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Haggas has grounds for concern ahead of Mohaafeth’s Ascot assignment

Late Derby absentee Mohaafeth gets the chance to strut his stuff in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot on Thursday.

William Haggas agonised over whether to run his exciting colt in the Classic following heavy rain the day before.

He decided to keep his powder dry and aim for Ascot instead – yet with thunder storms forecast, the Newmarket handler fears his chance may be compromised again.

However, there appears no question of him not running following a promise to Sheikha Hissa, daughter of the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who founded the Shadwell Estate Company.

“He obviously doesn’t want much rain but he’ll run, I promised Sheikha Hissa he’d run at Ascot regardless,” said Haggas.

“It’s just the way it is, it’s typical.

“Everything has been good with him, he’s in great form and he really is a lovely horse, we just won’t see him at his best on soft ground – but that’s the way it is.

“He’ll still run a good race, he’s very well.”

Charlie Appleby’s One Ruler did run in the Derby won by his stablemate Adayar and finished sixth, just as he had in the 2000 Guineas. Appleby also runs Secret Protector.

Aidan O’Brien is represented by Roman Empire, who was fourth in the Dante when ridden by Hollie Doyle, and Matchless.

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The weather apart, it promises to be a good day for Haggas, with Second Wind in the Norfolk Stakes and Aldaary in the Buckingham Palace carrying high hopes.

Unbeaten in two starts to date, with his latest run at Salisbury boosted by the runner-up since, Second Wind would like the rain to come, as he prepares to go up against the Wesley Ward-trained pair of Lucci and Nakatomi.

Haggas said: “I think he’ll enjoy some dig in the ground and that might not help Wesley’s horses, so I was quite keen to have a go. There was some cut in the ground when he won at Salisbury, I think he enjoys that.”

Aldaary was last seen finishing third at Goodwood, and Haggas has listened to jockey Jim Crowley in going for the Buckingham Palace.

The Newmarket handler said: “He’s an interesting one. He’s a nice horse. He was too far back last time out behind Rhoscolyn.

“It was very much Jim Crowley’s idea to come for this, I hadn’t given it a minute’s thought. I didn’t want to go for the Britannia because he’d have had nearly top-weight. Jim said had I considered the Buckingham Palace, I hadn’t, but I did and I thought it was perfect.”

Returning to the Norfolk, the aforementioned Ward seems to favour the John Velazquez-ridden Lucci over his stablemate, although the latter recorded a strong speed figure when beating stablemate Happy Soul on his one run to date.

The merit of that effort was seen subsequently when Happy Soul absolutely bolted up at Belmont Park. Qatar Racing bought into Nakatomi after his win, and as a result Oisin Murphy takes the ride.

Ward said: “At home, we have been working Lucci and Nakatomi together. Nakatomi was coming out on top, but then they had a workout in Newmarket on the Limekilns and Lucci turned the tables. He just bounced straight through to the front and would not give up the lead.”

There are plenty of others to watch, too, in what looks a strong renewal of the Norfolk, among them O’Brien’s once-raced Cadamosto and the Clive Cox-trained Instinctive Move, the mount of Derby-winning rider Adam Kirby.

George Scott is another trainer looking forward to chances on day three, chief among them George Peabody in the Britannia.

Progressive with two wins in novice company this year, the Holy Roman Emperor gelding is making his handicap bow – in what has been a long-range plan.

George Peabody has been aimed at the Britannia Handicap for some time
George Peabody has been aimed at the Britannia Handicap for some time (Mike Egerton/PA)

Scott said: “We’ve been aiming at this race a very long time. He was impressive at Doncaster and then followed up under a penalty at Thirsk. He’s a cool horse to train, very relaxed and straightforward.

“Obviously we need an enormous amount of luck, but I couldn’t be more pleased with him.”

Stablemate Too Friendly runs in the same colours of Bill and Tim Gredley, as he goes in the King Edward V Stakes.

The Camelot colt won well at Doncaster in March, leading to a crack at the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom, finishing sixth to Wirko.

Scott said: “I’ve been really pleased with his preparation. In hindsight I think Epsom came a little quick for him after winning at Doncaster, so we deliberately put him away and waited for Ascot.

“He’s wearing first-time cheekpieces and they seemed to have had an effect at home.”

Among the King George opposition is the O’Brien-trained Sir Lamorak, a winner at Dundalk in March and impressive after that in a Leopardstown handicap.

