Steven Dowler puts together his list of ten of Europe’s greatest sprinters.
It would be hard to disagree that the greatest European sprinter of all time was Dayjur. He ran eleven times in his career and won seven races in total. In 1990, Dayjur dominated the European sprint division, winning the King Stand’s Stakes from the front as well as the Nunthorpe Stakes in a course record time.
Dayjur went on to claim the Prix de l’Abbaye and the Ladbrokes Sprint Cup. However, his most memorable performance came in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint where he appeared to be on his way to a famous victory, but jumped a shadow late into the stretch and finished second by a neck.
Dayjur was an extraordinary racehorse, who had blistering speed, matched with pure talent and the way he broke from the stalls like a dog chasing a hair was spectacular. He was crowned champion sprinter in 1990 and has long been described as Europe’s greatest sprinter.
Battaash aka the batmobile is without a doubt one of the greatest sprinters since Dayjur. He is one of the fastest horses on the planet despite sometimes having an unpredictable temperament. In 2017 he emerged as one of the best sprinters around which included four dominant victories with his most notable coming in the King George Stakes before claiming the Prix de l’Abbaye in breathtaking style.
In 2018, Battaash won the Temple Stakes at Haydock before recording a second victory in the King George Stakes. As a five-year-old, Battaash won the Temple Stakes for a second consecutive year and then managed a third King George Stakes for the third consecutive year, this time breaking the track record. Battaash then attempted to make it third time lucky in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York having finished fourth in the race back in 2017 and 2018.
He turned the race into a procession, travelling powerfully before showing a tremendous turn of foot to go clear and win by over three lengths. The Charlie Hills-trained gelding silenced his critics and went into the record books as he smashed Dayjur’s course record which was set in 1990. He also finished second twice in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in consecutive years behind Blue Point.
Battaash achieved a rating of 126 in 2019 making him the highest rated sprinter that year and still remains a horse who is pretty much unbeatable on his day. I never thought we would see a horse as fast as a Dayjur again but this proven top-class sprinter is cementing himself as one of the best sprinters of our generation despite remaining a slight underachiever in Group 1 company.
Harry Angel was a brilliant racehorse who became the world’s top-rated sprinter in 2017 and was also crowned Cartier Champion Sprinter the same year. Clive Cox trained the speedster, and he was owned by Godolphin for much of his career. Harry Angel suffered plenty of heartaches, having never been able to break his Ascot nightmare which saw him finish second there on four occasions.
His most notable defeat at Ascot happened when trapping a leg in the stalls when favourite for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in 2018. Harry Angel still managed to win two Group 1 races and established himself to be one of the best sprinters in recent memory having won the Sandy Stakes, July Cup and Haydock Sprint Cup when beating a top-class field.
Adam Kirby described Harry Angel as the best horse he has ever ridden and the superstar sprinter achieved many great moments in his career. Harry Angel is the course record holder at Haydock and on his final ever start he finished second in the British Champion Sprint Stakes before retirement. He was a superb sprinter who had all the attributes needed to be a top-class racehorse and he certainly demonstrated that on course.
Trainer Charlie Hills and owner Hamdan Al Maktoum had the magnificent Muhaarer before Battaash came onto the scene for them in the sprinting division. He proved himself to be an excellent sprinter at three-years-old, winning four successive Group 1 races and also landing a Group 2 as a two-year-old. He only finished outside the top three once in his 11-race career, winning seven times.
The races Muhaarar won at the highest level included the Commonwealth Cup, July Cup, Prix Maurice de Gheest before claiming the British Champion Sprint Stakes on his final career outing. On the back of these brilliant performances, Muhaarar was crowned Champion Sprinter in 2015 and was no doubt one of the greatest European sprinters of the last 30 years.
Blue Point was a very special racehorse who should be given more credit than he has received based on his career. He was a top-class two-year-old in 2016, having won a Group 2 and then placing three times in Group company which were the Richmond Stakes, Middle Park Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes.
