The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, at Newbury on Saturday May 14, looks set to be another fascinating contest.
The race’s roll of honour includes Brigadier Gerard (1972), Kris (1980), Selkirk (1992), Cape Cross (1998), Hawk Wing (2003), Russian Rhythm (2004), Rakti (2005), Paco Boy (2010), Canford Cliffs (2011), Frankel (2012) and Ribchester (2017), the winner’s place in racing history will again be assured.
Whether we will see another Frankel remains to be seen but if any of the nine runners are to reach that level it looks most likely to be the favourite, Baaeed.
Owned by Sheikh Hamdam al Maktoum, trained by William Haggas and the mount of Jim Crowley, he’s been put in as the odds-on market leader on the strength of winning all six of his starts to date.
All of those have come over Saturday’s one mile trip and his progress from when winning at Leicester on debut 11-months ago, has been palpable.
Next time out, he annihilated his field at Newmarket and then continued his progress as Listed and Group 3 levels, scoring again at Newmarket before earning the latter success at Goodwood.
Stepped up to the elite level, he had to work a little harder to claim the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp in September, before finishing a busy campaign by beating Palace Pier a neck to win the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October.
All the pre-race reports from his trainer have been quietly positive and it will take a special effort if something is to topple the market leader.
His chief rival according to the market is Mother Earth, last year’s 1,000 Guineas winner, who returned to action for the season with a Group 3 win at the Curragh in March.
She is much more exposed than the favourite and he form, while clearly very good, is such that she is officially rated 11lb inferior to Baaeed. She will need the market leader to underperform if she is to succeed.
Real World is the Godolphin entry and if at his best, he might be the one to give the favourite the most to do. His Group 2 success at Meydan in January was his fifth in succession but he was found out at this level when well beaten at both Riyadh in the Saudi Cup and back at Meydan in the Dubai World Cup since then. He’ll need to bounce back from that and if he can do so, he could have a say.
Last year’s Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes winner Alcohol Free is another who can’t be ruled out but also needs to favourite to fail to fire. He finished more than eight lengths behind Baaeed in last year’s QEII and will need to be much better than that if he is to grab Lockinge glory.
Richard Hannon-trained Chindit and 2020 Royal Lodge winner New Mandate are both respected and certainly can’t be ruled out of the frame but it will be a surprise is anything proves good enough to beat Baaeed, who is a confident choice.