A minor setback ruled Noon Star out of the Oaks
A minor setback ruled Noon Star out of the Oaks (Tim Goode/PA)

Ryan Moore rides and told Betfair: “He doesn’t want much rain, but I think he has a big run in him if the ground remains decent. He may be 15lb higher than when winning for me at Leopardstown back in April, but you had to be very impressed by what he did that day, and I think he is a good colt. And hopefully one better than his current mark of 100.”

An intriguing renewal of the Ribblesdale Stakes has attracted Sir Michael Stoute’s impeccably-bred Noon Star – a late defector from the Oaks but whose three-and-three-quarter-length second to Snowfall in the Musidora does not now have the slightly disappointing look to it that it possibly had at the time.

She gets has the opportunity to show what might have been at Epsom as she clashes with O’Brien’s Oaks third Divinely, while Mark Johnston’s Dubai Fountain also runs after being well-beaten in the Classic, for which she attracted a raft of support in the market beforehand.

Al Aasy to skip Hardwicke Stakes

William Haggas has decided against running his Coronation Cup runner-up Al Aasy in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

After two easy Group Three wins at Newbury this season, Al Aasy was stepped up in class at Epsom this month and looked like collecting a first Group One win only to be worn down close home by Pyledriver.

He was a surprise entry in Saturday’s Group Two, but Haggas has decided not to run him back quickly after all. The Newmarket handler is still likely to field two Hardwicke contenders in Pablo Escobarr and the prolific winner Ilaraab, who will appreciate the forecast rain if it arrives at the end of the week.

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“I only put Al Aasy in late – thinking if it was soft ground then he should be there – but the Epsom into Ascot is a hard one, and he doesn’t need to do it,” said Haggas.

“Pablo will definitely run and will run in a visor, and Ilaraab will run if the word ‘soft’ appears in the going description.”

Haggas celebrated an encouraging victory at York on Saturday with Roberto Escobarr – who earned a ticket into the Ebor back on the Knavesmire – but the trainer feels offering such incentive in a Listed race could be counter-productive.

“I don’t know about the Ebor,” he said.

“He went up to 107 and he is going to go back to York for a Group Three race in July.

Roberto Escobarr has a return to York on the agenda
Roberto Escobarr has a return to York on the agenda (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’ll go and run in that, and we’ll take it from there.

“I’m not so sure the ‘win and you’re in’ races are working. If you’re going to win the Listed race you’re going to be rated in the 100s already.

“I wonder if they ought to do a bonus rather than ‘win and you’re in’ – because if they offered, let’s say, £100,000 bonus then you get a good field for the Listed race – but as it was, it was a weak turnout. For me he was the only one who could win, because the others were either out of form or wanted soft ground.

“He actually struggled a bit – I didn’t think he was very impressive. He may have been flattered but he’s a nice horse. He’s in the Northumberland Plate, but I think that will come too quick.”

Haggas readies strong challenge in Hardwicke Stakes

William Haggas holds a strong hand in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot – with Al Aasy, Ilaraab and Pablo Escobarr all engaged.

Al Aasy started the season with effortless wins at Newbury and came with what looked a winning run in the Coronation Cup at Epsom only to go down narrowly to Pyledriver.

Ilaraab has risen startlingly through the handicap ranks and has won the last six of his seven career outings, most recently at York by three lengths from a mark of 102.

In the same Shadwell colours as Al Aasy among Saturday’s possible contenders is the Owen Burrows-trained Hukum, who impressed when winning a Listed race at Goodwood last time out.

David Menuisier has entered his dual Group One-winning filly Wonderful Tonight, who has yet to be seen this season. The Frenchman will be hoping the weather forecast is right and that it is a wet end to the week.

Aidan O’Brien could run the Melbourne Cup runner-up Tiger Moth, Broome, Japan or the filly Passion – while Joseph O’Brien has left in Master Of Reality.

Sir Ron Priestley, Highest Ground and the 2019 St Leger winner Logician are others among the 19 remaining possibles.

Final Song and Snazzy Jazzy top the 63 left in the Wokingham.

Among a host of others to note are Andrew Balding’s Chil Chil, David Evans’ improving three-year-old Rohaan and the Michael Dods-trained Pendleton.

Jane Chapple-Hyam’s unbeaten filly Bellosa is one of 27 in the Jersey Stakes.

She could come up against Charlie Appleby’s Creative Force, Archie Watson’s Mehmento and Charlie Hills’ Mutasaabeq – who was last seen in the Guineas.

