More than ever, racing needs its stars. The price of sausage and chips aside, people are not flocking to racecourses as they have, even in the recent past.
In the salad days of Piggott, Eddery and Carson, equine stars were also two a penny. Brigadier Gerard, Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Red Rum, the list was seemingly endless.
Then there was the mighty Frankel, who was officially rated 140 after 14 races unbeaten. Eleven years have passed since Sir Henry Cecil’s great was sent off a 1-10 favourite and trounced the Queen Anne field by 11 lengths under Tom Queally. That was the 11th race of a career that brought forth 10 top-level victories.
Comparisons can be fleeting. Yet the burgeoning reputation being built by Baaeed has understandably meant he is being talked about. Even if not as the second coming, then certainly in the ‘what if’ category. What if he does win the Queen Anne by a street? What if he can add more Group Ones to his tally and end his career unbeaten? What if he can find another 15lb to equal the Hall of Famer?
The William Haggas-trained Baaeed partially answered at least one of those questions, with a smooth-as-silk success in the latest renewal of the Group One, his fourth such triumph in eight races of a career that did not start until June of his three-year-old campaign.
Though Real World gave chase, the Sea The Stars colt was comfortably his master, having pulled out of his slipstream approaching two furlongs to race before powering away for a length and three-quarters success.
In truth, his odds of 1-6 said his six rivals never really looked like being much of a match. Real World had been put to the sword in the Lockinge and Order Of Australia is what he is – classy for sure, though with an unprepossessing record of one victory in his previous eight top-level contests, including being behind Baaeed in the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp last September.
Equine comparisons are starting to be made, if not by the Shadwell camp themselves. There, such talk is heresy.
“No one at Shadwell Racing is talking about such things,” said Shadwell’s racing manager Angus Gold. “But he has done it very nicely and I’m sure people will draw such comparisons.”
Michael Hills is a key cog in the operation. The former jockey does much of the work on Baaeed and his feedback is invaluable to the team.
Hills was thrilled with the facile success and says comparisons of the character of Frankel and Baaeed are stark.
“Baaeed is such a gentleman at home. You can do anything with him. He has won over a mile, but he has the speed for six furlongs and you just feel the power under you when he quickens up.
“He is such a good horse, but as for making comparisons, I think it is a little unfair.
“He and Frankel were such good horses, but I was always miles behind Frankel, who was harder to train.
“He had his own way about things. This fella is a gentleman – you can do anything with him. They are both extremely good horses and as long as he keeps winning like this, he can be considered in that echelon. I just wish I had a horse or two like him when I was riding!”
Jim Crowley, a former champion jockey, wears the same Shadwell Stud silks that Carson carried to success aboard the likes of Nashwan and Salsabil. Yet Carson was never shy at coming forward, realising that publicity in this game is not just needed, it is necessary.
Crowley, by his own admission, keeps his head down and his mouth shut. There are no correlations here.
While he plays the game, the 43-year-old is, at times, reluctant to do so. He would sooner let his riding do the talking. And on Baaeed, he is shouting. Loudly. Proudly. In perfect silence.
Attempting to describe the feeling he gets before getting the leg-up on Baaeed, he said: “The only way I can explain it is if you go to a funfair and you are waiting in a queue for a fast ride – that is the feeling before you get on him. It is just a buzz.
“Once you are on him and you are away, it is great. I love it. I really enjoy it. He is a pleasure to ride. William and Maureen (Haggas) do a marvellous job. It is great that Sheikha Hissa is here to see it and I am very lucky and privileged to ride him.
“Everything was smooth today. I didn’t have to pick my stick up or anything. He just went through the gears. He loved the big crowd and he pricks his ears when he gets to the front. He was always in control and look, it is a long season. There is no need to go and win 10 lengths. He has got plenty of sterner tests which will await.”
Connections could stay at a mile for the Sussex Stakes, before going up in trip for the Juddmonte International Stakes over 10 furlongs at York. Just as Frankel did in his four-year-old season.
Immediately after the Lockinge, Haggas intimated he would like to step him up in trip and repeated that assertion in the Ascot winner’s enclosure.
Crowley agreed he has plenty of versatility, and added: “For sure he could get 10 furlongs. It is up to connections to choose.
“For me, he has a great turn of foot and if he can do that over a mile and a quarter? I don’t see any reason why he can’t. But he is certainly very potent over a mile.”
Asked to describe the power he felt when Baaeed was asked the question, his rider was adamant: the acceleration was instant.
“As soon as you pull him out and go, it is just a great feeling,” said Crowley. “You pull him out on the gallop and it is a great feeling.
“He just goes through the gears. It is hard to explain. I haven’t had a horse like him.
“Mohaather (2020 Sussex Stakes winner) had a great turn of foot and he was a very good horse as well and he was underestimated a bit, but Baaeed is a superstar.
“He will have sterner tests ahead as the season goes along, and I’m sure he will be tested. But I’m pretty sure he will keep finding.”
And if Haggas was feeling the pressure, the jockey certainly was not: “Pressure? No. It’s enjoyment, isn’t it?” came the rhetorical response. Baaeed will continue to do all the talking. Just as Crowley likes it.