The racing world’s eyes will be on York racecourse on Wednesday to see if Baaeed can not only extend his unbeaten record to 10 and his collection of Group 1 victories to six but be as dominant at beyond 2000m as he is over 1600m.
Baaeed sits at the top of LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, a position confirmed by his latest easy triumph in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
So far, every race in the four-year-old’s exceptional career has been over 1600m. On Wednesday, in the G1 International Stakes, Baaeed will step up to 2051m. His rivals will be hoping that the extra distance proves to be the superstar’s downfall.
The decision to step Baaeed up in trip was not a sudden one but part of a long term plan. Three months ago trainer William Haggas said, “If he stays fit and healthy we’ll go for the Juddmonte International. He’s got a great temperament and it would be a shame not to try a mile and a quarter.”
Several factors have encouraged Baaeed’s connections. By Sea The Stars, Baaeed is bred to stay the International Stakes distance, with a full brother, Hukum, a high class winner at up to 2800m.
Then there is his class and temperament. Haggas said, “Baaeed has speed and class. I’m really looking forward to stepping up to 10 furlongs (2000m) as I think he would enjoy it.”
The stable is in fine form and Baaeed pleased watchers of his final piece of work last Thursday. Richard Hills, a key member of the owner, Shadwell’s team, said, “Baaeed has a super temperament. That’s what makes great horses, they have the ability and the mind to go with it.”
Baaeed’s most dangerous opponent is likely to be Mishriff, who strode away with this race last year, over a distance connections believe to be his best. Mishriff has not won since and has developed a tendency to start slowly.
Trainers John and Thady Gosden have been working on the five-year-old’s speed out of the starting stalls. Ted Voute, owner Prince Faisal’s racing manager, said, “Baaeed has been very impressive and I’d be impressed with Mishriff if he beats him. We’ve got a big task but Baaeed’s stepping up in distance, so let’s hope that’s the chink in his armour.”
Another threat is posed by Native Trail, a high class three-year-old, runner-up in the 2000 Guineas and winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas. Native Trail finished just behind Mishriff when the pair were second and third in a Group 1 event over 1990m last month. Trainer Charlie Appleby reported, “Native Trail is in great order – he’s walking around on two legs!”
The supporting card provides plenty of interest. In the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes (2371m), a trio of progressive three-year-olds – Secret State, stablemate Walk Of Stars, and Deauville Legend – have recently been separated in photo-finishes.