Appleby is also set to saddle his smart-looking juvenile New Science in the Chesham Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien’s Point Lonsdale, Andrew Balding’s Masekela and Michael Bell’s Great Max are others who created big impressions on debut.

Siskany and Tamborrada also give Appleby a strong hand in the Golden Gates Handicap – while Chester Cup winner Falcon Eight is one of 30 in the closing Queen Alexandra Stakes.

Roberto Escobarr puts down Ebor marker

Roberto Escobarr threw his hat into the ring for Sky Bet Ebor with a gritty win over the same course and distance at York.

Trained by William Haggas, the relatively lightly-raced four-year-old was sent off the 11-8 favourite in a field of four for the Listed Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Grand Cup Stakes.

Despite the select field, the 4,000 crowd were treated to a thrilling finish – with the quartet all in a line a furlong out.

David O’Meara’s Makawee tried to make all and kept on responding to her riders’ urgings – while Frankie Dettori headed for the rail on Red Verdon, his only ride of the day.

Ranch Hand was also in there battling on, but it soon became apparent Red Verdon and the eventual winner had pulled clear.

It was then the Galileo colt, having just his fifth start, who pulled away to win by a length and a half under Tom Marquand.

Roberto Escobarr holds an entry at Royal Ascot next week in the  Copper Horse Stakes – but appears unlikely to take it up.

Haggas’ wife Maureen said: “It was a strange race – they were all spread out, and he didn’t really have anything to race with.

“He just does enough, this horse. The Ebor could be a possible, but I doubt he’d run back quick at Ascot.

“He’s going the right way. He didn’t like the ground last time at Ascot – he likes quick ground and he stays well, (and) hopefully he’s one of those who will keep on improving.

“He’s one of those big horses, he’s still quite babyish and hasn’t had many runs.”

It was a fourth win from the last five runners for the yard, and Haggas added: “It’s a good time for them to be in form – any time is really.

“It’s the hardest week of the year to have winners next week, but we’ll be particularly looking forward to Mohaafeth (Hampton Court) and Alenquer (King Edward VII).

“Some won’t go because of the ground, and quite a few won’t get in the handicaps, but we’ll do our best.”

The sponsors cut the winner to 12-1 from 16s for the Ebor.

Al Aasy team to let dust settle following Coronation defeat

Connections of Al Aasy have yet to firm up plans for his next outing following his narrow defeat in the Coronation Cup at Epsom on Friday.

The William Haggas-trained four-year-old was a hot favourite to successfully graduate to Group One level, having dominated his rivals in the successive Group Three races at Newbury this spring.

The Sea The Stars colt looked sure to prevail after coming from the rear to lead in the final furlong, but was ultimately beaten a neck by the rallying Pyledriver, with the pair pulling clear of dual Group One winner Japan in third.

Angus Gold, racing manager for Al Aasy’s owners Shadwell Estate Company Ltd, said: “Having gone a neck up, it was disappointing not to maintain it. Anyway, he ran a good race and they were seven lengths clear.

“If you took the winner out he’d have won on the bridle and everybody would be saying what a good horse he was.

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“We’ll regroup and see how he comes out of it and then make a plan.”

Al Aasy holds an entry in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot next week, while the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the end of July will also be considered.

Gold also raised the possibility of Al Aasy dropping back in trip before the end of the year.

He added: “The one thing I would say in the horse’s defence is they’ve always said to me he shows a lot of speed in his work. He got outstayed the other day. Whether he didn’t quite home, I’m not sure.

“There is a possibility he might come back to a mile and a quarter at some stage. I think we need to run him over a mile and a half on a more conventional track, hopefully on less severe ground, and see where we are.

“I would imagine it (Hardwicke Stakes) would be too soon, but I haven’t spoken to William about it yet. It will be that or the King George, or we decide to drop him back in trip and go for something shorter.”

Later on the same afternoon the Shadwell team had high hopes of claiming Classic glory with Zeyaadah in the Cazoo Oaks, but Roger Varian’s filly ultimately disappointed behind the brilliant Snowfall.

Zeyaadah (left) was well beaten in the Oaks
Zeyaadah (left) was well beaten in the Oaks (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She certainly didn’t get home, but having said that she wouldn’t have won it at a mile and a quarter,” said Gold.

“It would have taken something to win the race – she (Snowfall) was thoroughly impressive.

