Baaeed – the best since Frankel?

23 Aug 22

Baaeed enhanced both his form and standing with a runaway success in the Juddmonte International. BHA Head of Handicapping Dominic Gardiner-Hill assesses the colt’s claims to greatness…

Baaeed wins The Juddmonte International Stakes

Who is the best flat horse I have seen during my time as an official handicapper? I can’t tell you that as I don’t know!! Unfortunately, truly outstanding horses only tend to come along every once in a while and therefore never get to test each other – leaving the greats to rack up victories against (relatively!!) inferior opposition and leaving us to wonder who is/was truly the best of them.

Of the best three that I have seen since the inception of the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings in 2004, Frankel (140) had a career record of 14/14 (including 10 Group 1s), Sea The Star’s (136) was unbeaten in eight after his debut defeat (including 6/6 Group 1s in a stellar 3yo campaign) and now his son Baaeed (135) has picked up the mantle of greatness, taking his tally to 10/10 (6 Group 1s) with an impressive success in the Juddmonte International last Wednesday.

In this day and age of international racing and the regular publication of the WBRR listings, putting a rating on the top horses is not purely a domestic affair anymore. I will have my opinion and submit a figure but I have to carry my international colleagues with me or else I might look rather silly, not to mention somewhat unprofessional, at the end of the year if a well-publicised mark that I have given a horse is then vetoed by the WBRR Committee and changed in the end of year classification

I believe, however, I have a strong case for raising Baaeed 7 lb to 135 on the back of York, and at present have plenty of support for that figure amongst the international handicappers.

Mishriff was considered by many to be an unlucky loser in the Eclipse where I had him running to 121+. I can see no obvious reason why he shouldn’t have reproduced at least the base 121 at York, though my initial concern with that approach was the dragging up of Sir Busker who finished third.

In retrospect, I think I may have done Sir Busker something of a disservice when only raising him back to his career best of 115 (from 110) after his success in the York Stakes on his previous start. Despite beating higher-rated rivals Dubai Honour (120 at the time) and Royal Ascot victors Dubai Future (117) and Claymore (111), I felt that I knew plenty about Sir Busker and settled on putting him back to the 115 he had been when third behind Palace Pier in last year’s Queen Anne.

Given that he and Dubai Honour reproduced that York Stakes form almost to the inch in the International and that they were only 2½ lengths behind Mishriff, I have amended both to 116 now, giving credit to Sir Busker for career best efforts on both of his last two starts, which also happen to be his only two starts over 10f to date.

It was then a case of working up from those three to get a figure for Baaeed. Given the way he travelled throughout the race, the way he eased up to Mishriff with Jim Crowley motionless and then quickly putting the race to bed when asked, I felt the final winning distance of 6½ lengths didn’t fully reflect his superiority on the day. Given that I called Frankel’s 7 lengths margin of victory in the 2012 running of the race 16 lb, I felt it appropriate to call Baaeed’s 6½ lengths margin 14 lb, thus giving him a performance rating of 135.

I have been a big fan of Baaeed since seeing him win at Leicester on his debut in June of last year and always felt he was a 130+ horse despite not quite being able to get him there as he carried all before him over a mile – thankfully we now know that is exactly what he is……and a bit more!

Yorkshire one-two in Nunthorpe

The feature race on the Friday of the Ebor meeting was the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes run over 5f and it produced an impressive winner in Highfield Princess, writes Chris Nash

Highfield Princess winsThe Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes

Her rise through the ranks has been remarkable. She won her first race in September 2020, a lowly handicap at Ayr off a mark of just 58, and is now a dual-Group 1 winner, with this success coming hot on the heels of her win in the Prix Maurice de Gheest less than two weeks earlier. That victory earned her a rating of 113 but she had her tactical pace to prove dropping back from 6½f to York’s speedy 5f. However, she dispelled any doubts over the trip in convincing fashion as she always travelled in her comfort zone, was the last to come off the bridle and skipped away from the rest inside the final furlong to pass the line two and a half lengths clear of The Platinum Queen, with a further length and a half and upwards back to the others.

