William Haggas has had a wonderful start to the latest Flat season and heads to Epsom this week with live contenders for both the Oaks and the Derby.
A strike-rate of 27% is testament to the yard’s form, though that rises to 31% over the past two weeks, with a further double at Leicester yesterday. He’s currently top of the trainers’ championship despite having infinitely fewer runners than Mark Johnston in second and John Gosden who lies third. Few would expect him to maintain such a lofty position though there does appear to be a marked upgrading in stable quality. It’s dangerous to disregard any Haggas runner at present.
Addeybb, though disappointing on fast ground last time, remains a hugely progressive sort and is sure to bring further success to the yard before the season closes. Just a few days ago at Goodwood, three-year-old Society Power made it five wins on-the-bounce, when sweeping from last to first in a competitive handicap. He’ll likely be given a mark in the mid-100s, and now looks sure to be tried in pattern company.
In the coming days Haggas has a chance of adding to those two Classic victories of Dancing Rain in the Oaks of 2011 and Shaamit’s Derby success of 1996. Young Rascal runs in the colts’ classic, following a cosy success in the Chester Vase. The leggy youngster coped well with the tight turning track that day, and despite appearing a little green down the straight, quickened nicely to beat Dee Ex Bee with something in hand.
A son of French Derby winner Intello – himself a son of champion stallion Galileo – he remains rather inexperienced as he heads to Epsom, though looks a colt of huge potential. Not all horses take to the track and there’s certainly a chance that this fella could become unbalanced at certain points. He may also find the infamous ‘camber’ problematic. Nevertheless, his odds of 12/1 reflect the talent we have already witnessed, and should this examination not come too soon, he may be the one to launch the greatest challenge to the O’Brien ‘good thing’.
The Newmarket handler also has a couple of fillies primed for the Oaks, though a final decision on the participation of Sea Of Class will be taken this morning. With just two career starts to her name, the trainer may feel that Epsom arrives too soon. By Sea The Stars out of a Hernando mare, the mile-and-a-half trip should hold no fears, and her last run at Newbury was certainly eye-catching. She hammered Aidan O’Brien’s Athena that day, powering clear in the final furlong. Way back in third was Sir Michael Stoute’s much touted Crystal Hope. The form looks rock solid, and should she take her chance, despite her inexperience, she appears to be a leading contender.
Give And Take is the trainer’s other runner, and she was last seen landing the Musidora Stakes at York. That was her fifth career start and she’s yet to finish out of the first two. Popular opinion is that the York renewal was somewhat sub-standard, and there’s no doubting that the field were tightly packed at the line. The pace of the race would probably not have suited this filly, so for her to win as she did was arguably more impressive. The Oaks trip should prove ideal and though possibly less classy than her stable-companion, she’s certainly more street-wise. This looks an open renewal of the Epsom Classic and she looks capable of being involved at the business end.
It’s undoubtedly a huge weekend for Haggas and the team and, though the might of Ballydoyle will take some toppling, the Newmarket handler couldn’t have his stable in better form as he takes on this huge challenge at the highest level. The dual-Classic winner gives little away when questioned but must be excited at the possibility of further Group One glory.