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D-Day looms for Baaeed in Prix du Moulin

Connections of Baaeed are taking nothing for granted ahead of the unbeaten colt’s eagerly-anticipated graduation to the highest level in Sunday’s Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp.

The William Haggas-trained three-year-old did not make his racecourse debut until early June – but less than three months later he is ranked as one of the most exciting horses in Europe.

Since scoring on his introduction at Leicester, Baaeed has treated his rivals with contempt on a couple of occasions at Newmarket before powering clear in the Group Three Thoroughbred Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.

The time has come for the son of Sea The Stars to test his powers in Group One company – and with Jim Bolger deciding against declaring his 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero Poetic Flare, Baaeed will be a red-hot favourite to make it five from five.

Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell Estate, said: “He’s going up another couple of grades and there’s no point jumping the gun – let’s see if he’s up to it.

“It’s a shame Jim Bolger’s doesn’t run. Everyone wants to see the good horses run in these races and I’d imagine he’s saving him for the Irish Champion Stakes, which is understandable.

“We’re taking on a very good filly (Snow Lantern) who is obviously a Group One winner already and very highly thought of.

Baaeed - champion in waiting?
Baaeed – champion in waiting? (PA)

“It’s going to be a big test for him and we’ll see if he can live up to the hype now.”

With Baaeed having proved his versatility ground-wise, there are no real concerns regarding underfoot conditions in Paris.

“I’m told it’s going to be nearly good ground. They might get a little bit of rain, but not too much,” Gold added.

“He’s won on good to soft, so I don’t think the ground will worry him unless they get a downpour and it goes heavy or something.”

Snow Lantern after winning the Falmouth Stakes
Snow Lantern after winning the Falmouth Stakes (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Baaeed is joined on the trip across the Channel by Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern. The daughter of Frankel is a Group One winner already, with a top-level triumph in the Falmouth Stakes sandwiched by creditable placed efforts in the Coronation and the Sussex.

Aidan O’Brien saddles both Order of Australia and Lope Y Fernandez, with Andre Fabre’s Victor Ludorum and Peter Schiergen’s German filly Novemba completing the six-strong field.

Hannon happy to take on Baaeed with Snow Lantern

Richard Hannon believes he has “nothing to lose” by allowing his star filly Snow Lantern to take on the unbeaten Baaeed the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

The William Haggas-trained Baaeed is a hot favourite to successfully graduate to Group One level this weekend, having been hugely impressive in winning each of his four starts to date.

With Jim Bolger deciding against declaring his 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero Poetic Flare, who instead looks set to head to next weekend’s Irish Champion Stakes, Snow Lantern could prove to be Baaeed’s biggest threat.

The daughter of Frankel has already proven herself in Group One company, with a top-level triumph in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket sandwiched by creditable placed efforts in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Hannon said: “Hopefully this race will show her in a better light – I think she could have been closer at Goodwood.

“It’s a very good race and we’ll find out where we stand. We can always go back to fillies only company in the Sun Chariot after this.

“You can’t be frightened of one horse. Baaeed has looked very good and I’m sure he’ll take a lot of beating.

Richard Hannon respects the threat of Baaeed
Richard Hannon respects the threat of Baaeed (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“He travels very well in his races and in some of his races he’s looked unbeatable.

“I’m sure it will be a good race and I’m looking forward to it – we have nothing to lose.”

Aidan O’Brien saddles both Order of Australia and Lope Y Fernandez, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore and Ioritz Mendizabal respectively.

Andre Fabre’s Victor Ludorum and Peter Schiergen’s German filly Novemba complete the six-strong field.

Bolger will make late call on Poetic Flare’s Moulin challenge

Jim Bolger will wait until later in the week before deciding whether to send Poetic Flare back to France for the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp.

The Dawn Approach colt has enjoyed an excellent season so far – winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, as well as filling the runner-up spot in the Irish Guineas, Sussex Stakes and Prix Jacques le Marois.

Bolger reports his stable star to be in fine form for his latest upcoming Group One assignment.