The last ten winners of the Nunthorpe have recorded figures in the range of 116-126, with Battaash’s wide margin success in 2019 being the highest of those. Race standards suggest a figure of 120-121 for this year’s winner and I have gone with 120. This rates a big career best for Highfield Princess but is fully justified after such a dominant performance and she is now the highest rated 5f horse in Europe.

The runner-up, The Platinum Queen, was a two-year-old filly so she got all the allowances (weight and sex) available. She arrived here rated 106 but has run a mighty race taking on her elders and she too records a career best figure of 111. Emaraaty Ana finished second in this last year before going on to win the Sprint Cup over 6f and his staying-on third suggests that he could make a bold defence of his Haydock crown next month.

Quick ‘Thorn

Quickthorn wins The Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes

The Group 2 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup may have been weakened by two late high-profile withdrawals, but the race may still have produced a winner ready to challenge for the biggest staying prizes, writes Adam Barnes…

A dominant, destructive front-running performance by Hughie Morrison’s Quickthorn, and the emergence of a new star stayer? Or a race badly compromised by the withdrawals of Stradivarius and Trueshan, where Quickthorn was flattered by getting loose on the lead?

There’s probably a bit of truth to both takes on the form of this year’s Lonsdale Cup. While it may have looked like Quickthorn went off hard in soon racing around a dozen lengths clear of his rivals, race sectionals indicate that his rider Tom Marquand got things pretty much spot on, setting a sound and even pace rather than a frenetic one. The rest of the jockeys seemingly started to realise their misjudgement on the home turn, all suddenly working hard to close but finding it hard to do so with Quickthorn still having plenty of running in him.

Despite the advantage handed to him, it was still impressive how Quickthorn kept on galloping and actually drew further clear of his toiling rivals, ultimately eased down for a bloodless 14-length win in a decent time. His rating rises 6 lb to 117, which seeks to strike a balance between crediting him with improvement for such a dominant win over some capable rivals, while also recognising that circumstances on the day mean the form shouldn’t be taken too literally. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares against the likes of Trueshan (124), Kyprios (119) and Stradivarius (118) in the big autumn races.

The following day saw another fine front-running ride in the valuable and always-competitive Sky Bet Ebor Handicap. Frankie Dettori kept his mount Trawlerman (+5 to 106) apart from the rest of the field for the first few furlongs, then crossed over and raced in a clear lead before shrewdly slowing the pace right down. As such, Trawlerman and some of the other prominent racers had plenty in reserve for the relative dash for home in the straight, meaning it was a race where those held up were at a disadvantage.

Despite looking beaten a furlong out, Trawlerman rallied bravely to get back up close home. Of the beaten horses, seventh-placed Euchen Glen looked particularly unfortunate not go finish a good bit closer, too far back and repeatedly denied a clear run before finishing best of all. He was already due to go up 3 lb to 105 (due to another eye-catching effort on his previous outing at Goodwood) and that rise will remain in place.

Earlier on the card over the same course and distance, Soulcombe (+14 to 97) was a deeply impressive last-to-first winner over his fellow three-year-olds in the Sky Bet Melrose Handicap. Despite being tardily away and having to switch for a clear run, he swept into the lead with a furlong and a half to go and soon scooted well clear before being eased right down in the closing stages. He looks a stayer with a bright future.

Noble delivers in style in strong-looking Gimcrack

Noble Style winning The Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes

Baaeed was by no means the only horse to light up the Knavesmire last week, writes Graeme Smith.

The Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack is incredibly valuable for a Group 2 and it attracted two of the most exciting and unexposed two-year-olds on the sprinting scene in Noble Style and Marshman. That pair proved a cut above in powering nearly four lengths clear of the remaining runners.

Noble Style had won one of the strongest novices of the entire season when hammering rivals that included the Norfolk second Walbank and Richmond winner Royal Scotsman at Ascot prior to missing the Royal meeting due to a setback, and he could barely have been more impressive in cutting Marchman down from last, the latter having kicked away from a prominent position.

The Gimcrack time justifies a figure of up to 108 through the 12f handicap but that can be upgraded due to the prevailing wind, and the strung-out finish – supported by historical data – points towards this being one of the very best Gimcrack performances this century. 117 makes Noble Style the best winner since Rock of Gibraltar ran to the same figure in 2001, and only the future Irish 2000 Guineas winner Turtle Island’s 118 in 1993 bettered that in the 10 years prior to then.

