William Haggas was set for a big afternoon at Newbury with the hotly-anticipated return of Baaeed in the Al Shabaq Lockinge Stakes and it could not have got off to a better start, as Tiber Flow took the Listed Carnarvon Stakes under Tom Marquand.
The Jon and Julia Aisbitt-owned and bred Caravaggio colt made good late headway in the six-furlong contest to collar long-time leader Hierarchy approaching the final furlong, and had to pull out all the stops to deny the late flourish of Rizg, who powered up the stands rail under Marquand’s wife, Hollie Doyle, to score by a short head.
The 15-8 favourite, who won his first three all-weather starts before just failing to get up in a valuable conditions event at Newcastle on Good Friday, is as tough as they come.
His trainer feels he will be able to tackle the hullabaloo of Royal Ascot, given his past history of overcoming adversity, and will next either run in the Commonwealth Cup or over an extra furlong in the Jersey Stakes.
Haggas revealed: “He is getting better and he has got ability. If you look at his near-hind leg, he’s got all those white hairs on it. This horse had four general anaesthetics in six weeks. At the time, we thought we were going to lose him. That was before he ever ran.
“He has knee surgery and then he got an infection in a hock, so he had general for the knee surgery and then they had to flush is clear twice, so he’s a bloody tough horse.
“I just think at Newcastle he just didn’t know how to sprint. They injected pace at the wrong time for him and he was a little bit flat-footed and then he came home. He has been running around the all-weather winning little races and I think he is learning how to sprint.
“Hopefully, if he comes on again, he will be a 12-1 or 16-1 shot but he is the sort of horse who will go well in a race like the Commonwealth Cup.
“Tom thought he went too early today. We will definitely leave him in the Commonwealth Cup and put him in the Jersey and we will run in one of them.
“Tom felt today that he has got the speed. One is a Group Three and one is a Group One and they will both be fiercely competitive.”
Haggas hinted me may have left Ilaraab a gallop short ahead of his seasonal debut when fourth in the John Porter over the same course and mile-and-a-half distance, but with the ring-rust knocked off, he was a different proposition in the Group Three Al Rayyan Stakes.
The 9-2 chance clearly loves this track, having taken the St Simon Stakes in autumn, and he was back to his best this time on ground that was quicker than ideal.
Marquand gave the five-year-old a peach of a ride, timing his run to perfection to see off Scope by a neck, with the pair four lengths clear of Without A Fight.
Haggas said: “I thought the ground was too quick for him today and it was a little bit quicker for the John Porter and I think he wants a bit of dig in the ground.
“He travelled much sweeter today and Tom was able to keep him in behind and the horse was always finding, although the other horse came back and he is a good stayer.
“It was a good effort under a 3lb penalty. I never put him in at Ascot, as I’m convinced he doesn’t like going right-handed.
“He ran at Ascot last year and hated it, so I am trying to keep him to left-handed tracks, so the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, I suppose.”
He added: “Tom Marquand gave him a brilliant ride. I just don’t understand how he is not getting six rides every day.”