Haggas Priming Elite Crew Led By Baaeed


William Haggas with stable star Baaeed after his Champions Day victory | racingfotos.com


“When you train you spend your whole life wanting a horse of this calibre, and then you get one and all you want to do is make sure that you get the very best out of him.”

So states William Haggas of his stable star, the Shadwell homebred Baaeed (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), whose seasonal debut, which is likely to be in the G1 Al Shaqab Lockinge S. on May 14, will be one of the most anticipated returns of the season. At this stage last year, Baaeed hadn't even been seen on a racecourse, but his trainer thought enough of him to nominate him as his horse to follow in Mark Howard's Ahead On The Flat book for 2021.

“I've since looked back and thought, 'what if I'd run him in the Dewhurst?',” Haggas says. “Because the criticism of him when he goes to stud will be that he didn't run as a 2-year-old. I would say that if I had trained him to run as a 2-year-old he wouldn't have been the horse he is now, but the trouble is nobody knows the answer to that.”

He adds, “When he was two I thought he would want a mile and a half because his brother did, but he has a huge sprinter's backside. He was always nice looking and of course he has a lovely pedigree. I love Sea The Stars. But I didn't envisage Baaeed doing what he did.”

What he did was to progress from his June 7 debut in a Leicester maiden, through a Newmarket novice race carrying a penalty, to the Listed Henry Cecil S. on the July Course, which he won easily by four lengths. 

“Then I rang Sheikha Hissa and asked her if she would like to supplement him for the Sussex,” Haggas recalls. “He hadn't even run when the Sussex entries closed. I told her there was a Group 3 option for 3-year-olds only the next day and she said she would think about it. Sheikha Hissa decided it was best to go quietly, and then the Sussex was run in a ploughed field and I wasn't sure that I would have wanted to run him in that ground, but fortunately she said to go for the Group 3 [Thoroughbred S.] and he won that easily too.”

From that point on there was no avoiding a Group 1 challenge, and after a five-week break between runs, Baaeed travelled overseas for the first time to France for the G1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, in which he beat the GI Breeders' Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia (Ire) (Australia {GB}), G1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains winner Victor Ludorum (GB) (Shamardal) and the G1 Falmouth S. heroine Snow Lantern (GB) (Frankel {GB}).

“We had a bit of a wobble after Goodwood and I was worried that he was too fresh in the Moulin,” Haggas continues. “When I saw him go to post I was worried that I had underdone him. He was drawn wide and he was wide the whole way. He wasn't that impressive really, but I knew then, and I said to Angus [Gold, Shadwell's racing manager] 'he must be a good horse, because he has done it in spite of his stupid trainer'. Then he was really good going to Ascot and we were extremely happy with him.”

Baaeed concluded his spotless season by beating the top older miler Palace Pier (GB) (Kingman {GB}) in the G1 Queen Elizabeth S. on QIPCO British Champions Day, with Her Majesty in attendance to present the prize for the race named in her honour. He has remained at Haggas's Somerville Lodge as autumn turned to winter and now spring, and as he approaches his actual fourth birthday this Friday he has just completed his first piece of strong work in the countdown to Newbury.

Haggas, an avowed supporter of the brilliantly versatile Sea The Stars, with a keen interest in pedigrees, appears to be itching to try Baaeed beyond the mile at which he has so far proved so superior. He says, “He was always going for the Lockinge then the Queen Anne. He's going to be given an entry in the Prince of Wales's because I feel that he has to go up in trip at some stage. The difficulty is knowing when. Frankel did the Lockinge, Queen Anne, Sussex and then he went to a mile and a quarter and was imperious. I'm quite keen to try him at a mile and a quarter. I think if he relaxes and breathes properly then he should be better [at that distance]. I can't believe he won't stay.”

The only dark cloud on an otherwise bright horizon for Baaeed and those around him is the fact that his owner-breeder Sheikh Hamdan did not live long enough to see this fifth-generation descendant of his hugely important foundation mare Height Of Fashion (Fr) (Bustino {GB}) make such an impact on the racecourse. The reins have been passed now to his daughter Sheikha Hissa, who has already signalled her enthusiasm for the turf with appearances at track work during the Dubai International Racing Carnival, at which Baaeed's full-brother Hukum (Ire) was victorious on Super Saturday in the G2 Dubai City of Gold for trainer Owen Burrows.

“However much we mourn Sheikh Hamdan, sadly he's not coming back,” Haggas says. “Sheikha Hissa has her own identity and this is now the new era of Shadwell, and our focus is on what we can do for her and her operation.”

Among Sheikha Hissa's team of runners to look forward to this season is another Lockinge entrant, Aldaary (GB) (Territories {Ire}), who was last seen when rounding off a memorable Champions Day for the team by winning the Balmoral Handicap.

