The opening race at Royal Ascot this year would be worthy of any dramatic final act as unbeaten star Baaeed prepares to light up the five-day meeting.
William Haggas’ champion miler has dominated everything before him so far, winning every start as a three-year-old before returning in May this year with victory in the Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
He is the main attraction on Tuesday in the Queen Anne Stakes, live on Sky Sports Racingwith its high reputation at stake.
The manner of his victories and his potential yet to come have earned the son of Sea The Stars comparisons to the great Frankel, winner of his 14 starts between 2010 and 2012.
Baaeed: The Anatomy of a Superstar…
Late bloomer – “I’ve learned not to harass him too much”
Racing fans were denied a public look at Baaeed’s immense talents until well into his three-year-old season as Haggas opted to leave him without a race as a juvenile.
The Somerville Lodge master is never one to rush a horse unnecessarily and the team’s patience came in handy as Baaeed impressed on his Leicester debut in June 2021.
“I’m usually not in a rush with my two-year-olds and they just have one thing to suggest to me that they need more time, and then they get it,” Haggas said. Sky Sports Racing.
Angus Gold, Racing Director of Baaeed owners Shadwell Stud, added: “I learned with William not to harass him too much. He was a beautiful horse, so hopes were obviously high.
“He’s a brother to Hukum, who had started to show above-average ability at this stage. It just took a little longer to see it because William felt Baaeed was a bit immature when he was two years old.
“Obviously he announced his arrival on stage quite quickly once he started. »
Temperament – “He has quality and presence”
Unlike Frankel, says Haggas, Baaeed possesses an easy-going nature, both at home in Newmarket and on the track.
Only one galloping incident has ever caused the trainer concern when, in March this year, his stable star broke away, only to be caught by a rival trainer.
“He escaped one day in March and James Fanshawe caught him,” Haggas revealed. It made my heart beat a little that day!
“Basically, he’s a very nice horse.
“He is very generous at home, he produces a lot. It’s very easy to see too much, so we try to do as little as possible.
“I felt a little tense before the Lockinge, I must say. Normally, I don’t become like that now that I’m older.
“I thought maybe it was a little fresh and maybe rusty, but it wasn’t. »
Gold added: “Beyond his obvious class, his attitude is his main asset and it makes life easier for everyone.
“It’s surprisingly small, an inch smaller than you might expect, but very well put together. He has a lot of quality and presence.
“He doesn’t have the physical ability to change a lot, but he’s gotten stronger and Jim [Crowley, jockey] says he feels like a powerful horse. »
Star Quality – “Long Way to Frankel”
Both Haggas and Gold have walked away from any talk of Baaeed reaching the level of Frankel, previously voted the best flat horse in the world.
“Only you much [the media] make the Frankel comparison,” Haggas said. “Frankel was an exceptional horse and was brilliantly trained because he was difficult. This horse is not difficult.
“Frankel was extremely strong and powerful, whereas this horse is much easier. We’ll have to see if he’s as good, but that’s up to you, not me. »
Gold added, “I never like comparisons and everyone is trying to make him the next Frankel. It’s a bit over the top and almost disrespectful to Frankel. He is certainly the best horse I have seen and that we may see in my lifetime.
“To be mentioned in the same breath is fabulous but I’ll never be so disrespectful to say I think he’s that good.
“He still has a long way to go. He’s an extremely exciting horse that people have latched onto. It’s great for the sport that people can get excited about, which is why we all do it. »
Luck in the Big Races – “Up to the Racing Gods at Royal Ascot”
Pressure, what pressure? Gold insists there will be no nerves as the riders head to the 2:30 p.m. start on Tuesday.
Baaeed will face a maximum of nine rivals, with the main danger coming from the real world of Saeed bin Suroor, well held behind the 2/9 favorite at Newbury last month.
Victory at Ascot could serve as a springboard to the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood before a much-anticipated step up a mile and a quarter into the Juddmonte Stakes at York.
“As everyone will tell you, Royal Ascot is our Olympics, the biggest week of our domestic season,” Gold said.
“He’s racing the opening race on day one and just one winner at Ascot makes it a good week. If we can stand out with Baaeed, it will be fabulous for everyone.
“Before, I had huge nerves, but as I get older, I now appreciate how lucky we are to have a horse like this.
“If William and his team can get him there in the best possible shape, then it’s up to luck and the racing gods. »
Watch all the Royal Ascot races live on Sky Sports Racing from Tuesday June 14 to Saturday June 18.