“My own feeling is I’ve never thought of her as an Oaks filly. I think back to our previous Oaks winners and I would have been surprised to have put her in that category.

“I think she’s a very nice, tough filly. We’ll bring her back to a mile and a quarter for a Group Three or Group Two, again on a more conventional track.

“We’ll look for options later in the summer. She can always go back up in class if she merits it.”

Hampton Court date for Mohaafeth

Mohaafeth is likely to contest the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot next week following his late withdrawal from the Cazoo Derby.

The Frankel colt was considered a leading contender for the premier Classic, having made it three from three this season with a hugely impressive display in the Listed Newmarket Stakes on Guineas weekend.

However, with rainfall throughout Friday ensuring the ground was on the soft side, trainer William Haggas made the difficult to decision to pull him out of the Derby and instead wait for the Royal meeting.

Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell Estate Company Ltd, said: “William has always been quoted as saying this horse wants fast ground.

“We all walked the track and we thought it was probably fine to run, but William made the point that it wasn’t his ground and his feeling was that he wasn’t going to win it in that ground.

“If you did run you’d risk messing up Ascot, it’s the middle of the season and we need to know where we’re going with this horse.

“If he’d run seventh or eighth and had a hard race and hadn’t recovered in time for Ascot, we’re getting to July without knowing what sort of horse we’ve got to go to war with, so to speak.

“William just felt it wasn’t the right thing to do to run him.”

Mohaafeth is entered in the King Edward VII Stakes on Friday week, but is set to run instead over a mile and a quarter at Group Three level the previous afternoon.

Gold said: “It’s most likely he’ll run in the mile-and-a-quarter race, I would think. There is quite a body of opinion around the horse that thinks he might end up a mile-and-a-quarter horse.

“We weren’t sure about the mile and a half going into the Derby. I’ve noticed his breeder has been quoted twice now, saying she doesn’t think he’d stay – and he has got a lot of speed, this horse.

“Maybe it will turn out a mile and a quarter is his best trip – time will tell.”

Derby absentee Mohaafeth to head to Royal Ascot

Mohaafeth will head to Royal Ascot after being taken out of the Cazoo Derby due to ground conditions at Epsom.

William Haggas had made no secret of the fact he thinks the Shadwell-owned colt is not at his best on rain-softened ground, and following the significant downfall at Epsom on Friday, the going was officially described as good to soft for the premier Classic.

Haggas subsequently believed it best to sidestep the race with Mohaafeth, who is unbeaten in three starts so far this term, and instead point towards the Royal meeting with the Frankel colt.

He told ITV Racing: “After lots of soul searching and discussion – and my god, we’ve had some – we have decided to scratch and go to Ascot.

“It was a decision that was left essentially, by Sheikha Hissa (of Shadwell), to me, and I have never felt the horse is comfortable on soft, dead ground. It’s not soft, but it is dead and I don’t really want to run in a race I don’t think I can win.

“I’m very grateful for the support. I’m sure it’s right, but we’ll never know if it’s right or wrong. We all want to win the Derby, every owner, jockey and trainer wants to win the Derby, but we want to have a fighting chance.

“This is a young horse with a lot of potential and he’s got a lot more to offer, so I think it will be a bump in the road running him. So yes, it’s sad, but in a way I’m relieved.”

Shaamit carried plenty of Haggas confidence before famous Derby win

William Haggas is now firmly established in the upper echelons of the Newmarket training ranks – but when he saddled Shaamit in the 1996 Derby that was far from the case.

At that time Haggas was relatively new on the scene and trained around 40 horses, so the notion of winning the Derby had never really crossed his mind, apart from perhaps in the small hours when allowing himself to dream of it.

Having married Lester Piggott’s daughter, Maureen, though, there was a good chance some pearls of wisdom would find their way to the trainer.

A late two-year-old, Shaamit did not break his maiden until his second outing at Doncaster in November – strangely for that time of year on good ground – and it was hard to imagine the next time he would be seen he would etch his name into Derby folklore.

In modern times only one other horse had won the Classic first time out at three, and that was 12 months earlier when Lammtarra, who would end his career unbeaten, managed it.

“It was a great time then because we had so few horses,” said Haggas, who is set to be represented this year by the strongly-fancied Mohaafeth.

“The Derby means exactly the same now as it did 25 years ago. It is the ultimate race for an English trainer to try to win.

