 2017 Prix de l’Abbaye hero led close home in Saturday’s dash 12 months ago, to defeat Washington DC by a head – and although he also scored at this level in the King George Stakes, a second Group One victory eluded him.

The closest he came was when second in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot – a race that beckons again next month.

“The field size is a bit different this year to last year, but we’re obviously happy with the horse and looking forward to getting him back on the racecourse – and we haven’t got a penalty like we had last year,” said Hills.

“It looks like there will be some pace on, and we like to be up there as well. They might go quite quick, I’d have thought.”

The Lambourn trainer feels Battaash is in a good place, after having minor wind surgery during the close season.

“It was just a tiny procedure, nothing major that we had looked at towards the end of last year. He seems a happy horse,” he added.

Mabs Cross got up close home to deny Battaash’s stablemate Equilateral in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, on her first run since lifting the Abbaye in October.

That victory in France means she is burdened with a Group One penalty, which her trainer Michael Dods points out will inevitably make her task tougher.

“The penalty makes life difficult, giving weight to the likes of Battaash, but she’s well,” said Dods.

“It’s a small field and it looks like they’ll go pretty quick – with Battaash and Kachy, and Caspian Prince too.

“There are three horses that all want to be bang there, and three horses that probably don’t.

“She’s stepping up, and you’ve got Battaash for one. But she’s in good form, and I’m sure she’ll put up a good performance, wherever she finishes.

“On his day, Battaash is a very good horse. He has a few off-days, and I hope he has one on Saturday.”

Kachy made most of the running 12 months ago – and has a second bite at the cherry on the back of three blistering wins on the all-weather, culminating in the Sprint Championship at Lingfield on Good Friday.

Trainer Tom Dascombe believes his six-year-old has improved with age.

“Kachy has to be a better horse this year,” he said.

“He ran at Lingfield off his highest-ever rating, and everything about him makes you think he is a better horse in 2019.

“He ran well in the Temple Stakes last year when he was beaten a head and a neck, and we are hopeful of another good performance.”

Caspian Prince has not run since finishing 11th to Alpha Delphini in the Nunthorpe.

Trainer Mick Appleby reports the evergreen 10-year-old to be ready to return to the fray.

Karl Burke reports Laurens to being in rude health ahead of the Queen Anne Stakes following her excellent run in defeat on her first start of the season at Newbury.

Laurens will now try to take her top-level haul to six in the one-mile feature that kicks off the five-day meeting at Royal Ascot on June 18.

The four-year-old, owned by John Dance, only found Mustashry too good in the Lockinge Stakes after a seven-month absence – and has taken those exertions so well even Burke has been surprised.

“We’re absolutely delighted with her,” said the North Yorkshire handler.

“The plan was always to give her an easy week this week, but she was that fresh and well we’ve had to do a few canters with her the last couple of days.

“The Queen Anne is the target and that’s where we’re heading for, without anything untoward happening.”