However, the next three seasons saw him become an exceptional sprinter for connections, winning another Group race before finishing third in the Commonwealth Cup. Things were only getting better for Blue Point, who gained his first Group 1 success in 2018 as a four-year-old, taking the King’s Stand Stakes in brilliant style at Ascot and beating the super speedster Battaash with other Group 1 winners Lady Aurelia and Mab’s Cross further back in the field.
He went on to dominate Dubai’s top turf sprints, taking the Group 2 Meydan Sprint by five lengths, before another wide-margin, this time in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint. His final run in Dubai was in the most important Al Quoz Sprint and once again he slammed a good field. Blue Point was then aiming to become the first horse in 85 years to win back-to-back King’s Stand Stakes and he accomplished it, defeating Battaash once again.
Blue Point was then attempting to make history in the Diamond Jubilee as connections decided run him again in the same week and the star performer did not disappoint, winning by a head. He became the first horse to win three Group 1 sprints at Royal Ascot and achieved a Timeform rating of 132. He was a brilliant racehorse and arguably Godolphin’s greatest ever sprinter based on what he did at Royal Ascot on his final couple of career outings.
David Simcock’s greatest racehorse was the spectacular Dream Ahead, who won six of his nine starts. Impressively, five of those victories were in Group 1 races against strong opposition. As a two-year-old he was actually rated the same as Frankel after winning the Prix Morny and the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket where he won by nine lengths on the bridle under William Buick.
His final season as a three-year-old saw Dream Ahead have another successful campaign, winning the July Cup back at Newmarket before defeating the legend Goldikova on his last ever start by a head in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp. David Simcock’s classy horse was then named Europe’s Champion Sprinter in 2011 and retired shortly after.
Aidan O’Brien trained a horse called Mozart nearly twenty years ago, who won five of his ten starts and was named European Champion Sprinter as a three-year-old in 2001.
He won two Group 1 races in the UK. The first was the July Cup, in which he made all the running to score by three lengths under Mick Kinane before then returning a winning 4-9 favourite of the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, beating the useful Nuclear Debate by two lengths. Mozart was a terrific racehorse for connections and earned nearly £1 million in prize money.
Starspangledbanner was a beautiful-looking horse and was formerly trained in Australia where he managed to win two Group 1 races before Aidan O’Brien decided to purchase him at an expensive cost. He quickly adapted to his new scenario and won at the second time of asking in the UK in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, making all the running under an acute ride from Johnny Murtagh.
He then also claimed the July Cup at Newmarket nicely and, although his form tailed off afterwards, Starspangledbanner was a top-class global racehorse, who earned over £2 million in prize money and was crowned Australian Champion Sprinter in 2009 and European Champion Sprinter in 2010.
Sole Power was a long-standing servant for trainer Eddie Lynam, racing sixty-five times and winning twelve of them. He was a globetrotter for connections, competing in five different countries and will be remembered for winning both the Nunthorpe Stakes in 2010 and 2014 at York as well as the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2013 and 2014. He had a unique style of racing, having always been ridden with restraint before producing an electric burst of speed in the closing stages.
Sole Power took five Group 1 races in his career and, having won the Nunthorpe Stakes at his first attempt at odds of 100-1, he regained his title when sent off 11-4 favourite in 2014. Sole Power finished in the top four multiple times in other major races and hardly ever ran a bad race in his illustrious nine-year career.
Last but certainly not least we have Oasis Dream who makes the top ten list of greatest sprinters. He was the highest-rated two-year-old in 2002 having claimed the Middle Park Stakes in a race record time. John Gosden has always described him as the fastest horse in Europe at the time and he went on to become an even better three-year-old when winning the July Cup.
However, his best performance of his entire career came in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York where he led from the start and went clear of his opposition in the final quarter of a mile, quickening up like a top-class racehorse to score by over two lengths in the hands of Richard Hughes. Oasis Dream only raced nine times in his career but was certainly one of the best sprinters Europe has ever witnessed.
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