Royal Ascot’s opening race 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 all before him so far, winning all starts as a three-year-old before returning in May this year with victory in the Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
He is the headline attraction on Tuesday in the Queen Anne Stakes, live on Sky Sports Racing, with his lofty reputation on the line.
The manner of his victories and potential still to come has earned the son of Sea The Stars comparisons with the great Frankel, winner of all 14 of his starts between 2010 and 2012.
Baaeed: The anatomy of a superstar…
Late bloomer – ‘I’ve learnt not to pester 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 unraced as a juvenile.
The Somerville Lodge master is never one to rush a horse unnecessarily and the team’s patience proved worthwhile as Baaeed impressed on debut at Leicester in June 2021.
“I’m not usually in a rush with my two-year-olds and they only need to do one thing to suggest to me that they need more time and then they get it,” Haggas told Sky Sports Racing.
Angus Gold, racing manager to Baaeed’s owners Shadwell Stud, added: “I’ve learnt with William not to pester him too much. He was a good-looking horse so obviously hopes were high.
“He’s a brother to Hukum, who had started to show above-average ability at that stage. It just took a bit longer to see it because William just felt Baaeed was a bit immature as a two-year-old.
“Obviously he announced his arrival on the stage quite quickly once he did start.”
Temperament – ‘He’s got quality and presence’
Unlike Frankel, Haggas says, Baaeed possesses an easy-going nature, both at home in Newmarket and on the track.
Only one gallops incident has ever caused the trainer concern when, in March this year, his stable star got loose, only to be caught by a rival trainer.
“He got loose one day in March and James Fanshawe caught him,” Haggas revealed. That got the heart ticking a bit that day!
“Essentially, he’s a very kind-natured horse.
“He’s very generous at home, he produces plenty. It’s very easy to see too much of it so we try to do as little as we can.
“I felt a bit tense before the Lockinge, I have to say. I don’t normally get like that now I’ve got older.
“I thought he might be a bit fresh and possibly rusty but he wasn’t.”
Gold added: “Other than his obvious class, his attitude is his main asset and it makes everybody’s lives easier.
“He’s surprisingly small, an inch smaller than one would expect, but very well put together. He’s got a lot of quality and presence.
“He doesn’t have the physical scope to change enormously, but he’s got stronger and Jim [Crowley, jockey] says he feels a powerful horse.”
Star quality – ‘Long way to get to Frankel’
Both Haggas and Gold have distanced themselves from any talk of Baaeed reaching the level of Frankel, previously voted the best Flat horse in the world.
“Only you lot [the media] are doing the Frankel comparison,” Haggas said. “Frankel was an outstanding 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. Whether he’s as good we’ll have to see, but that’s up to you lot to decide, not me.”
Gold added: “I never like the comparisons and everyone trying make out he’s the next Frankel. That’s a little over the top and almost disrespectful to Frankel. He’s certainly the best horse I have seen and perhaps we’ll ever see in my lifetime.
“To be mentioned in the same breath is fabulous but I’ll never be so disrespectful to say that I think he’s that good.
“He’s got a long way to go. He’s a hugely exciting horse that people have latched onto. It’s great for the sport that people can get excited about, that’s why we all do it.”
Big-race luck – ‘Up to racing gods at Royal Ascot’
Pressure, what pressure? Gold insists there will not be nerves as the runners head to the start at 2.30pm on Tuesday.
Baaeed will face a maximum of nine rivals with the main danger coming from Saeed bin Suroor’s Real World, well held behind the 2/9 favourite at Newbury last month.
Victory at Ascot could act as a springboard to the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood before a highly-anticipated step up to a mile-and-a-quarter in 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 runs in the opening race on the first day and just one winner at Ascot makes it a good week. If we can get off the mark with Baaeed it will be fabulous for everybody.
“I used to feel enormous nerves but as I’ve got older, now I just appreciate how lucky we are to have a horse like this.
“If William and his team can get him there in the best form they can, then it’s up to lady luck and the racing gods.”
Watch every race from Royal Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing from Tuesday, June 14 to Saturday June 18.