The brilliant Baaeed is trying to stay unbeaten as he tackles 10 furlongs for the first time in the Juddmonte International in York.
Widely hailed as the best since Frankel, the son of Sea The Stars’ William Haggas gets the chance to replicate his esteemed sire by taking the step up to a mile and a quarter into his stride when he leaps onto the Knavesmire.
Wednesday’s victory would take the four-year-old’s winning streak to a perfect 10, while it would also be his sixth successive success at Group 1 level as the latest racing superstar tries to consolidate his No 1 spot global.
To do so, he must match the achievements of some of the greatest of modern times and turn a fiercely competitive Group 1, steeped in history, into a motorcade.
It’s been 10 years since Frankel made light work of his first attempt at the distance by strolling to a seven-length success in front of his adoring fans, and sports enthusiasts across the country are ready to make the pilgrimage to the Knavesmire a again as Baaeed puts his stamina to the test.
“It’s well documented that travel is the only part of the puzzle we don’t know the answer to,” said Angus Gold, longtime race manager for owner Shadwell.
“I have said publicly that I would be surprised if it was a lack of stamina that caused him to beat. There could be a better horse, but I would be surprised if it was a lack of stamina.
“Of course you don’t know until you try and I’m very interested in the opinion of some people who I respect a lot who have said the trip will never stay – which surprises me enormously. But he is a very relaxed horse and his racing style will give him every chance of winning.
“His own brother (Hukum) stays well and goes a lot further, which doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything and this horse has a lot of speed and a lot of class. But personally I would be surprised if he didn’t stay.”
It’s easy to think nerves might start to fray as Baaeed’s biggest test approaches. Especially when you add uncertain weather forecasts into the mix and two of Baaeed’s stable mates are left out of recent high-level assignments with dirty scope.
However, Gold confirms that the Somerville Lodge team have done everything in their power to ensure that Baaeed makes the journey on the A1 in optimum condition when, like most things in life, the weather is in the hands of the gods.
‘I don’t need to be nervous!’
“There’s no point in me being nervous because there’s nothing I can do about it. We just can’t wait to see him on the track,” Gold continued.
“As long as he [ground] its not going too bad i heard they had two and a half millimeters and unless they have a three hour storm i dont see its going to make too much difference on the ground and we’ll take what we’re given.”
On the dirty screens of Alenquer and Maljoom he added: “As far as I know the last time I spoke to William he was fine. Obviously that’s something you notice and as as a coach, the only thing they can do is examine it.
“They’ve looked at it and it’s clear. Like you and me, however, if something is brewing, you’re not going to give your best. So hopefully that’s not the case, but until we know otherwise, there’s no point in doing anything about it. So far all the tests have been good and he’s going there in the best possible shape.”
Despite leading the market for the Ebor Festival opening feature, this is arguably the toughest cast of rivals Baaeed has faced. Alenquer may not be able to line up, but there’s still last year’s champion and several top scorers, a Guineas winner and a Champion Stakes runner-up on the prowl.
“It’s a one group and you have to respect everyone,” Gold said. “Mishriff was incredibly impressive in the race last year and I think I’m right. William Haggas said if the Mishriff of 12 months ago showed up he would be very tough to beat.
“Native Trail is obviously a very good horse so you have to respect all of them. But we go there as the horse to beat and if he runs to form and stays, I think they all have Baaeed to beat. .”
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since Baaeed first set foot on the racecourse for his low-key introduction to Leicester at the hands of Dane O’Neill.
Little did Haggas know that nine races later he would be in possession of the hottest property in the race.
Recalling the early days, he said: “Most of our people run green the first time and do much better on their second start, so the fact that Baaeed won the first time at Leicester made me think he might in his work after that he shaped quite well, and when we got him into a novice at Newmarket he watered himself.
“He then won a Listed race at Newmarket with authority, and then BHA senior handicapper Dominic Gardiner-Hill told me he could have put him ahead of the Guineas winner on what he had achieved. the low.
“I told Jim (Crowley) at Goodwood that we have him for two more races and so are trying to take advantage of that. He will go to stud after that, and that will be the end of it. We will be looking for another one for the rest of my career, and probably for the rest of his.”