How High Can Haatem Fly After Fluent Craven Success?

With the flat season now underway, thoughts inevitably turn towards the upcoming Classic contests. That all begins, as usual, with the Guineas at Newmarket in May, moving on to the Epsom Derby and Oaks in late May/early June, and finishing up at Doncaster in September for the St. Leger Stakes.

When picking out their ante post punts for the most prestigious events of the season, racing fans have a raft of factors to consider, including the two-year-old form from last term. In addition, the trainer’s Classic record and the horse’s pedigree are also key.

However, perhaps the most useful clues can be found in the early season trial races. With that in mind, all eyes were on Newmarket in mid-April for the latest running of the historic Craven Stakes. Held over the same course and distance as the 2000 Guineas, this Group 3 for the three-year-old colts is particularly informative ahead of the opening colts Classic of the season.

Haatem Wins in Style, But Shown Little Respect by the Layers

Won to great acclaim by the likes of Petingo, Dancing Brave and Haafhd in the past, the success of Haatem in the 2024 edition of this trial was met with rather less fanfare. Although it isn’t clear why his power-packed 3½l victory failed to garner much praise, we think he is certainly one to watch very closely.

Perhaps the explanation is because bookies and punters already know quite a lot about the Richard Hannon-trained star, with the colt racking up nine starts as a two-year-old. That is undoubtedly a very high tally for a juvenile with Classic aspirations. Or maybe it’s simply down to the fact that he doesn’t run in the Royal Blue of Godolphin or hail from the all-powerful Ballydoyle operation. Whatever the case, Haatem remains a general 33/1 shot for the 2000 Guineas, despite having mastered rivals from the Charlie Appleby and Aidan O’Brien yards in addition to the highly touted French raider Alcantor.

Nicely bred – by Irish 2000 Guineas winner Phoenix of Spain and out of a Cape Cross mare – Haatem hails from a yard with a previous win in this race and perhaps shouldn’t be dismissed so readily. That said, the fact that Richard Hannon rates stablemate Rosallion as the superior horse, could prove a significant pointer towards that runner’s chances. Whether he wins the Guineas or otherwise, what is it reasonable to expect from Haatem in the season ahead? Here, we look back at the subsequent achievements of the past five Craven winners as a guide.

Record of Recent Winners

Craven Stakes, 2016
Craven Stakes winner, Stormy Antarctic, in 2016 (Kev Bailey, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr)

We have seen some really good horses win the Craven over the years, including the last five editions. Only one of the past five went on to UK Classic success though, and none landed the 2000 Guineas, so perhaps the bookies have got it right after all.

2018 – Masar

Having slammed the field by nine lengths in the 2018 Craven, this Charlie Appleby star could manage only a gallant third in the 2000 Guineas. However, the best was yet to come, with the colt following in the hoofprints of his sire, New Approach, by registering a famous success in the Epsom Derby. Sadly, injury cut short his three-year-old campaign, and he was never the same horse again – losing both starts at four before retiring to a life at stud.

2019 – Skardu

2019 hero Skardu couldn’t quite match the heights of Masar – in fact, he failed to win again in six career starts. However, the son of Shamardal certainly didn’t disgrace himself – finishing third in the 2000 Guineas, fourth in the Irish version (behind none other than Phoenix of Spain), and fourth in the St. James Palace Stakes.

2021 – Master of The Seas

Returning to the Charlie Appleby yard, Master Of The Seas also failed to win the 2000 Guineas, although he couldn’t have come much closer – going down by just a short head to Poetic Flare. Coming up short in the Joel Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, a gelding operation at the end of his Classic campaign sparked this son of Dubawi into life. Still going strong in 2024, he has three Group 1 wins to his name, including in the 2023 edition of the Breeders Cup Mile.

2022 – Native Trail

Yet another Craven success for Godolphin, the 2022 win of Native Trail came as no surprise. Having dominated the juvenile division, this Oasis Dream colt went off at odds of just 1/4 in 2022. Seeing off a small but talented field in impressive style, he started as the hot favourite in the 2000 Guineas but found stablemate Coroebus too good in the closing stages. Retired at the end of the 2023 season, Native Trail never quite delivered all that was promised, with his only subsequent win coming in the Irish 2000 Guineas.

2023 – Indestructible

Formerly trained in Ireland, Indestructible caused a minor shock when landing the Craven on his first start for Karl Burke in 2023. However, that was as good as it got for this Amo Racing runner. Nearer last than first in the 2000 Guineas, he didn’t fare much better in three subsequent starts at three. Switching to the USA to join the yard of Jorge Delgado at the end of 2023, he is yet to rediscover his old sparkle, with his first two Stateside starts yielding two comprehensive defeats.

So, what next for Haatem? The compilers suggest that he may ultimately be filed somewhere between Skardu and Indestructible, but he has enough in his favour in terms of pedigree, connections and racecourse performance to suggest he may fare a little better than that. Time will tell, but at a huge price he is certainly of each-way interest.