Horses To Follow » Aqlaam


I’m happy to believe that Aqlaam is still a top notch performer after his run in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday. William Haggas was quite reticent about the horse’s chances the day before the race, having been quite bullish the week before after he had apparently caught and passed his lead horse in his home work for the first time this year. “He is coming back, but I am not sure if he has come back enough to win a Queen Anne,” he said before Tuesday’s race, and that proved to be a wholly accurate assessment.

Aqlaam travelled really well through the race, after Richard Hills had brought him onto the near side rail as soon as they left the stalls, and he eased past leader Gladiatorus at the two-furlong pole. That was plenty early enough for him to be in front for a horse whose best run was over seven furlongs and who was unproven over a mile. But that was the way the race panned out, there was nothing Hills could do, given that he was tracking a leader who just capitulated. He actually did quite well to get around the leader as the field bunched.

Once there, there was little Hills could do. He took a tug and waited for as long as he could, but as his rivals closed around him he had to go for home, and Aqlaam picked up nicely. He and Cesare would have had a right set-to had Paco Boy not been in the race. Richard Hughes was still sitting motionless on the Hannon colt as Hills and Murtagh asked their respective mounts for everything. Obviously, Aqlaam had no answer to Paco Boy’s turn of foot, but he still kept on gamely to hold onto third place from Main Aim.

The son of Oasis Dream is a classy individual, as he demonstrated when he won the Jersey Stakes at this meeting last year. His only subsequent run before last Tuesday was in the Lockinge, which you can easily put a line through as he simply wasn’t right, and the ground was probably too soft anyway. This was a huge step forward on that. Often they don’t come back from injury, but it is fairly safe to assume that Aqlaam is getting there, and that he will improve again for this run. This was just the fifth race of his life, so he can be expected to progress with this experience anyway.

Haggas didn’t hold back in his praise for the horse last year, which is significant given that the trainer is usually quite conservative in assessing his horses, and there should be better to come from Aqlaam now. He saw out the mile well, and the Sussex Stakes is the obvious next port of call for him. He will possibly meet Paco Boy again there, and his conqueror on Tuesday will probably be a short price to beat him, but Paco Boy was zinging in the lead up to the Queen Anne. He is a really fashionable horse now, especially now that he has proven that he stays a mile, and it is probable that, if they both make the line up, Aqlaam will be value to beat him.

© The Irish Field, 20th June 2009