Jim Crowley talks Baaeed: “I adore him. He is the perfect racehorse, he has everything”
Crowley, who has ridden Baaeed in his last eight races, tells how he knew the first time he sat on the colt that he was something special, describes the pressure that comes with riding an unbeaten champion, and pays tribute to the late Sheikh Hamdan’s breeding legacy that created Baaed.
The first time I rode Baaeed was in the Sir Henry Cecil Stakes at Newmarket. I didn’t know too much about him other than he’d won his first two starts, but that day, I was blown away by him. He gave me the feel of a very good horse, he put the race to bed very easily, and I had a job to pull him up after the winning line. I knew then we had something quite special.
We could have supplemented him for the Sussex Stakes that year, but it was still early days so made sense to go for the Group 3 at Glorious Goodwood instead, and he couldn’t have won that any easier. He took the field apart, and showed so much more speed than his pedigree would have suggested, I really couldn’t believe the pace he was showing.
We then went to France for his first Group 1. He may have looked a bit workmanlike in the Prix du Moulin, but I know there was more to come. And taking him to France also proved what a great temperament he has. I think that’s one of his key attributes, he’s so laid back, he just seems to take everything in his stride.
He ended that season in the QE II, and a big showdown with Palace Pier and several other top-class milers. I think the Palace Pier camp thought they couldn’t get beat, but my fellow toughed it out really well, it was a proper ding-dong battle, and the best horse won.
I was delighted when we knew he was staying in training as a four-year-old, because I knew we hadn’t seen the best of him. He’d achieved a lot in a short space of time, so I thought with a different preparation he was only going to get better, especially with his pedigree.
He was kept to a mile in the Lockinge, Queen Anne and Sussex Stakes, and while we thought he would improve for a step up in trip, it was difficult to do that when he was taking the opposition apart so easily over a mile and showing so much speed.
Did I take it personally when people said he wasn’t beating much? No, not really, I mean, I’m probably the only one who really knows how good he is. You know, obviously riding in these big races, you get a feel of what’s left in the tank. And I knew after all those races I’d ridden in him so far, we hadn’t scratched the surface yet.
It’s very difficult to say what makes him so good. He seems to have everything, like all the true champions. You know, they’ve got speed. They can stay. He’s got a great mind. I’ve said I think he could win over six furlongs or a mile and a half, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he would do whatever we asked him to do.
How does he compare to previous stars? Well, it’s very difficult to say, isn’t it? I mean, it’s like comparing great boxers from different generations. It’s something that people will always talk about and compare. Some horses have better records on their CVs, but I think it would have taken a very, very special horse to have beaten Mishriff at York like Baaeed did, he was just imperious that day.
His sire, Sea the Stars, was an exceptional horse. Whether he had the same speed as Baaeed, I don’t know. Obviously, Frankel was an exceptional horse as well. Who was the best? It’s something that we’ll never know. The ratings may say otherwise, but we’ll never know. But he has to be right up there with those horses.
He has everything. I mean, it’s testament to Sheikh Hamdan, who bred the horse. Shadwell was his breeding operation, and he spent a lifetime trying to produce the perfect racehorse. And it’s very sad that he’s not here now this horse has come along, but I’m sure he’s watching on.
And for this horse to come along in my career, it’s the perfect time. I think if I was 20, 21, maybe the whole situation may have got to me, the nerves and things like that. But at this time in my career, I’ve enjoyed every moment.
Have I felt pressure riding him? A little bit yes, as the unbeaten run grew. But then again, the more I rode him, I’ve learned and know what I’ve got underneath me. My job is to just try to put him in the right place in a race.
How will I approach Saturday? I’ve got to just take it all in, as I know I won’t be riding him again. As I say, my job is to do what’s best for the horse, put him in the right position, and hopefully the rest takes care of itself. And there will be more excitement than pressure, I definitely won’t need the alarm clock that morning!
Riding Baaeed has given me a huge thrill. I mean, it’s what every jockey strives for, to find a horse like this. And I think they probably come along once every 10 years, if you’re lucky, and to see one, let alone ride one, I feel very fortunate. He’s everything to me, I adore him. And hopefully we’re not finished yet.
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