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“We’ve had a few darts at it unsuccessfully, but if we’d known how difficult it was to find a runner, never mind win it all those years ago, we’d have enjoyed Shaamit even more.

“What he did was pretty phenomenal because in the history of the race only two horses have won it on their first start at three.

“He must have been a fantastically good horse on that day. We only had 40 horses then, chugging along fairly ordinarily.”

William and Maureen Haggas with Shaamit
William and Maureen Haggas with Shaamit (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

A son of the great Mtoto, Shaamit beat the Dante one-two of Glory Of Dancer and Dushyantor, who finished fourth and second at Epsom – with subsequent St Leger winner Shantou, ridden by a young Frankie Dettori, in third.

On the day Shaamit and Michael Hills were ready winners, with a performance which promised so much more.

“Horses like him don’t come along very often. He had all the ability, he had the balance, the ability to stay and the ability to quicken. It’s a long time ago and then Galileo came along and he’s dominated the race ever since, I think it’s fair to say,” said Haggas.

“When Galileo is no longer with us or not producing horses, then it might open it up a bit more.”

Shaamit’s career never reached the heights that Epsom suggested it would. He was a respectable third to Pentire in the King George, fourth in the Irish Champion Stakes and seventh in the Arc.

Unfortunately his stud career did not last long as he died as an eight-year-old – but in that short spell he produced a Classic scorer in St Leger winner Bollin Eric.

Shaamit provides William Haggas and Michael Hills with their crowning glory
Shaamit provides William Haggas and Michael Hills with their crowning glory (David Cheskin/PA)

Reflecting further, Haggas explained that in the weeks before the Derby, Shaamit galloped with horses from other yards, a rare thing these days.

“I hardly speak to my wife now in the evenings, but in those days we still used to and she asked me the night before how I thought he’d run,” he said.

“We’d been just as involved as each other in his journey, but I did say to her I think he could win because he’d galloped with other Newmarket horses. He’d gone with the Dante winner, Glory Of Dancer, trained by Paul Kelleway, on the July Course after the Dante and Shaamit went better than him.

“Then we had a gallop with Henry Cecil and went with Dushyantor, who was second in the Dante, and Clever Cliche, who was a nice horse, and a nice older horse led them and Shaamit went better than them as well.

“So I knew going there on home form he was better than the Newmarket runners and they were the favourites. We had the usual thing – that it was the worst Derby people had ever seen at Epsom – but it didn’t matter because we won it and I’d be delighted for the same to happen if the headlines are ‘Mohaafeth wins worst Derby on record’.

“We don’t work with other yards now as we have enough horses to do it ourselves. I’m sure if someone asked you’d get a hand, but it’s not satisfactory having a mixed gallop and most trainers and jockeys have a different agenda to yours.

“The Cecil gallop was fantastic as he used to have lots watching. He had a majestic grey pony and in those days I used to ride out. I cantered off after the work and Ray McGinn, a former jockey, rode Shaamit every day, I asked him if it was all OK, knowing it was.

“But he said ‘no, he’s not fit guv’nor’. Those were great days. It was fun, but it’s a long time ago. We used to take the mick out of Alec Stewart for talking about Mtoto every day and I don’t want to be in the same boat with Shaamit.”

Al Aasy tops Coronation Cup field

Al Aasy heads seven contenders for Friday’s Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom.

William Haggas’ four-year-old is a hot favourite to strike Group One gold at the first time of asking following two comfortable Group Three successes this term, in the John Porter and Aston Park Stakes, both at Newbury.

Al Aasy will not have it all his own way though, with Aidan O’Brien fielding two top-class performers in full-brothers Mogul and Japan.

Japan returned to form with victory in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester last month, while Mogul has finished seventh in the Dubai Sheema Classic and third in the Prix Ganay in his two 2021 starts so far.

Both are no strangers to Epsom, with Japan having finished third in the 2019 Derby, while Mogul was seventh in the Classic last year.

Another horse familiar with the Downs is Pyledriver, who represents William Muir and Chris Grassick.

Pyledriver winning the Great Voltigeur at York last season
Pyledriver winning the Great Voltigeur at York last season (David Davies/PA)

The four-year-old endured a luckless run in last year’s Derby, but did strike Group Two gold at Royal Ascot and York, before finishing a fine third in the St Leger at Doncaster.

He warmed up for this outing by chasing home Sir Ron Priestley at Newmarket last month.