“Aldaary is a heavy-ground horse and he's pretty lethal at Ascot,” says his trainer. “Newbury is straight and just occasionally the Lockinge is heavy. If  suddenly I thought that it wasn't great for Baaeed then it would be great for Aldaary. But the idea is to run Baaeed, and he will probably run, but if it came up heavy Aldaary will run. He's never run in a stakes race before but he's rated 115 so is officially 10lbs behind Baaeed, but he's ahead of a lot of others and he's a lovely horse.”

He adds of the 4-year-old gelding, “He was very difficult to break, but he was gelded and he is a really kind horse now.”

Another in the stable for whom Haggas reserves the warmest of praise, and who is watching us keenly as we speak from his stable which is almost an annexe to the trainer's home, is the four-time Group 1 winner Addeybb (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}), now eight and thankfully recovered from an infection which nearly claimed his life last year. 

“Addeybb is marvellous,” Haggas says simply of the horse who brightened the early stages of lockdown, not just for his own stable, but for much of the local racing fraternity as Addeyyb claimed back-to-back Group 1 wins in Sydney while British racing was brought to a standstill by the pandemic. 

“He's going to go for the Brigadier Gerard at Sandown and then the Wolferton, unless he wins the Brigadier Gerard, in which case he'll go for the Prince of Wales's. Otherwise he'll go for the Wolferton, which he won three years ago. It's only listed, he's dropped all his Group 1 penalties and he's eight years old, so it might give him a chance of winning again.”

He continues, “He was really good in 2020 and his performance in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes [at Randwick] and the Champion Stakes [at Ascot] were his best two. He was never quite the same in 2021 but he ran second behind St Mark's Basilica (Fr) with Mishriff (Ire) behind him in the Eclipse, and that was commendable effort. But then it didn't rain at all and we couldn't get a prep run into him before the Champion Stakes. Then I didn't think there would be much pace on, so I said to Tom [Marquand] to slide forward but Adayar took him on up front.”

Haggas adds, “We nearly lost him. He got an infection in his hock and I thought he was going to die. He went off to the vets and lost a lot of weight, so it's taken him a long time to recover, but he's going to do his first piece of work this week. He's getting on a bit and he will probably be a very nice hack eventually when he retires.”

Last season's G2 King Edward VII S. winner Alenquer (Fr) (Adlerflug {Ger}) has already been seen in action twice this year when beating Lord North (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) to win the G3 Winter Derby before running sixth of 15 in an ultra-competitive staging of the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic. 

“I think the ground was too firm for him [in Dubai],” says the trainer. “He lost a shoe but he looked uncomfortable on the ground, certainly turning for home. But he dug in quite well and ran a respectable race. I'm going to go to Ireland with him for the Tattersalls Gold Cup. We've got another six weeks which I think will be fine. I don't think he wants it firm, but he can cope with soft ground.”

He continues, “Everyone looked at Lord North winning [in Dubai] and thought Alenquer had to run well but nobody looked at the other side, which was Fancy Man (Ire), who was third in the Winter Derby and was then got rolled over in a listed race at Kempton the same day as Dubai.

“As training performances go, that was a pretty amazing training performance with Lord North, and John [Gosden] didn't get much credit for it. But to bring him back in three and a half weeks from looking ring-rusty to winning a race of that nature was pretty impressive.”

Haggas adds with a laugh, “Don't tell him that though.”

Of the fillies' division in Somerville Lodge, Haggas notes that he may send last season's G3 Nell Gwyn S. and G2 Hungerford S. winner Sacred (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) straight to Royal Ascot for the renamed G1 Platinum Jubilee S. 

“I think she's best fresh,” says the trainer, who also has Sacred's unraced 3-year-old sister Enshrine (GB), by Ulysses (Ire), for breeder Cheveley Park Stud. 

He may even have a contender to keep the Nell Gwyn trophy in his clutches for this year in the form of Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum's Perfect News (GB), a daughter of Frankel (GB) and Haggas's former star performer Besharah (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), who sadly died recently. 

“Perfect News runs next week, probably in the Fred Darling, but I'm also going to put her in the Nell Gwyn,” he says. “I think she wants soft ground but she's won on the track at Newmarket and I think that's a bit of a plus. I might also put her in the Free Handicap because she sneaks in at the bottom and there's quite often only about six runners in that race.”

Haggas has recently received news that another former stable star, the brilliant treble G1 Prix de la Foret winner One Master (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) has been scanned in foal to Frankel after delivering her first foal, a colt by Dubawi (Ire), on Jan. 27. And he has been sent another potentially top-class filly by One Master's American owner-breeders Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who snapped up the G1 Criterium International third Purplepay (Fr) (Zarak {Fr}) for €2 million at Arqana last December.

“The Jacksons are marvellous and they have sent me a bit of a bonus really,” says the trainer. “Purplepay was going to America and she missed the flight. They decided to send her over here for now and I have just put her in the Irish Guineas. They would come to Ascot if Purplepay ran there, even though they are in their mid-80s now. They are wonderful people.”

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