At Glorious Goodwood last season there seemed to be a new light emerging on the horizon as the entries for the Group Three Thoroughbred Stakes included a Shadwell-owned Sea The Stars colt called Baaeed.
An easy winner of a maiden and a novice, the then three-year-old had gone on to make light work of the Listed Sir Henry Cecil Stakes when prevailing by four lengths.
As a result he left the stalls at Goodwood the 2-5 favourite, despite trainer William Haggas’ instance that the hype was unfounded as he had done nothing more than win a Listed race.
That was a hard position to maintain, however, when he glided to a six-and-a-half-length victory on the South Downs, barely accelerating out of a canter under Jim Crowley to claim his first Group-race prize.
At Longchamp that September he leapfrogged Group Two level entirely and took on the Group One Prix du Moulin, winning comfortably once again in the famous blue and white silks.
Back on domestic turf at Ascot’s end-of-season showpiece meeting he then took the scalp of leading miler Palace Pier, six times a Group One winner and previously undefeated in his four-year-old season.
Baaeed’s star had risen and as the season began again this time around, it was clear it was still on the move as he claimed both the Lockinge Stakes and the Queen Anne with the now customary untroubled air of complete nonchalance.
In the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood this time it was expected the four-year-old would clash with Coroebus, Godolphin’s Guineas hero and St James’s Palace Stakes winner, but a setback ruled him out of the race and Baaeed was therefore sent off the 1-6 favourite.
Bathrat Leon, the Japanese challenger, lunged out of the stalls and set the pace as Baaeed settled in behind, biding his time and taking little notice of the manoeuvres of horses around him.
When the field reached the cut-out in the rail and several jockeys reached for their whips, Jim Crowley only had to offer him an inch of rein and he responded – easing up into a gear his rivals do not possess and cantering over the line like a work horse finishing a routine gallop with a pipe-opening kick of speed.
Waiting for him in the paddock was Sheikha Hissa, daughter of the late Sheikh Hamdan and captain of the Shadwell ship since his passing last March.
As Haggas and Crowley smiled for the cameras and Baaeed stood calmly for as long as the press required, Sheikha Hissa never once stopped stroking the colt’s muzzle and lovingly patting his neck.
“Every conversation is about him, he’s part of my life now,” she said, her father’s face looking on from a small lapel badge pinned to her clothes.
“My father bred him so it’s a 40 year, or even longer, process. It just feels very homey, we are so lucky to have him.
“It’s very heart-warming to see that people love the horse, I think it’s a win for everyone really.
“Once he left the paddock I was already nervous, but it’s good to see him win.
“We thought he was going to miss this race and go straight to York, but we kept him here and it turned out well.
“I love to see a horse that tries and is happy to be here, he had his ears pricked the whole time.
“I was always confident but I will always be nervous, when they’re undefeated it’s a bit hard not to be nervous!”
Having won an array of one-mile titles with flawless regularity, the time has come for Baaeed to be tested over a longer trip and his owner has every faith that he will prove equally dominant over a new, extended distance in the Juddmonte International at York on August 17.
“A mile and a quarter is next, he’s ready, he’s definitely ready and I can’t wait to see him do it,” she said.
“We haven’t seen him do it yet, have we? He’s definitely ready.”
It will be unchartered territory for the horse, who is set to bow out and head to stud at the close of the campaign, but the endless ascendance of his career so far leaves little room for doubt.
This time last year Baaeed was alive with potential, a blue-blooded colt who had yet to put a foot wrong but had also yet to be truly tested against worthy adversaries – this year he is broadly considered to be the best horse in the world.