Lockinge Stakes Tips: Back this Balding contender to challenge superstar Baaeed at Newbury
Superstar miler Baaeed will make his hotly-anticipated return to the track on Saturday in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, and it's hard to see the unbeaten colt not enhancing his sensational CV, but our man Steve Chambers is taking on the William Haggas-trained raider with an each-way alternative at 15:20...
Unraced as a juvenile, Baaeed launched into the limelight last season as the son of Sea The Stars blossomed from a Leicester maiden winner to a Group 1 winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on British Champions Day. Six wins from six starts last season, Baaeed showed his Group 1 qualities when bounding to glory in the Prix Du Moulin at Longchamp, but it was his defeat of the top-class Palace Pier in the QEII that enhanced his already lofty reputation, and he will head into Saturday's Lockinge as a red-hot favourite.
Currently, a best-priced 8/15 favourite, Baaeed has shown tremendous cruising speed throughout his glittering career, but he showed great guts and tenacity to beat Palace Pier at the end of last season, and it's hard to see any of his rivals getting close to him, should he reappear in similar form at the weekend. He will face some race-fit rivals, but he's by far the best horse lining up in the Lockinge, and he will use this event as a springboard to multiple Group 1 races throughout another potential marquee season.
Aidan O'Brien has made a terrific start to the season on British soil and he will bid for a third Lockinge Stakes success and he will saddle the classy filly Mother Earth, who is next in the betting around 5/1. Wins in the 1000 Guineas and the Prix Rothschild last season showed that she was certainly one of the star fillies competing at Group 1 level, and she warmed up for this with a workmanlike victory at the Curragh in late March.
However, she was well and truly put in her place by Baaeed when the pair met in the QEII at Ascot, as Mother Earth could only finish a well beaten fifth and it's hard to see her turning that form around, despite heading to Newbury with a prep run under her belt.
Andrew Balding's ALCOHOL FREE was further behind in the QEII at Ascot and she was a big disappointment on her comeback run in the bet365 Mile, as having drifted significantly prior to the Sandown Group 2 she could only finish third. However, the classy filly showed her class last season when bounding to a fine success in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, and a repeat of that effort would see her make the frame, so the 14/1 each-way looks a decent bet.
She is sure to improve immeasurably for that Sandown run, but she showed when winning the Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury that she can perform with credit at the Berkshire track, and with the headgear now removed for this event she could be one that throws up a notable challenge to Baaeed, but she may just lack that class to down the Haggas-trained hotpot.
A fine winner of the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot last season, Real World smoothly moved into Group territory with aplomb and claimed some notable victories, but he has struggled recently when sent to Riyadh and to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup. Unplaced in both recent starts, a return to British soil could improve his chances, but Saeed bin Suroor's charge doesn't appear to have the capabilities needed at Group 1 level.
Of the others, Richard Hannon's Chindit was an impressive winner at Doncaster in Listed company last time out, but this is a gargantuan step up in class here, while New Mandate and Sunray Major will need huge career bests along with Sir Busker and Etonian, who complete the nine-strong field.