Horse racing is a game of opinions – it is what makes it great.
There will always be those who try to go against the common consensus, and it can be profitable to do so, but any who have tried to get Baaeed beaten in his 10 races to date have been all the poorer for it.
Despite bringing a perfect nine from nine record into the Juddmonte International at York there were still those who were yet to be convinced by Baaeed. ‘He’s beating nothing’ or ‘it’s a poor division’ were often trotted out when he landed yet another Group One over a mile.
Early in the season William Haggas stated his intention to step Baaeed up in trip at York, not before, and as the season had gone perfectly to plan prior to it, confidence in the camp was high.
However, running over an extended 10 furlongs for the first time brings about its own questions – despite his brother Hukum winning over almost a mile and three-quarters – and on top of that Haggas has had to withdraw two runners from two Group Ones in recent days – Maljoom from the Prix Jacques le Marois and Alenquer from this very race – due to dirty scopes.
Putting all that into perspective, though, Haggas’ wife Maureen suffered a nasty accident on the gallops, breaking two vertebrae in her neck.
“It’s a relief more than anything. He’s such a good horse and he’s proved it today, he’s shown everyone,” said Haggas.
“I hoped he might do something like that, but when I woke up at 1.30 this morning in a cold sweat because the tack had gone right back to his quarters by the time he got to the start and I was thinking ‘what on earth am I going to do’, but it all worked out in the end!”
Haggas has tended to swerve comparisons with Frankel, another unbeaten colt who served up his signature performance in this 10 years ago, but they kept coming.
“He’s delivered a special performance today. It’s very difficult, especially when you’ve got another horse in the race, to try to take it all in but he looked pretty spectacular to me,” he said.
“I said to Jim (Crowley) before, we had to enjoy this horse as next year when we’re watching someone else win the Juddmonte, we’ll be dreaming.”
Just like Frankel, though, it seems we will never get to see Baaeed race over a mile and a half, with the Champion Stakes at Ascot almost certainly his next race.
“I think the racing public have shown their appreciation today. Everyone loves a good horse and I hope they all turn up for Ascot as well. I never had any desire to run in the Arc – unless Sheikha Hissa (owner) and Angus decide they want to go there it will be Ascot,” said Haggas.
“I think he’s got a lot of class. He’s a very talented horse but there’s never been any talk of him racing next year – he mustn’t, he needs to go off and start earning some money doing what we’d all like to be doing.”
You can count on one hand the amount of times horses have been clapped throughout the final furlong at York, Frankel again being the best example, but they were able to indulge themselves today such was Baaeed’s superiority – six and a half lengths at the line.
“When the crowd started clapping so was I. Rarely do you see in a high-class race a horse appear on the bridle looking like he could go at any time. He could have waited longer. He’s just good,” said Haggas.
“We’ve had a few wobbles lately, a few dirty scopes and we’ve a few issues at the moment but we’ve got a lot of horses and if we’re diligent, we’ll make sure we don’t run the ones who have problems.”
Angus Gold has worked for Shadwell, the brainchild of Sheikha Hissa’s late father Hamdan Al Maktoum, since 1987 and just two years later Nashwan won the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse and King George, but even he feels Baaeed is now top of the Shadwell tree.
“How good would this horse have been if we’d run him over the right trip? What has the trainer been doing!” joked Gold.
“How can you compare if you’ve never ridden horses? I was pulled up the other day by Willie Carson as he’d heard me say I thought he was better than Nashwan and Willie said ‘how can you say that’ but I just felt he had that bit more boot.
“Willie has just come up to me today and said he thinks he is better than Nashwan! I know it’s 30 years apart but it’s pretty special.
“Mishriff is a top-class horse and to beat him like that is very exciting. I’m certainly not going to say I’ve been involved with a better one.
“For me the Arc is the greatest race in the world, so if anyone wants to run in it I’m certainly not going to put them off, but it has only just happened so I’m not going to say no when we haven’t discussed it. We’ve gone another step today but the plan was always Ascot if all went well.”
Crowley, of course, used to be a jump jockey but since switching codes has been champion on the Flat and ridden Baattash and Baaeed in his role as Shadwell’s retained rider.
He said: “You dream about finding a horse like this. Never did I ever think I’d find a horse like this when I turned to the Flat, I’ve just been so lucky I fell into the right place at the right time.
“I wanted him to do something like that. I just gave him a little bit of a stretch out today. There was no point ever in the season to give this horse a hard race when it was unnecessary to do so.
“Everything has been towards today and it was perfect.”
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