But with the Irish Champion Stakes taking place at Leopardstown the following Saturday, the Coolcullen maestro is keen to properly assess ground conditions in Paris before committing Poetic Flare to another trip across the Channel on Sunday.

“It will all depend on what the going is like at Longchamp and Leopardstown,” said Bolger.

“We’ll be keeping an eye on the going at both tracks, and no decision will be made until Friday.

“We just want good ground. He’s very well.”

Baaeed is favourite to beat Poetic Flare in France
Baaeed is favourite to beat Poetic Flare in France (Tim Goode/PA)

Should Poetic Flare wait for the Irish Champion Stakes, he would be tackling a mile and a quarter for the first time.

Bolger added: “That is a consideration for further down the line.”

Poetic Flare was one of nine horses left in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp at the latest forfeit stage on Wednesday morning.

The odds-on favourite is the William Haggas-trained Baaeed, who is set to put his unbeaten record on the line on his Group One debut.

Richard Hannon has confirmed his star filly Snow Lantern, while Aidan O’Brien could send one or both of Lope Y Fernandez and Order Of Australia from Ireland.

Baaeed team set sights on Moulin gold

Baaeed is to get the chance to test his mettle at the highest level in the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp on September 5.

William Haggas’ three-year-old was unraced at two but has quickly made up for lost time.

He won on debut at Leicester in early June, followed up at Newmarket two weeks later before returning to HQ for a Listed race a fortnight after that.

Baaeed faced his stiffest test to date at Goodwood in a Group Three but oozed class, winning by six and a half lengths without coming off the bridle and while he could have gone back to Goodwood for the Celebration Mile, connections have decided he has earned a crack at the best.

“At the moment we are probably going to the Prix du Moulin, that was the latest from the last conversation I had with Sheikha Hissa and William Haggas,” said Shadwell’s racing manager Angus Gold.

“So the number one plan is to go to the Moulin if all is well.

“Obviously before the horse had run it would have been a silly thing to say this is what he would do, but he was a well-bred horse going into it. It just took him a bit of time to come to himself.

“He won well at Leicester and if you’d said to me then he would be racing in a Group One in four races then yes, of course that would be a surprise, but we always thought he was a horse with huge potential.”

Given Baaeed is a brother to Hukum, who ran in a St Leger and is at his best over a mile and a half, Gold did admit to expecting Baaeed to be at his best over further than a mile.

He said: “What probably has surprised me is the speed he’s shown – maybe it’s just class. Before he’d ever ran I’d have thought he was probably going to be a mile-and-a-quarter to mile-and-a-half horse, so to see him doing all this over a mile is hugely encouraging. I guess that just shows class.

“It’s a not problem to have but he’s showing too much speed, if that makes sense.

“He’s a very exciting horse so we’ll see if he can take the next step up.”

Monday Musings: Weird Ky Derby Looks Authentic!

It’s been a topsy-turvy world for everyone this year, writes Tony Stafford. I bet the connections of Tiz The Law, 7-10 favourite for Saturday night’s re-scheduled Kentucky Derby, run in 2020 as the second rather than first leg of the Triple Crown, wished the race had simply been erased from the schedules. Instead it took place in September rather than the first Saturday in May and the Bob Baffert-trained Authentic outstayed the favourite for a memorable sixth win in the race for his silver-haired trainer.

The Americans have not found it within their powers to re-write the programme books as their European counterparts did to keep their Classic races, if not to the normal schedule, certainly in the prescribed order.

The Stateside authorities changed the distance and position of the Belmont Stakes, but kept it in June, racing having resumed over there a good deal earlier in some jurisdictions than others and well before France, the UK and Ireland in that order.

The Belmont, normally the last leg and over a mile and a half of the biggest oval in North America was reduced in distance to nine furlongs. The Barclay Tagg-trained Tiz The Law was untroubled to beat nine rivals there and extend his career stats to five wins in six starts. He embellished it further with a facile win in the Travers Stakes – normally the August date which identifies the summer champion among the three-year-old colts – two months and more after the Belmont.