The very top of the juvenile division is looking strong on current evidence but 117 would put Noble Style right in the mix in the Middle Park if recent renewals are any guide.

Marchman emerges with huge credit on his first start away from ordinary novices and is rated 113. Incidentally, I dropped the level of the Richmond Stakes by 1 lb after several from that race ran at York and now have Royal Scotsman rated 112, though acknowledging his performance when a disappointing fifth in the Gimcrack was no true guide to his ability.

While the Gimcrack very much delivered on the hype, the Sky Bet Lowther provided a real turn up as the blistering Queen Mary winner Dramatised (110) trailed in only fifth. There was always a chance a sixth furlong might not play to her strengths but I’m not sure she was in the same sort of form as at Ascot regardless, racing on the opposite side of the pack to where the race was fought out.

Swingalong winning The Sky Bet Lowther Stakes

As one door closes another one often opens, and that certainly proved the case for Karl Burke with the stable’s second string Swingalong ensuring the prize still went back to Spigot Lodge as she led home a Yorkshire 1-2. She’d won by six lengths at Ripon on her most recent start, but this was still a huge improvement however you look at it. The finish was condensed with eight horses covered by little over three and a half lengths though, and her 107 rating puts her slightly below the average Lowther winner from recent years.

Runner-up Queen Me deserves plenty of credit having run to a figure of 106 on just her second racecourse appearance. The first three dams in her pedigree had all won the Lowther and she couldn’t have gone much closer to sealing a remarkable feat for her owner-breeder.

The first two-year-old race of the fixture is the Tattersalls Acomb, and it has a strong recent history of producing high-class winners, with the last four years throwing up winners of the Irish 2000 Guineas, the Criterium de Saint-Cloud and the Royal Lodge. Few got into this renewal with the leaders slipping away off the home turn, but they themselves ran a sound race on the clock and Chaldean emerges with a rating of 109 for his battling half-length success over Indestructible.

A few of those further back perhaps weren’t ridden with quite the same efficiency and fourth-placed Mill Stream is well worth keeping an eye on into the autumn. Jane Chapple-Hyam’s half-brother to last year’s Richmond winner Asymmetric had run Noble Style to half a length at Newmarket in late-July and he made a very strong move from 3f out before the effort took its toll. It could be that a return to 6f helps him in the short term.

Déjà vu in City of York Stakes for Kinross

Kinross and Frankie Dettori winning The Sky Bet City Of York Stakes

Four of the first five from last month’s Lennox Stakes at Goodwood renewed rivalry in the Group 2 Sky Bet City of York Stakes, with Kinross proving way too good this time, writes Ryan Skelton

Travelling strongly into the race from mid-division, Kinross moved up well at the 2f pole (whilst heading over to the near side rail) and went on to win comfortably from the ever consistent and likeable Pogo (113), whom he had also finished in front of when the pair had finished second and third in the Lennox Stakes. Pogo wasn’t quite able to dominate from the front as he has become accustomed to recently but ran more than creditably nonetheless, and I have taken the view that he has run a similar race to the Lennox. That means 5yo Kinross – who extended his superiority over Pogo from a short head to a length and a quarter – has run as well as he ever has in recording a rating of 115, recapturing the level of his 2021 Lennox success.

On his day Kinross is clearly very good, and having now won a Listed race, a Group 3 and a brace of  Group 2s (all on varying ground), he will likely head back to Group 1 company for the Prix de la Foret on Arc weekend, a race he was fourth in last year when coming from some way off the pace on heavy ground.

Sandrine (110) had beaten the front two when landing the Lennox but managed only third despite meeting that pair on the same terms under similar conditions, running 5 lb below her Lennox figure.  Art Power (114) was trying the trip for the first time after ten months off the track and had the field stretched out as he made the running. Whilst he may have needed the outing slightly, he will probably be more effective back at sprint trips. Al Suhail hasn’t quite lived up to the form that saw him dominate the Challenge Stakes last autumn. He was returning after a run in Dubai back in the spring and could possibly be forgiven as he wasn’t able to be on or near the pace. Last week’s Hungerford Stakes winner, Jumby, never figured, but given the quick turnaround from Newbury, I would give him another chance to redeem himself.