From a form perspective, the undoubted highlight at the Goodwood’s Festival - a rating of 136 – was provided for the second year running by the top-class sprinter Battaash in the five-furlong King George Stakes. He looked both unbeatable (notably in the Prix de l’Abbaye) and self-destructive in random measure in 2017, but looks a more settled horse this year and there has to be a good chance his form will improve even further for it.
His winning time - 56.50 seconds - wasn’t in this instance particularly outstanding and resulted in an ordinary timefigure by his standards of 121, but he remains the standout horse in this specialist division despite his defeat by Blue Point in the King’s Stand at Ascot in June.
Blue Point ran a 129 timefigure that day, one of the best besides Battaash at the trip in the last twenty years, so is clearly no pushover, but a too-free Battaash effectively set the race up for him there and Blue Point will have it all on to confirm the placings should the pair clash in the Nunthorpe where Dayjur’s 140 form rating (and even 142 timefigure) may come under threat.
As a result, it’s no surprise that Battaash’s achievements are now starting to be more widely recognised, with his belatedly revised BHA rating of 127 more in line with Timeform’s own view of the horse.
As good as it was on the eye (as well as the clock), Battaash’s win wasn’t the timefigure highlight of the week. That accolade went to the fast-improving Cross Counter, whose 124 timefigure when winning the Gordon Stakes is the fastest by a three-year-old male this season (Alpha Centauri remains the fastest three-year-old overall at 129).
Four-runner Group events are seldom the preserve of fast time performances, but his winning time of 2m 31.39 sec set a new course record. Given he made every yard of the running and beat Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee by four and a half lengths, there appears no semblance of a fluke about it. In normal circumstances the St Leger would be the obvious target, but, like Battaash, and much to the disappointment of the breeding industry no doubt, Cross Counter is a gelding so the Melbourne Cup is on his radar instead.
So far as the other Group races were concerned, the best timefigure - 114 - was recorded by the highly-progressive Pilaster in the Lillie Langtry over a mile and three-quarters. Roger Varian’s daughter of Nathaniel is bred to come into her own at this sort of trip and had signalled she was capable of a performance like this when dispatching subsequent easy handicap winner and Listed-race third Galmarley with ease at Kempton. Pilaster would probably be the one to beat if turning up in the Park Hill at Doncaster, but Postponed’s half-sister God Given might yet have a say in that race despite finishing only fourth here - she had nothing left in the final furlong having gone hard from a long way out and a 9 lb upgrade suggests things would have been much closer on another day.
Sir Michael Stoute has his team in great form and three-year-old Regal Reality looks one to keep on the right side of after posting a 112 timefigure when winning the Thoroughbred Stakes. He was aided by the strong pace set by the duelling Ostilio and Chief Ironside, with sectional upgrades for all suggesting it would have been a close-run thing off a more even pace, but the winner (by the Arc third Intello) will surely rate higher once upped further in trip.
Lightning Spear finally won the Group 1 his pre-race record deserved when getting the better of Expert Eye in the Sussex Stakes, but a small upgrade on top of a timefigure of just 98 alludes to the tactical nature of the race in a contest in which Without Parole surrendered his unbeaten record rather tamely. Neither the Lennox Stakes nor the Goodwood Cup won by Sir Dancealot and Stradivarius respectively achieved much on the clock either (timefigures of 94 and 90) and much the same could be said about Wild Illusion in the Nassau though she at least got into three figures (100).
Gifted Master produced the handicapping performance of the week in the Stewards’ Cup running to a form rating of 122 and a timefigure of 117, just 1 lb less than his career-best 118 when winning the Pavilion Stakes as a three-year-old. Seniority confirmed he was the best-handicapped horse in the Golden Mile with a winning 109 timefigure, while the high-class staying hurdler Lil Rockerfeller posted a 103 timefigure when winning the staying handicap by 15 lengths off a BHA mark of just 82, re-emphasising just how seriously top jumps performers need to be taken in handicaps when faced with a suitable stamina test on the Flat for the first time.
As for the two-year-olds, there was little to get excited about. Dark Vision made it three out of three in the Vintage Stakes, but while he is improving, a timefigure of 95 isn’t exceptional and he looks behind recent winners of the race Expert Eye and Galileo Gold at this stage. Rumble Inthejungle’s Molecomb success will ensure we can look forward to many more original variants of his sire Bungle Inthejungle for years to come, but a 102 timefigure won’t see him troubling Battaash much if he rolls up in the Nunthorpe receiving plenty of weight. All the same, he is entitled to be considered a better sprinter (and prospect) than Richmond winner Land Force (99 timefigure).