By the time the three-race, five-week war of attrition is concluded on that June afternoon in New York, normally most of the Classic generation that managed to keep all three dates are on their knees. It takes a good one to survive it.

Two years ago, Justify was Baffert’s fifth winner of the race and his second to complete the generally-elusive Triple Crown. The Belmont, following the Preakness two weeks after the Derby and then the race in New York three weeks further on, proved to be within Justify’s capabilities, but no more. His career came to a full stop after a training injury soon after, but at least he could be retired as an unbeaten winner of the Triple Crown with six out of six on his scorecard.

Three years earlier Baffert was immediately denied an unbeaten campaign for American Pharoah once he was beaten on debut in a maiden the previous autumn. But by the time he’d won his Triple Crown, his tally was seven for eight, with all bar one of the wins in Grade 1 company – the exception a first-time three-year-old cruise in a Grade 2 to get the competitive juices flowing again.

He was tough, too. He won the Haskell Invitational in early August at Monmouth Park, but then as so many before him, got beat in the Travers at Saratoga, for good reason known as the Graveyard race for Triple Crown race winners or Horse of the Year candidates. He bounced back after a sensible break with an impressive win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic before drawing stumps and preceding his younger fellow TC hero into stud duties at Ashford Farm.

I was on hand – for the only time - to see Baffert’s third Kentucky Derby win in 2002 with War Emblem in the green and white stripes of Prince Ahmed Salman’s Thoroughbred Corporation. That 20-1 chance made all the running.  Baffert had already sent out Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet the following year to score. I’ve no doubt that having put away Tiz The Law in a thrilling set-to up the Churchill Downs home straight, many would have been hoping to see them do battle again at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore for the Preakness, but immediate post-race reaction suggested one or even both might miss the final leg.

That race, normally run two weeks after the Derby but this year four, unlike the Belmont but in common with the Derby, has retained its traditional distance of one mile and three-sixteenths. This was the course and distance over which California-based Seabiscuit memorably beat the East Coast champion War Admiral, the 1937 Kentucky Derby winner, in that famed match race. This of course was made doubly treasured by Laura Hillenbrand’s book and the film in which Tobey Maguire and Gary Stevens – as good and natural an actor as he has been for so many years an outstanding jockey – played the roles as the great underdog’s jockeys.

As they turned for home in that 1938 race, the big favourite War Emblem had drawn upsides and most of the massive crowd expected him to pull away. Instead it was Seabiscuit, who had become a much-loved symbol of the American working class in those Depression years, who gained the upper hand: courage and toughness outpointing class and evidently superior breeding.

Saturday’s Classic was virtually a re-make of the Seabiscuit film. Two horses came around the long turn between the back stretch and the home run with the favourite poised on the outside and the rest clearly irrelevant. Authentic had moved quickly from an ordinary start into an early lead from his wide position, so it was reasonable watching live to think he could be swamped when Tiz The Law, always well placed, came with his customary wide run to take his rightful place at the top of the podium.

But as with Seabiscuit, this relative underdog, third favourite at a shade over 8-1, kept going much the better for a length and a quarter success.

Going into the race, Authentic, like the favourite, had suffered only a single reverse, in his case behind Honor A P in the Santa Anita Derby, turning over an earlier result between the pair. Understandably, Honor A P edged him for second best in the Derby market, but there can be no doubting the pecking order now, as Honor A P finished five lengths behind the winner in fourth.

A smaller-than-usual field contested the race this year. Normally it’s a bun-fight to qualify for one of the 20 available stalls. This time, only 15 turned up, reflecting that there are fewer untested dreams at this stage of the season from later-developing horses than is customary. What I did notice, possibly because of the smaller field and the fact that the runners have had more racing experience than is customary, hard-luck stories seemed minimal.

Also it was one of the fastest-ever Kentucky Derbys, the winner clocking 2 minutes 0.61 seconds. Secretariat in 1973 still holds the all-time best with 1 minute 59.4 seconds in his Triple Crown year. Monarchos in 2001 has the fastest electronic time, while in 1964 Northern Dancer, the ultimate sire of sires, most significantly the direct line, from his son Sadler’s Wells through to Galileo and then Frankel and the rest, clocked an even 2 minutes.

