Talking Horses: Unbeaten Baaeed’s run draws comparison with Frankel

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

It was always going to happen one day, and on Saturday afternoon the moment finally arrived. A little less than 10 years after Frankel completed a 14-race unbeaten career in October 2012, Baaeed’s name was dropped into the same sentence as Sir Henry Cecil’s great champion, following his breathtaking success in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

It went little further than a general acknowledgement that Baaeed may be the “best since” Frankel, on a British racecourse at least, while Angus Gold, racing manager for the Shadwell operation which owns the four-year-old, cautiously suggested to the Racing Post that he was “‘not going to say he’s in that class yet because Frankel is the best I’ve ever seen, although he’s heading in that direction.”

Related: Baaeed charges to emphatic victory in Lockinge Stakes at Newbury

But for as long as Baaeed keeps winning – and on the evidence of Saturday there is nothing among the older horses at least that can give him a serious race – the comparisons will continue, not least because his route through the season could well be a near-facsimile of Frankel’s four-year-old campaign.

Next up for the unbeaten winner of seven races is the Queen Anne Stakes, the first race at the Royal meeting next month, in which Frankel produced the greatest performance of his career a decade ago. William Haggas will also look to step him up to a mile-and-a-quarter later in the season, probably in the International Stakes at York in August, in which, as the trainer pointed out on Saturday, Frankel was “arguably … at his most imperious” in 2012.

1.00 Hot Hot Hot
1.30 Life's A Beach (nb)
2.00 Split Elevens
2.30 Mercurious Power
3.00 Sabyinyo
3.30 Chetan
4.00 Junoesque

1.10 Maxi King
1.40 Judy's Park
2.10 King Of Jungle
2.40 Kalamity Kitty
3.10 Thunder Queen
3.40 Dubai Immo
4.10 Pink Carnation
4.45 Guilin

1.20 Golden Gal
1.50 Calin's Lad
2.20 Rattling
2.50 Forbearing (nap)
3.20 Yonafis
3.50 Mcqueen
4.20 Captain Kane

5.17 Awesomedude
5.47 Lady Reset
6.17 Morgenstern
6.47 Mulberry Hill
7.17 Enrichissant
7.47 Sirobbie
8.22 Downtown Getaway

5.33 Johnson's Blue
6.03 Cool Country
6.33 Kashi
7.03 Cudgel
7.33 Palm Beach
8.03 Sputnik
8.38 Well Educated

If Baaeed’s win streak remains intact, the Champion Stakes at Ascot would then be the obvious place to conclude his career, just 16 months after it began at Leicester in June 2021. The dream that one day they might breed the perfect, unbeatable racehorse has kept owners and breeders in the Flat racing game for centuries, and for a great deal longer than there have been geneticists around, to explain why their quest is all but certain to end in disappointment.

Most of the truly great horses of recent decades have endured at least one defeat. Timeform has awarded a rating of 140 or above to 13 horses since 1948, and just two – Frankel and Ribot – went through their entire careers unbeaten. Sea-Bird II, Brigadier Gerard, Mill Reef, Dancing Brave, Sea The Stars (the sire of Baeed), Shergar and Dubai Millennium are among the 11 who did not. None of those great horses were diminished by defeat.

Jim Crowley rides Baaeed
Baaeed is unbeaten in seven races after a relatively late start to his career. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Brigadier Gerard was unbeaten in 15 starts when Roberto beat him at York in 1972, while Sea The Stars’ only reverse came on his two-year-old debut. But at the same time, the fact that Baaeed is still unbeaten after seven trips to the track can only add to the buzz and anticipation as his four-year-old season unfolds. As yet, he can only be one of the best of recent years, and not recent decades, and his revised Timeform mark of 134 is nearly a stone adrift of Frankel (147).

The best Flat horse in living memory was also notable for his extraordinary ability to produce 140+ performances time and time again, something that Baaeed will surely find impossible to match in the limited time available.

Frankie Dettori has been booked to ride Piz Badile for trainer Donnacha O’Brien in the Derby at Epsom next month, when the veteran jockey will be hoping to win the Classic for the third time.

Piz Badile has not had a race since battling back to edge out Buckaroo in the Group Three Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown in early April, having been headed inside the final furlong. O’Brien, whose father, Aidan, has won the Derby a record eight times, decided to steer Piz Badile around the Derby Trial at Leopardstown earlier this month in order to arrive at Epsom with a fresh horse. Despite his six-week absence, however, the son of Ulysses has maintained a prominent position in the ante-post betting at around 9-1 and the news that Dettori will be in his saddle next month is likely to see him shrink further in the market.

“The horse is in good form,” Alan Cooper, racing manager for the Niarchos family, which owns Piz Badile, said. “We’ve got just under three weeks to go, so hopefully he stays in good form between now and then. I think Donnacha is very happy with his horse and the decision was made not to go to the Derby Trial, which would have been the horse’s third trip to Leopardstown. They all need luck in running and we’ll go from there.”

Desert Crown, an impressive winner of the Dante Stakes
at York on Thursday
, heads the Derby market at 2-1 with Aidan O’Brien’s Stone Age, who took the Leopardstown trial, next in the list on 3-1. O’Brien’s bid to win a ninth Derby is likely to be strengthened by Changingoftheguard (8-1), United Nations (14-1) and Star Of India (16-1), while Charlie Appleby’s Walk Of Stars, who was second to United Nations in the Lingfield Derby Trial, is a 16-1 chance.

A relatively late start to his racing career also means that Haggas’s colt never got the chance to get a Classic or juvenile Group victory on his CV. These are just a few of the reasons why any mention of Frankel set the bar at a height that Baaeed cannot clear. None of us, after all, can reasonably expect to see two horses of Frankel’s quality in a single lifetime.

But you can always hope, as generations of owners, breeders and fans have done for centuries. For as long as Baaeed has that air of “invincibility” about him, the comparisons will keep on coming.

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