Tag Archive for: William Haggas

Haggas has sights set on King George for Dubai Honour

William Haggas is planning to roll the dice in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes with Dubai Honour following his Group One victory in France on Sunday.

Already a dual winner at the highest level in Australia, the six-year-old added a major European prize to his CV when landing the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in the hands of Tom Marquand.

Haggas is fully aware his stable stalwart will face a far sterner test in Ascot’s midsummer highlight on July 27, but is happy to let him take his chance.

Reflecting on his French success, the Somerville Lodge handler said: “I was hoping he could do something like that. I’ve always believed him to be better right-handed, but he was good left-handed yesterday.

“He was always travelling well, it was a good set-up for him and he did well. I watched him all the way round and to me he never looked like he was going to get beaten.

“He doesn’t get much credit, but he’s a pretty good horse. Maybe he’s just getting his act together aged six or maybe we’re just getting the hang of him.

“I think he might go for the King George, I don’t see that we’ve got anything to lose.”

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Plans fluid for Economics, but Haggas outlines potential routes

William Haggas is considering a return to York for his Dante Stakes winner Economics, although he stressed there is “lots to discuss” ahead of what could be a big summer for his exciting colt.

Fourth on his sole juvenile start at Newmarket in November, the son of Night Of Thunder opened his account on his three-year-old debut at Newbury in the spring before taking a step up to Group Two class in his stride with a six-length victory on the Knavesmire in mid-May.

Connections resisted the temptation to supplement Economics for the Derby in favour of sticking to a mile and a quarter for the time being, and they are not short of options over the intermediate distance in the second half of the season.

While hesitant to commit to any future plans, Haggas views the Sky Bet York Stakes later this month as a suitable potential stepping-stone to the Juddmonte International over the same course and distance in August, with a trip to France a possible alternative should Bahraini owner Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa instead favour targeting the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September.

“He’s back in work and he should have a good second half of the season,” Haggas said on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

“He’s a lovely horse, but he’s a great, big horse and he’s not just a three-year-old – he’s going to be a four-year-old and maybe even a five-year-old, who knows?

“I don’t know how long it will be because if he’s top, top, top class he’ll be whisked off to stud, but I can’t believe he’s not going to be better next year.

“He’s a baby – he’s only run three times in his life and he’s got lots to look forward to.”

Outlining the possible options, the trainer added: “Obviously the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion is right on the radar because of the race title and His Highness’ involvement in it.

“The Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (at Deauville) is on August 15, so that knocks out the Juddmonte International and I’m quite keen to look at the Juddmonte as well.

“The obvious fit is the Sky Bet race (at York) on July 27, but if we don’t make that or don’t want to go there then we can go for the Juddmonte and he can do a racecourse gallop, but we’ve got 86 miles of gallops in Newmarket when they’re all open and if we can’t train them here then it’s a poor do!

“But I think to get the freshness out of him would do him good (to have a run) and that’s the sort of (plan) – it’s York/York or Deauville/Ireland, that’s how you think, but we’ve got lots to discuss.”

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No July Cup, but big sprints will come into focus for Lake Forest

Connections of Lake Forest are hopeful they have a top sprinter on their hands after his fine second in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

Owned by Brighton & Hove Albion supremo Tony Bloom and Ian McAleavy, the son of No Nay Never won the Gimcrack Stakes as a juvenile but had not been seen since finishing down the field in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.

Having missed an intended tune-up at Haydock on account of soft ground, the William Haggas-trained colt ran a race run full of promise on his return to action, faring best behind Kevin Ryan’s impressive winner Inisherin.

“We wanted to try to get a prep run into him, but we didn’t want to run him on soft ground because his ideal conditions are six furlongs and quick ground,” said Bloom’s racing manager Sean Graham.

“We had a race at Haydock in mind, but the ground up there was soft so we missed the prep run and just went straight to Ascot.

“He ran very very well and Tom Marquand gave him the perfect ride, he got the very best out of the horse with the way he needs to be ridden. We were very pleased.

“If you finish second at Royal Ascot, a bit of you feels disappointed you didn’t win the race, but then the horse has run an absolute blinder and you are delighted going forward.

“It will be the plan to campaign him as a top-level sprinter and hopefully he will be able to hold his own in those races.