Other fast times were Spend A Buck, 2.00.2 in 1985 and Decidedly 2.00.4 in 1962.  Authentic, with only five faster than him is right up there in historical terms, certainly in front of Baffert’s previous quintet, the less attritional, more even-tempo nature of the race – on a track that was riding fast – doubtless contributing.

Many times, beaten Kentucky Derby runners avoid the Preakness entirely. This year, of the nine horses beaten by Tiz The Law in the first leg of the Triple Crown, only two – neither in the shake-up on Saturday – tried again.

It would be eminently understandable should either or both the big two miss the Preakness in four weeks’ time. A great shame too as if they did clash they would surely provide another proper shoot-out. Considering, though, how much money is on offer for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the autumn and how easily future stallion fees can be affected by reverses, maybe it’s more likely that we’ll have to wait for a definitive verdict of the Horse of the Year - Covid19 edition!

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While the Kentucky Derby was taking all the attention over the water, Enable was fulfilling presumably her last public duties in the UK (she still has entries on British Champions’ Day – here’s hoping) before embarking on her final act of an epic career when easily landing the odds (1-14 are hardly odds!) in the September Stakes at Kempton Park.

She was quickly into the lead under Frankie Dettori and won easily from Kirstenbosch, owned by Luca Cumani’s Fittocks Stud. Lightly-raced and on the comeback trail after an interrupted career, Kirstenbosch looks sure to win more races for the James Fanshawe stable.

Meanwhile Enable will be preparing for her ultimate quest, aiming to add a third Arc win after last year’s agonising second to Waldgeist, interestingly on the same weekend as the Preakness. Dettori has been a fitting co-respondent in the mare’s final glorious chapter along with trainer John Gosden. How typical in sport that a younger rival has come along from out of nowhere – well, Ballydoyle! - to make this possibly the toughest of all her four challenges for the famed French race that has become the true European championship.

Love stands in her way, gloriously after three authoritative and sometimes wide margin wins at Group 1 level in the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks. I suppose there will be other challengers, but nobody loves a two-man (or woman) sporting tussle more than the viewing public. I’d love Enable to win but I don’t think Love will enable her to do so. If you see what I mean!

On an otherwise quiet weekend domestically, Haydock Park’s Group 1 race, the Betfair Sprint Cup, developed into a battle of the six-year-old geldings. The 5-2 favourite Dream Of Dreams, ridden by Oisin Murphy for the Sir Michael Stoute stable, got up in the closing stages to beat the Archie Watson-trained and Hollie Doyle-ridden 25-1 chance Glen Shiel, the pair leaving the three-year-olds Golden Horde, Art Power and Lope Y Fernandez well behind. The same went for two previous winners, The Tin Man and Hello Youmzain.

https://twitter.com/RacingTV/status/1302253464068788231

A race with rather more significance for the future was Yesterday’s Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on the first weekend since the racing roadshow decamped back from Deauville and its chewed-up terrain to the capital. Only six turned out, but it was a high-class affair. The Andre Fabre-trained Persian King (by Kingman) turned away Pinatubo by just over a length, with Circus Maximus a long way back in third but still ahead of Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Siskin who seems a shadow of the early-season version.

https://twitter.com/AtTheRaces/status/1302676690670243840

Persian King had been three lengths in arrears to Circus Maximus when they were third and fourth behind unbeaten Palace Pier in the Prix Jacques le Marois (also Group 1) three weeks earlier over the same trip at Deauville. This performance requires some re-alignment among the division, but it is clear that Palace Pier stands alone at the top of the mile rankings. Those three Irish fillies, Fancy Blue, Alpine Star and Peaceful, who dominated the finish of the Prix de Diane over the extended mile and a quarter at Chantilly, might prove more of a test to Palace Pier than any of yesterday’s Moulin contestants should they be given the opportunity to tackle him.

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