ASCOT, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND — Royal Ascot 2022 opened with a bang when Shadwell Estate Co Ltd’s Baaeed (GB) lived up to his billing as the top-rated horse on turf in the world to extend his perfect record to eight in the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) and secured a guaranteed starting position in the US$2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of 82 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which is scheduled to be held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on Nov. 4-5.
Baaeed sealed his Breeders’ Cup place though the Win and You’re In route as the 1-6 favorite, coming clear of Godolphin’s Real World (IRE) in the final 1 ½ furlongs to win under hand riding from jockey Jim Crowley in a time of 1:37.76 on a course rated good to firm.
Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Mrs. Ann Marie O’Brien’s Order of Australia (IRE), the winner of the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2020, broke best leading a group of four towards the standside rail.
Baaeed was tucked in behind Real World, who took a separate route towards the middle of the course and once asked to quicken by Crowley, he eased past Real World and was pushed out to win by a 1 ¾ lengths to complete his fourth consecutive Group 1 victory. Order of Australia finished 4 lengths further back in third.
“It doesn’t get any easier than that,” said Crowley. “Everything went smoothly. Baaeed got a lovely tow into the race, the ground is beautiful, and I just let him stretch out for the last furlong of the race. It was like clockwork.
“When he moved up at the two [furlong] pole there was never any doubt. Baaeed will have sterner tests ahead we know that. He is just doing everything perfectly at the moment. This horse is a superstar. I’m sure we’ll keep testing him, but I’m pretty sure he’ll keep finding.”
The winning performance was a huge relief to trainer William Haggas who admitted to pre-race nerves, despite Baaeed’s form superiority. “I must have walked 6,000 steps before breakfast,” he said.
Haggas added: “I felt a little bit of pressure but it’s all great now. Baaeed didn’t look very extended to me. He is obviously a good miler. He is bred to get further and I think it would be remiss of us not to give it a go.”
Should Baaeed be stepped up in distance, the winning connections are considering the Juddmonte International (G1) at York on Aug. 17, a Win and You’re In for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), and before that he could take in the 1-mile Sussex Stakes (G1) at Goodwood on July 27, which is another Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race in the FanDuel Mile division.
Since Shadwell founder Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum died last year, the operation has been passed to his daughter Sheikha Hissa who was present to see Baaeed triumph for the first time.
“He is very special, especially because he is a homebred as well,” she said. “Last year it was a joy to watch him. Hopefully we will be stepping him up. Whether he goes to the Sussex or straight to the Juddmonte we’ll see.
“His brother [Hukum (IRE)], winner of the 1 ½-mile Coronation Cup (G1)], and the rest of his family have all been stepped up so he was bred for that. He has shown some speed so William and I were adamant that he would stay at a mile until we seethat he’s ready, and I think he is ready.
“I promised myself I would enjoy myself whatever happens because I don’t know when I am going to see a horse like this again. This gives me such pride. I hope I do my father justice and hopefully there is many more from this bloodline that we can enjoy, because he worked hard on it. It was our thing. We had conversations all the time so it’s nice to enjoy something that he bred himself.”
As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for Baaeed to start in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
Breeders Cup Press Release
Photo: Baaed (Megan Ridgwell Photo)