The Kirsten Rausing-owned pair of Alpinista and Albaflora, trained by Sir Mark Prescott and Ralph Beckett respectively, plus Highland Chief from Paul and Oliver Cole’s yard complete the line-up.

Sacred camp eye return to sprinting at Royal Ascot

High-class filly Sacred is likely to be dropped in distance for a tilt at the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

An impressive debut winner at Newmarket last summer, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned three-year-old went on to finish second in the Queen Mary at the Royal meeting, the Lowther Stakes at York and the Flying Childers at Doncaster.

Having successfully stepped up to seven furlongs on her return to action in the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket in April, connections allowed the William Haggas-trained filly to return to the Rowley Mile for a tilt at Classic glory in the 1000 Guineas.

However, while she was not disgraced in finishing seventh, she is now set to return to sprint distances.

Sacred in winning action at Newmarket
Sacred in winning action at Newmarket (David Davies/PA)
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Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park’s managing director, said: “That (Commonwealth Cup) is the wish at this point in time.

“We thought that she didn’t stay in the Guineas. The Commonwealth Cup is a tough race, but it’s the logical race for her.

“She was the last off the bridle at Newmarket, in fairness – she just ran out of puff.

“We think she’s come on well for the experience, and William is pleased with her, so we’ll roll the dice.”

Another exciting Cheveley Park filly in contention for the Royal meeting is Sir Michael Stoute’s Potapova.

The daughter of Invincible Spirit has made a huge impression in her two starts to date – winning by six and a half lengths at Chelmsford in November and eight lengths at Redcar this month.

Richardson confirmed a step up to Group One level for the Coronation Stakes is under serious consideration.

He added: “We haven’t made that decision yet. That is what I would favour personally, but Sir Michael is playing his cards close to his chest, so we’ll see.

“I know that he rates this filly very highly. She did take a while to come to herself last year, but obviously she has come earlier (this year) and she has plenty of potential, which we’ve already witnessed.

“We can’t commit (to the Coronation) just yet, but I’m hoping she might turn up there.

“She’s got plenty of talent and she’s one that we can bring along gradually – and I’m sure she’ll keep improving.”

Al Aasy and Love feature in Coronation Cup confirmations

Hot favourite Al Aasy and dual Classic-winning filly Love are among 11 confirmations for the Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom on Friday.

The William Haggas-trained Al Aasy is a warm order to successfully step up to Group One level, having looked every inch a top-class colt in winning successive Group Three prizes at Newbury this spring.

Love, who was a brilliant winner of both the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Oaks at Epsom last season, has not been seen in competitive action since winning the Yorkshire Oaks in August.

Love was an imperious winner of the Oaks
Love was an imperious winner of the Oaks (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

Aidan O’Brien recently raised the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot as her likely comeback target, but she retains the option of returning to Epsom next week.

The Ballydoyle handler, who has saddled a record eight previous winners of the Coronation Cup, has also confirmed Broome, Japan, Mogul and last year’s Derby hero Serpentine.

Should Love not make the trip across the Irish Sea, Japan would look to be O’Brien’s chief contender after making a winning start to his campaign in Chester’s Ormonde Stakes.

Pyledriver showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with last year
Pyledriver showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with last year (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Pyledriver is set to represent William Muir and his training partner Chris Grassick.

The Harbour Watch colt won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur at York last summer and made a promising reappearance when runner-up in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket in early May.

Highland Chief (Paul and Oliver Cole), potential French raider In Swoop (Francis-Henri Graffard) and Kirsten Rausing-owned fillies Albaflora (Ralph Beckett) and Alpinista (Sir Mark Prescott) are the other hopefuls.

Haggas sets My Oberon another Group One challenge in Prix d’Ispahan

William Haggas is keen to give My Oberon another opportunity to claim Group One honours in the Prix d’Ispahan at ParisLongchamp.

The Dubawi colt made an impressive start to his season in the Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket last month, earning himself a step up to the top level in the Lockinge at Newbury.

My Oberon could finish only seventh in a race dominated by the brilliant Palace Pier, and Haggas is hoping the sun is shines in Paris on Sunday to give his charge the best chance of bouncing back to form.

“It was a pretty moderate run (in the Lockinge), but he’s come out of it very well,” the Newmarket trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“I attributed it solely to the ground and I’m hoping they have in France a day like we’ve had in Newmarket – a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Hopefully the ground will dry to suit him.

“I’m not sure whether he’s up to it (Group One level). But he’s a pretty good horse, and he’s won a Group Three.