“Obviously the Commonwealth Cup is only open to three-year-olds and later in the season he is going to have to take the jump up and take on older horses and that is when things will get a bit more difficult.”

The July Cup has been mooted as a potential next port of call for both Inisherin and Clive Cox’s Commonwealth Cup third Jasour, but Lake Forest will not join his Ascot rivals in action during Newmarket’s July Festival having not been handed an entry and no plan to supplement.

Instead his team are minded to feel their way through the sprint programme book and search for ideal conditions in a bid to turn their Ascot silver medal to gold.

Graham continued: “I did ask William on Friday, if the horse ran well, where would we go next? William said the Commonwealth Cup was the main focus and he hadn’t even looked ahead.

“Even if we had something in mind, we have to wait to see how the horse comes out of the race before deciding how soon we run him again.

“He ran second in the July Stakes, but his other two runs at Newmarket were disappointing. He got beat at odds-on in a novice race and then he ran poorly in the Middle Park. I had a chat with William going way back, and having watched back his videos, I said that I don’t actually think the horse likes Newmarket.

“So I don’t think the July Cup would be on the agenda for him and that was the reason he wasn’t entered in it. His ideal conditions are six furlongs, quick ground and a flat track and that’s what we will be looking for. Those final decisions are left to William.

“He’s in great hands and it could be the case he has a few more races this year and if he strengthens up we could always keep him in training next year.

“Nothing has been decided yet, but he is a great horse to look forward to. He’s finished second in a Group One on his only start so far at three and with a bit of improvement and progression, you would like to think he can go a bit closer next time.”

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Montassib runs down Kinross to snatch Chipchase spoils

Montassib claimed the most notable victory of his career to date when narrowly outpointing Kinross in the Jenningsbet Nun Street Newcastle Open Now Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle.

As a dual Group One and multiple Group Two winner, Ralph Beckett’s Kinross brought a touch of star quality to this six-furlong Group Three – and having sidestepped the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, the seven-year-old was a 5-2 favourite on what his first outing since October.

The William Haggas-trained Montassib, who actually made a winning debut at Newcastle four years ago, landed Doncaster’s Cammidge Trophy on his first start of 2024, before finishing a creditable sixth in last month’s Duke of York Stakes.

After coming under pressure shortly after halfway, Kinross battled his way to the front under Hector Crouch, but he was unable to resist the late surge of 7-2 shot Montassib and Cieren Fallon, who got up to score by three-quarters of a length.

Haggas, who was landing this prize for the third year in succession following the recent triumphs of Sense Of Duty and Tiber Flow, said of his latest victor: “I’m delighted to win a Group Three with him, he’s a good horse who just wants a bit of cut in the ground.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go now, but he won’t go to Goodwood for the Stewards’ Cup. He’d have to carry a Group-race penalty now, so I think we’re doomed (in handicap company).

“I think we’ll stick to stakes races and go wherever we can get a bit of dig in the ground.

“He’ll be an outsider, but it would be nice to think he might end up running on Champions Day at Ascot.”

Cieren Fallon with Montassib at Newcastle
Cieren Fallon with Montassib at Newcastle (Steve Welsh/PA)

Fallon was completing a quickfire double on the card for his boss after Wiltshire’s victory in the opening race.

He said: “He’s such a good horse and he has such a turn of foot off a strong gallop. We saw it at Doncaster, where he had nowhere to go with half a furlong to go and he got the gap and off he went. It was the same today.

“At York the last day, things didn’t work out, I didn’t give him the best of rides and I had to make up for it today. I was very confident, as with Kinross coming in off such a long lay-off, I thought if I was going to get him anywhere, it was going to be in the last half-furlong and everything went right.”

Crouch was pleased with the performance of Kinross on his comeback, saying: “He ran a cracker, he just got tired in the last half-furlong and was run down by a race-fit rival.

“He’s no slouch the winner and Kinross is right where we want him to be. He’s going to step forwards and has bigger targets. It’s really going to bring him forwards, I was pleased that he battled hard, he went and hit the front and just got tired.”

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Waleefy in the winner’s circle, just like illustrious big brothers

Waleefy may have found his niche as a sprinter, as the half-brother to both Baaeed and Hukum opened his account in the Aston Martin Handicap at Newmarket.

