The Lockinge Stakes at Newbury (15:20) is the first Group 1 of the year in Britain for older horses with the nine runners headed by last season’s champion miler Baaeed (Timeform weight-adjusted ratings 144).
Considering he still hadn’t seen a racecourse this time last year, Baaeed made huge progress for William Haggas from his debut at Leicester in June to end the year unbeaten in six starts. The last two of those came in Group 1 company, in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp and then the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. He didn’t have to better his earlier form when winning in France, having won impressively in listed and Group 3 company beforehand, but he had a stiffer task against the reigning champion miler Palace Pier at Ascot. However, he beat that top-class rival a neck and is fully expected to maintain his unbeaten record here. While Baaeed lacks the recent run that the rest of the field have had, William Haggas has the ‘Hot Trainer’ flag.
The fillies Mother Earth (135) and Alcohol Free (139) were also among those Baaeed beat at Ascot last October and both hold place chances here for their ‘Hot Trainers’ Aidan O’Brien and Andrew Balding respectively. They met on several occasions last year, in fact, starting with the 1000 Guineas in which Alcohol Free was only fifth to Mother Earth. On much softer ground at Royal Ascot, Alcohol Free turned the tables, having Mother Earth back in third, while in their next encounter in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, there was just a neck between them – in Mother Earth’s favour - when they both finished placed behind Snow Lantern.
The pair went their separate ways after the Falmouth run to pick up another Group 1 apiece – Alcohol Free in the Sussex Stakes back on softer ground and Mother Earth in the Prix Rothchild at Deauville – while the likeable and consistent Mother Earth fared the better of them again behind Baaeed at Ascot, finishing fifth. She ended a busy campaign with two more starts, at the Breeders’ Cup and in Hong Kong, and made the more encouraging reappearance of the pair when landing the odds in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes at the Curragh in March. Alcohol Free, on the other hand, was a beaten favourite on her return in a first-time hood (dispensed with here) when third in a tactical race for the Group 2 Mile at Sandown.
Real World (139) improved in leaps and bounds as a four-year-old for Saeed bin Suroor – another ‘Hot Trainer’ - once the cheekpieces went on last year. He won his last four starts in 2021, starting with the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot before following up in a listed race at Newbury, the Group 3 Strensall Stakes at York and the Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp. He returned better than ever with another Group 2 success in a strong renewal of the Zabeel Mile at Meydan in January and can be excused his last couple of starts which came on dirt in the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup.
New Mandate (130) and Chindit (130) are smart four-year-olds for Ralph Beckett and Richard Hannon respectively but fall some way short of Baaeed’s form. New Mandate did well at two, winning the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket before managing just the one start last year when down the field in the Jersey Stakes but showed he retains his ability when winning a four-runner listed race back at Ascot last month. Chindit enjoyed a full three-year-old campaign after winning the Greenham Stakes here but came up short in Group 1 company subsequently, though he too made a successful reappearance against three rivals in a listed race, at Doncaster in March.
Sunray Major (127) has had little racing for John & Thady Gosden (another ‘Hot Trainer’ team) and boasts a top-class pedigree but finished behind Alcohol Free when only fifth of six at Sandown on his first try at pattern level last month.
William Knight is another ‘Hot Trainer’ and while his runner Sir Busker (128+) is a smart gelding who took third in last year’s Queen Anne Stakes, he’s essentially exposed at this level and was a neck behind New Mandate at Ascot last time.
Richard Hannon’s other runner Etonian (123+) has only had a handful of starts, winning the 2020 Solario Stakes at Sandown, but looks well out of his depth on his return to this level after returning from a year’s absence to finish in mid-division in the Spring Cup Handicap over this course and distance last month.
Timeform Analyst’s Verdict:
Baaeed made giant strides in 2021 and signed off with a top-class win over Palace Pier in Ascot's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. There promises to be even more to come from him this term so he's confidently expected to extend his winning run to seven. Mother Earth is a likeable Classic-winning filly and she appeals as the one to chase home William Haggas' unbeaten colt ahead of last season's Sussex Stakes heroine Alcohol Free.
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