William Haggas is quietly relieved there will not be a huge crowd at Epsom for red-hot Coral Coronation Cup favourite Al Aasy.
The four-year-old has always been the apple of his trainer’s eye – but it is only in his two races to date this season he has shown everybody else what Haggas always knew he was capable of.
Two easy victories at Newbury, in the John Porter Stakes and the Aston Park, have seen some bookmakers chalk him up at odds-on for the Group One for older horses on the same day as the Oaks.
“You’re never quite sure they’ll act there, but he’s a very well-balanced horse and a good mover so I don’t see why not,” said Haggas of his ability to handle the unique Epsom circuit.
“The occasion? I’m glad there aren’t going to be 50,000 there, but I think he’ll be all right, we’ll be very wary of him. He’s a boy and he knows he is, but once he gets going he’s not an issue.
“We’ve always thought a lot of him, he’s a beautiful horse and works the way he runs – he gives everything on the gallops as well.”
Last year was not a normal one for obvious reasons, but when Al Aasy won the Bahrain Trophy comfortably he looked a genuine St Leger contender. However, he then fluffed his lines at Goodwood.
“He was disappointing in the Gordon last year, but we put that down to the ground and trainer error,” said Haggas.
“I suggested to Jim (Crowley) to track Frankie (Dettori) on English King as I thought he was the danger, but he never went at all and we were sat behind him while the race was evolving. He didn’t really run on, either.
“It was disappointing, so we put him away. The John Porter was always where we wanted to start back, but it (form) has worked out pretty badly – he did win easily, though.
“In the Aston Park he beat a Leger winner giving him 3lb and beat the others comprehensively. Interestingly two of them run in the Henry II on Thursday night, Ranch Hand and Rainbow Dreamer. So if they are first and second I’ll be chuffed, but if they are fifth and sixth I won’t be so chuffed.
“The style of his win was very good and he’ll have a good chance at Epsom if all goes well.”
Discussing the future, Haggas is happy to keep him at a mile and a half.
“They’ve been small fields and he’s relaxed well. If I could never run over 12 furlongs again and had the choice over a mile-six or a mile and a quarter then I think I’d come back because I think a fast pace would suit him well,” he said.
“I don’t see why we need to do that, English trainers are always keen to go up or down in trip, they are quite restless, but I don’t see the need to move.
“I always thought he was such a fluent mover he’d need fast ground, but his best form is all with cut in the ground. I’m hoping being the Friday it will be beautiful and then be rock-hard for the Derby!
“The Aston Park was a month after the John Porter and then another three weeks to Epsom, so we decided to run as seven weeks was a long time to wait for Epsom.
“We don’t have the opportunity to spell like in Australia, there are championship races at every distance throughout the year so you have to select what you think is the best one, because however brilliant you are at training it’s pretty impossible to have a horse up for the Guineas and keep winning until Champions Day unless you space your races out.
“We were trying to space him out, but he was telling us he didn’t want it.”
Al Aasy is by Sea The Stars who has produced a Derby winner in Harzand, multiple Ascot Gold Cup hero Stradivarius and a Prince of Wales’s winner in Crystal Ocean. Haggas is a confirmed fan and feels it is this versatility which helps set the stallion apart.
“We are very fortunate that we train for Mrs Tsui who owns Sea The Stars and we are sent quite a few. He’s a fabulous stallion,” said Haggas.
“I think there are only four stallions who can breed the winner of all five Classics. Galileo is getting on now and Dubawi might struggle with the Leger, but you can’t buy a Dubawi or Galileo – you can buy a Frankel and a Sea The Stars.
“For those of us not involved with Coolmore or Godolphin, Sea The Stars and Frankel are the two who have a chance of winning a Guineas or a Derby. The other stallions either won’t stay to win the Derby or stay too well that they want two miles.”