IN a way, you’d be forgiven for underrating Baaeed, or just wondering what all the fuss is about. He didn’t make his debut until June last year and there was no pomp about his introduction either - sent off 6/1 for a Leicester maiden.
His star rose on his next three starts but connections ducked the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in favour of a Group 3 - never a popular choice to the general gantry of racing fans - and when he won his Group 1, he was more workmanlike than flashy in the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp.
It was only when he got the better of Palace Pier in a pulsating Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot that, you felt, he got significant recognition.
But, perhaps that is missing the general point with Baaeed - that he’s come so far in so little time. The central theme with him now is his potential to go even further. After just six runs and just over five months, he elevated himself into the top 10 rated horses in the world, and joint best miler on a mark of 125. Where will he be after another six runs?
Jim Crowley called him a “beast” this week while William Haggas had no hesitation saying he was “right up there” among the best he has ever trained. That’s exciting, and it starts again for Baaeed today in the Lockinge (3.20).
However, many believe that a big part of his potential is the scope he has once he goes up in trip. He is by Sea The Stars, and it maybe in the races that great stallion won - Eclipse, the Juddmonte International, maybe even the Arc - that Baaeed can push new boundaries.
Is he vulnerable first time out over a mile today then? That’s what connections of his rivals will be hoping. Chief of the chasing pack could be Real World, who progressed from handicapper to genuine Group 1 horse last season. Forget his last two runs, he looked all at sea on the dirt out in the Middle East, and he should be much better now back in Britain.
Aidan O’Brien doesn’t have an amazing record in this race but his last winner was a filly - Rhododendron - and he has another today in 1000 Guineas heroine Mother Earth, admirably tough and consistent.
Fillies have a decent record in the race. From a relatively small group, four have won since 2004, and two have finished in second place. That brings in Alcohol Free, another Group 1 winner at a mile, who should strip fitter now after finishing third on her comeback run at Sandown.
OF the various Royal Ascot trial themed races at Naas on Sunday, the Group 3 Lacken Stakes (3.45) hasn’t proven to be a key guide to the Commonwealth Cup in recent seasons, but it has produced some Group 1 standard horses.
The last four winners, A Case Of You, So Perfect, Sioux Nation and Caravaggio were all able to hold their own at Group 1 standard later in the season, something which isn’t easy for three-year-old sprinters against their elders.
Joint top rated in tomorrow’s renewal is Michael O’Callaghan’s Twilight Jet (110). Twice placed at Group 2 level last season, and a winner of the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket, the Twilight Son colt is having his first start since finishing down the field at the Breeders’ Cup.
His trainer, who has spent big again at the breeze-up sales so far this term and is well represented on tomorrow’s Naas card, is hopeful of a big run and said earlier in the week: “He’s working well and will improve for the run but we expect him to run well. The plan after that, all going well, is that he will go for the Commonwealth Cup. We’re very happy with him and Naas is a nice place to start him off.
“He always had a bit of size and a good mind. He’s matured a lot over the winter, both mentally and physically, and he’s a fine belter of a horse now. His mind is very good and I expect it will be a long year for him, with Royal Ascot his first major target.”
If there is a race on tomorrow’s card that will throw up a real Ascot contender, it’ll probably be the Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Fillies Sprint Stakes (2.45).
An impressive win from any of the seven fillies will see them go close to favouritism for the Albany Stakes. Jessica Harrington won the six-furlong contest with Alpha Centauri in 2018 (went on to finish second in Albany) and she will be represented by the Alpha Racing-owned It’s Showtime Baby.
Speaking earlier this week, Harrington said: “She won first time in Dundalk and has been great since. She just wouldn’t want too much rain, she likes good ground but she’s in great form and has come on as you would expect from her debut.
“It’s an obvious next step for her and I would hope that Royal Ascot would be next for her definitely, but so is everyone else’s fillies in the race!”