December 2, 2023

Baaeed ventures up in trip in BC WAYI Juddmonte International

Unbeaten Baaeed exuded class in the Queen Anne (Photo by Megan Ridgwell/Ascot Racecourse)

All-conquering at a mile, Baaeed ventures up in trip for the first time in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International (G1) at about 1 5/16 miles at York. The feature on opening day of the Ebor Festival is one of three Breeders’ Cup Challenge events at the meeting.

Juddmonte International (G1) – Race 4 (10:35 a.m. ET)

The Juddmonte serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on dirt, an invitation that Baaeed would not take up. Indeed, the Shadwell superstar is not pursuing the Breeders’ Cup at all, with connections preferring to close his career on British Champions Day at Ascot Oct. 15. If there is to be any Breeders’ Cup Classic implication from the Juddmonte, it would involve defending champion Mishriff, who ranks as Baaeed’s chief opponent.

Although Baaeed has yet to race beyond a mile, the William Haggas trainee gives every indication of handling it, from the perspectives of both pedigree and running style. His Group 1-winning full brother Hukum stays as far as 1 3/4 miles, and their sire, the all-time great Sea the Stars, won this race amid his historic 2009 campaign.

Baaeed has swept all nine of his races in the manner of a horse who can go further. When capturing this summer’s Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot and Sussex (G1) at Glorious Goodwood – both “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) – he switched off early, then delivered the coup de grace. His energy conservation is reminiscent of Sea the Stars, and it will be a surprise if he doesn’t emulate him as the odds-on favorite on the Knavesmire.

The most logical way to try to beat him is to turn the race into a searing stamina test, and hope to blunt his acceleration. Such a tactic could also aim to leave him with too much ground to make up.

That might be the ploy for Aidan O’Brien’s High Definition. Once a high-class juvenile and classic fancy, the Galileo colt was not physically right at three, but he’s been on a mission of redemption his season. While he’s yet to win, High Definition nearly upset the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) in his most recent sortie around this distance. The pace factor was subsequently well beaten at 1 1/2 miles, but his enthusiastic way of going suggests that he’ll try to lead as far as he can on the cutback.

The proven stayers in the field would appreciate the help. Mishriff dominated the 2021 Juddmonte by six lengths, and a repeat of that would make Baaeed work. There’s reason to think that he is capable of running up to that level again, despite his series of frustrations in the interim.

Mishriff’s disappointing third in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) last out can be chalked up to his totally flubbing the start. A more meaningful pointer is his troubled near-miss in the Eclipse (G1) two back, where he outfinished third-placer Native Trail. Mishriff was making his first start since his no-show in his Saudi Cup (G1) title defense. Perhaps significantly, the John and Thady Gosden charge is employing the same third-off-the-layoff angle here as he did a year ago. But he can’t afford to miss the break.

Native Trail, the only three-year-old in the line-up, arguably remains a question mark at the trip. The Godolphin runner was Europe’s unbeaten champion two-year-old of 2021 and favorite for the 2000 Guineas (G1). Toppled by stablemate Coroebus in the Newmarket classic, Native Trail rebounded in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1). Trainer Charlie Appleby opted to stretch him out in the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse, and he performed well in a close third. Still, the Oasis Dream colt might be best suited by reverting to a mile.

Haggas has two other well-qualified contenders in Alenquer and Dubai Honour, both of whom want the forecast rain to arrive. Alenquer was best of the rest behind Mishriff here in 2021, during a campaign featuring scores in the King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot and the Sandown Classic Trial (G3) over future stars Adayar and Yibir. Adding to his resume this season, Alenquer beat Lord North in a course-record Winter Derby (G3) and caught High Definition in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. Forgive his uncharacteristic last in the July 2 Eclipse. (Update: Alenquer has been scratched).

Dubai Honour, just denied by Sir Busker in the course-and-distance York (G2), has every right to improve from that comeback on ground firmer than he’d like. Twice a Group 2 winner in France last year, Dubai Honour graduated to the top level with a second in the Champion S. (beating Mishriff) and a terrific fourth to Breeders’ Cup champ Loves Only You in the Hong Kong Cup (G1). He’s got place claims just as well as Alenquer, at an even bigger price.

Sir Busker was a longstanding bridesmaid before breaking through in the York, his first start beyond a mile. The blue-collar campaigner was previously fifth to Baaeed in the Lockinge (G1) and Queen Anne.

Thursday’s Yorkshire Oaks (G1) – Race 4 (10:35 a.m. ET)

The 1 1/2-mile Yorkshire Oaks (G1) offers a free berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), held over a shorter 1 3/16 miles at Keeneland.

Alpinista is the hot favorite on the strength of a six-race winning spree, including last summer’s Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) over eventual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) upsetter Torquator Tasso. The Sir Mark Prescott mare has racked up four straight Group 1s versus males on the Continent, most recently landing the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) in her July 3 reappearance.

Her main rivals are sophomores – Epsom Oaks (G1) victress Tuesday, coming off a fourth in the Irish Derby (G1); Irish Oaks (G1) queen Magical Lagoon; and Prix de Malleret (G2) heroine Raclette – along with streaking four-year-old La Petite Coco. Since capping her 2021 by upstaging Love in the Blandford (G2), La Petite Coco picked up where she left off in the June 26 Pretty Polly (G1).

Friday’s Nunthorpe (G1) – Race 4 (10:35 a.m. ET)

A “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), the five-furlong Nunthorpe (G1) could have a decidedly feminine flavor, with unbeaten Royal Aclaim and juvenile The Platinum Queen the market leaders at this point. Both are course-and-distance winners, Royal Aclaim exiting the City Walls S. over males and The Platinum Queen having romped in a novice before breaking a juvenile course record at Glorious Goodwood. The last two-year-old to take the Nunthorpe was Kingsgate Native (2007), but the filly Lyric Fantasy (1992) earlier accomplished the feat, and The Platinum Queen gets in light with 112 pounds.

Highfield Princess would also be a prime threat, if making a quick turnaround from her Aug. 7 career high in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1). Wednesday’s final declarations will tell the tale. Flotus is yet another distaffer in the mix, following her recent score in the Summer (G3), as is defending champion Winter Power, unfortunately off form since her heroics of a year ago. Other notable names are Khaadem and Raasel, the top two from the King George (G2) last out, and two who placed in the 2021 Nunthorpe, Group 1 veteran Emaraaty Ana and Dragon Symbol.

Also at York

The undoubted star of the show Friday, however, would be legendary stayer Stradivarius, slated to run earlier on the card in the Lonsdale Cup (G2). A perfect 6-for-6 at York, he’s won this race three times already, along with three runnings of the Yorkshire Cup (G2). The Gosdens will be on weather watch for the venerable eight-year-old, while archrival Trueshan hopes that the ground turns softer.

Saturday’s eponymous Ebor H. likely has more Melbourne Cup (G1) than Breeders’ Cup implications, but the preceding Strensall (G3) and City of York (G2) are worth watching for potential North American developments.