“Sons of Dubawi have done terrifically well at stud, and I’m trying to find him a race he can win, possibly a Group One race, and then he’s a stallion in the making.

“That’s the idea behind it – he’s never going to win a Group One if he doesn’t run in one. That’s why he’s going to France.”

He added: “I think a mile and a quarter in time will be good for him. I got distracted and went for the Lockinge, which was a mistake.

“I’d always planned to go to the d’Ispahan. We might be flying a bit high – but nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

My Oberon is one of two British-trained runners in a seven-strong field, along with Charlie Hills’ Tilsit.

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner The Revenant bids to open his account for the campaign, while Skalleti – runner-up to the Haggas-trained Addeybb in last season’s Champion Stakes – is seeking to take his winning tally to three from three this season.

Andre Fabre’s dual Group One winner Victor Ludorum also features.

Classic Trial winner Alenquer set to reappear in King Edward VII

Alenquer has Royal Ascot on his agenda having been forced to miss the Cazoo Derby and the German equivalent.

A surprise winner of the Sandown Classic Trial, William Haggas was contemplating supplementing the lightly-raced colt for Epsom but a minor problem scuppered that plan.

“He won’t be supplemented, he had a little blip before the Dante but is on his way back, he’s going to miss the Derby,” said Haggas.

“We have the option of supplementing for the Irish Derby.

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“I had my heart set on the German Derby because he’s by the German-bred stallion Adlerflug, but Germany have basically said they don’t want us as England is on the red list in Germany surprisingly.

“I would like to think he will go for the King Edward VII.”

Ilaraab, who helped put Haggas’ Derby hope Mohaafeth through his paces on the Rowley Mile on Wednesday, will aim to stretch his unbeaten run to seven in the Hardwicke Stakes.

“I think he’ll go, he’s a dude,” said Haggas.

Ilaraab winning his sixth successive race, this time at York on his reappearance
Ilaraab winning his sixth successive race, this time at York on his reappearance (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s got a lot to find, but the handicapper seems to think all my handicap winners are exceptional and stuffs them up and gives me no choice but to go for a race of better quality.

“France is so difficult to get to, Ireland is pretty competitive so there’s no other option, but I’ll be delighted to take him there. I think he’s better left-handed, but you can’t have everything.”

Stable stalwart and Champion Stakes winner Addeybb is also likely to be Ascot-bound, as long as the ground is suitable, having again struck Group One gold on his visit to Australia.

“He’s marvellous. He needs rain. He ran twice in Australia on good ground, but was really unfortunate,” said Haggas.

“The championships were called off on the first weekend because of a monsoon when the Ranvet was supposed to be run so it would have been heavy.

“They then put everything back a week and when they ran the Ranvet it was good (ground). The week the Queen Elizabeth should have been it was heavy, but a week later it was back to good again.

“I won’t run him again on good and certainly not in blinkers, but he’ll go for the Prince of Wales’s or the Eclipse. He’s on schedule for the Prince of Wales’s.”

Al Aasy carrying plenty of confidence as Coronation Cup looms

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.

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“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.”

Al Aasy in full flight winning the John Porter
Al Aasy in full flight winning the John Porter (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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.

Mick Kinane with Sea The Stars after their Derby win
Mick Kinane with Sea The Stars after their Derby win (Daniel Hambury/PA)

“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.”

Haggas ‘up for it big time’ if ground comes right for Mohaafeth

William Haggas put the finishing touches to his Cazoo Derby hope Mohaafeth on the Rowley Mile on Wednesday – with confidence seemingly growing he can add a second victory in the premier Classic.

It is 25 years since a relatively-unheralded Haggas won the blue riband event with the unconsidered Shaamit – and despite winning many big races around the world since, there has never been another Derby.

That is something the Newmarket handler is keen to rectify next week, and he believes the Frankel colt – who has improved in leaps and bounds in three outings this season – gives him a fine chance of doing so.

Smart stable companions Ilaraab and Faylaq were utilised in the racecourse gallop, along with Tom Marquand and Cieren Fallon, as Jim Crowley put his Epsom mount through his paces.

Mohaafeth had another trip to Newmarket on Wednesday having won there twice easily this season
Mohaafeth had another trip to Newmarket on Wednesday, having won there twice easily this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Haggas said: “He’s very good, Jim came and rode him, and he worked with two very smart older horses and went very nicely.

