William Haggas has had one of the best seasons of his illustrious career – but it could really end with a bang at Ascot on Qipco British Champions Day.
Haggas has a chance with Hamish (owned and raised by his father, Brian) in the Long Distance Cup, unbeaten Baaeed in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, three live chances in the Champion Stakes and three more in the Balmoral Handicap.
He couldn’t get carried away with the build-up though, as the reunion comes just after the prestigious Tattersalls sales, the busiest weeks on the calendar for coaches – and even then his focus isn’t just on Ascot. This weekend.
“We have a runner Friday afternoon at Belmont (Spirit Of Bermuda), we have a runner Saturday afternoon at Keeneland (Cloudy Dawn) and we have a runner in Paris Sunday afternoon (My Astra), so that’s is thoroughly, ”Haggas said.
A fortnight ago, the Sommerville Lodge handler saddled eight winners in a single afternoon, a feat that was usually lost as it came the same weekend as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“I tried to find out on the Flat how many people had done this,” Haggas said.
“I went to see Mark Johnston and he had done seven, I don’t think Richard Hannon did and Richard Fahey didn’t, so I don’t know who else could have done it at this era – obviously there are a lot more races than before. We’re very proud of that. “
But while Haggas digitally sets new standards for himself, he’s determined to stand out more at the top of the sport.
Haggas, just behind the main in fourth in the Coaching Championship, said: “We don’t win enough Group Ones in England, we’ve won a lot of stakes races this year – everywhere – but of course we would like to win even more. Groups 1. They’re pretty hard to win, you know, strangely enough.
“For the very first time (Andrew) Balding is cheering us on this weekend – as well as his – because he knows we’re not a threat, but I could knock out (John) Gosden and (Charlie) Appleby if our horses win! “
In the opening of the Long Distance Cup, Haggas runs Hamish and Roberto Escobarr. But there is no doubt that the former is his main chance.
“Hamish and Roberto Escobarr will be running. I think the pitch will be on the soft side of good, he’ll probably be dead, and that will suit Hamish. He’s not bad, he’s in good shape and made his last shot this morning. , it looks great, ”Haggas said.
“Provided the next three days go well, he will race with Tom Marquand on board.
“That day we lost to Trueshan (October 2019) who has come a long way since then we were gutted. There were only four runners and we were 4-7 favorites and I was mortified ! tendon injury – were very encouraging for us.
“I have to say Roberto is better on the pitch so maybe it’s a bit dead for him.”
Baaeed has come such a long way since its debut in June, winning the Prix du Moulin last time around.
“A lot of people have said a lot about this horse, but you probably won’t have heard a lot from me. Although I was very impressed with what he did in such a short time, he has a huge task. Saturday, ”Haggas said.
“Not only is there Palace Pier, but there is alcohol-free, maybe Mother Earth and last year’s winner The Revenant and maybe even Benbatl – a lot of good horses.
“I was really happy with him at Longchamp and without questioning those behind him we had a little hiccup and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t at his best. If I can get him there. as he is now, you will see the best of him on Saturday. “
It takes time to have a horse good enough to race in the Champion Stakes, but Haggas has three legitimate contenders for last year’s winner Addeybb, the improved Dubai Honor and the enigmatic Al Aasy.
“Addeybb’s ideal pitch is when he goes through an inspection on race morning. It will be soft, but I’m not sure it will be soft enough for him. He loves Ascot and his right-handed record is fantastic. it’s an extremely competitive and fantastic race, ”said Haggas.
“Mishriff was awesome in York and I could do without Adayar – if Charlie was 10th in the championship I think he would be back in Godolphin to rest! He’s a really good horse and I would be scared of him – even over a mile and a quarter.
“Al Aasy has been called out of sorts. We know he can’t find as much as he looks under the pressure so hopefully his jockey waits a bit, in Newbury he’s gone to three and a half stadiums from home and exhibited it.
“The horse is much better than that, he should have won there and we’ll see what he has to offer. He might not be good enough, but he’s talented and he’s not ugly. He is a very good horse and he was spoiled by everyone.
“Dubai Honor was completed for £ 75,000 which is quite high, but the owner was enthusiastic. James (Doyle) said he had shown great intelligence in the (Prize) Dollar.
“There is nothing else for him until Hong Kong in December and when I suggested it the owner almost tore my hand off.
“I’m also going to be running the three in the Balmoral as I’m desperately trying to knock out John’s horse Sunray Major as I think he’s certain! Unfortunately he’s too above himself for that to happen. he can eliminate them if he wishes.
“We’re going to run our three, but I think John’s is a good thing if he gets in.”
He added: “We usually have one or two riders on Champions Day. This year we have nine and we are delighted to be involved. The big horses are Baaeed, Hamish, Addeybb and Dubai Honor, but I love it. Al Aasy and the other four have every right to be there, we are lucky to have so many beautiful horses.