“The ground was too soft really, and I’ve been quoted several times as saying he’s a top-of-the ground horse – and I stick by that. It was surprisingly soft on the Rowley Mile, but he travelled very comfortably with Ilaraab and Faylaq.

“It was a hard piece of work, and now we hopefully can have an easy time as we lead into next Saturday.

“I wasn’t trying to find out if he was going to win the Derby. But I wanted it like a racecourse gallop should be, so he walked around the paddock to make it different from a normal gallop.

“I gave him a hard task today. Faylaq is rated 105 – which is probably too high – Cieren Fallon rode him, and Tom Marquand rode Ilaraab. So if you take weight-for-age in, he was probably asked a lot, but I wanted the other two to get going three furlongs out so he had a stretch. It just means he can have an easy week next week.

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“I reiterated to Tom and Cieren, it wasn’t a race, it was a gallop to get the best out of Mohaafeth.”

Several other Derby and Oaks contenders went to Epsom on Monday for a workout – and having seen the conditions, Haggas is hoping for a few dry days next week.

He added: “The ground was bordering on heavy at Epsom on Monday. But it dries pretty quickly there, so if we can get some warmer weather Andrew (Cooper, clerk of the course) won’t even have to touch his watering can.

“If it’s soft I would be very keen not to run and wait until Ascot, but if it’s good or faster we’re up for it big time.”

While Haggas admits there may be some in the race with plenty of improvement to come, he is hoping experience is on Mohaafeth’s side.

“The horses who seem to do well in the Derby are ones like Ed Dunlop’s horse (John Leeper) who is clearly going to do better over further – he’s pretty good over a mile and a quarter, but he’s going to be even better over further,” he said.

“He’s got other issues that we don’t have in that ours is a ‘now’ horse -he knows what to do, whereas Ed’s, who I’m just using as an example, it might come a race too soon.

“It’s an open Derby and an exciting one, but it doesn’t appear to be clearly dominated at this stage by Aidan (O’Brien) – there’s Mr (Jim) Bolger and a few of us English souls who can put up a horse who could be a contender.”

Mohaafeth came home alone in the Newmarket Stakes
Mohaafeth came home alone in the Newmarket Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The fact the Derby is still so revered around the world is because of its uniqueness – the twists and turns going uphill and downhill – and Haggas concedes that until a horse has been to Epsom once there is always a nagging doubt.

However, he takes heart from something his father-in-law Lester Piggott once told him.

Haggas said: “Of course the track is a worry – and you don’t know until it happens – but I think he’s got a bit of speed, and Lester always used to say you need speed from the top of the gate to get in a position that allows you to amble around the corner, so that will help him.

“Hopefully he gets a middle draw, so Jim can get a good position.

“The requirements haven’t changed – it’s still a big test. The staff are a little bit more edgy – you try to appear cool. Ed is a classic case as he walks round very calm, but he’s like a duck – underneath his legs will be going like the clappers, like all of us. He’ll be tense, because it’s our biggest race.

“We’re lucky to have contenders in the biggest races, but there ain’t one like the Derby.”

Mohaafeth runs in the famous blue and while silks of Shadwell Stud, whose founder Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum died earlier this year.

“It goes without saying how emotional it would be, given what has happened this year. Sheikh Hamdan would be thrilled, said Haggas.

“It would be the best thing, but you can only dream.

“There are plenty of dangers. I thought at the time the Sandown trial we won (with Alenquer) was very strong, but it turns out it wasn’t a very good race – although Lone Eagle did win the other day.

“I suppose Bolshoi Ballet was impressive, Mac Swiney has won a Guineas – he’s got to stay, but the trainer says he will. We’ll have all on, beating the Irish. The one I think ultimately will be the best one will be High Definition.

“I’m sure he’ll run, because Ryan (Moore) looked after him at York, and he’s virtually certain to be better over a mile and a half.

“But he’s got the track to contend with – and if he’s slow into his stride and the Piggott theory about needing a good position … well, it will be hard for him.

“I thought Roger’s (Varian) horse (Third Realm) was impressive at Lingfield. He’s nuggety and bound to run in the first four, I would think. But he’s a stayer, and they’ll be attacking a long way from home.

“I’m hoping Mohaafeth goes through a lot of the race on the bridle, and then the last bit we won’t know.

“I think probably Bolshoi Ballet will win, because he’s got a lot in his favour, providing he stays, but most Galileos stay really well.”