Given his illustrious relations thrived over a mile and upwards, it could be somewhat a surprise that the son of Night Of Thunder flourished over the six-furlong distance.

However, the way the William Haggas-trained 9-4 favourite quickened off a slow pace on the lightning fast ground on the July course suggests there will be no rush to head back up in trip.

“He’s a bonny little horse, obviously he is not the class of his recent brothers, but he’s a late May foal and he was always going to improve,” said Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell.

“He was tiny as a yearling and has grown to a good size now and he’s very consistent.

“It was a bit of a gamble bringing him back to six and we weren’t certain, but he always did look a sprinter and now he’s got a bit more length to him. William and I had a chat and said we’ll give it a go and see and interestingly Jim (Crowley, jockey) said they went very slow and then sprinted.

“It didn’t go to plan and that’s why Jim went early and possibly the ground was quick enough for him, he didn’t look overly comfortable on it when I watched the replay there.

“He could have found his distance. He stays seven furlongs, but it’s good to see he had the speed to do that over six.”

There was a double for the Haggas operation when Tareefa (1-3 favourite) built on a debut fourth at Haydock to take the My Pension Expert Fillies’ Novice Stakes, while there was an impressive display from Eve Johnson Houghton’s Billboard Star in the opening Black Type Accountancy British EBF “Confined” Restricted Novice Stakes.

A half-brother to the stable’s Royal Ascot winner Chipotle, he was far from disgraced in his Goodwood debut and could be set for bigger things having obliged favourite-backers at odds of 13-8.

“He ran a lovely race at Goodwood when he was only just ready for his first run, but he has taken a step forward and I would have been disappointed with much less,” said winning rider Charlie Bishop.

Billboard Star impressed at Newmarket
Billboard Star impressed at Newmarket (PA)

“I felt them coming to me three furlongs out and I thought he had enough class to beat them so I got on with it hands and heels and he wandered around a little bit.

“He’s still got some learning to do and I haven’t looked under the bonnet too much there, it was more a case of getting his job done today and hopefully there is something more flashy down the line for him. He wouldn’t be the first of Eve’s to come out of a restricted novice and do something more.”

There was a treble for Kieran Shoemark at Salisbury on Wednesday and he wasted little time adding to his tally with a fine front-running ride aboard Campaign Medal (9-2) in the TrustATrader Handicap.

After a frustrating start to the season, the winners are slowly beginning to come for the Clarehaven number one as he guided home another John and Thady Gosden-trained winner.

Kieran Shoemark struck aboard Campaign Medal
Kieran Shoemark struck aboard Campaign Medal (PA)

“He was pricking his ears and was possibly a little bit green in front, but once I got that rail turning in I was able to use that as a steering aid and he was very game,” said Shoemark.

“In a short space of time the horses are thriving, they are on fire and it was only going to be a matter of time. Ascot was quiet, but I’m glad I didn’t have to sit on the bench too long after.”

Two of Darkness’ (15-2) three career victories have come on the July course as David O’Meara’s six-year-old reaffirmed his love for Newmarket in the Boodles handicap.

Meanwhile, while George Boughey’s Composite (9-2) went one better than his recent Windsor second to claim the Air Charter Services Handicap.

The four-year-old, who began life in bumpers, is owned by Ed Babington and Phil Cunningham and could now have a date at Tattersalls next month after notching his third win in nine starts.

Cunningham said: “He ran a couple of tremendous races for us on the all-weather then lost his way a little bit.

“I think by George’s own admission the horses just weren’t firing for a short while, but they’re flying again now.

“He’s in the July sale and the unfortunate thing is Ed’s a seller whereas I’m a keeper, but Ed is going to pull rank on this one. Ed bought him for £5,000 I think, so he’s done well.”

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Unequal Love is Wokingham wonder for Haggas

William Haggas claimed his first winner of this year’s Royal Ascot meeting as Unequal Love emerged victorious in the Wokingham Stakes.

The master of Somerville Lodge had saddled 15 previous winners at the showpiece fixture, but with Space Legend and Lake Forest both second on Friday and Doom and Maljoom finishing third earlier in the week, it was in danger of becoming a frustrating few days.

Unequal Love (12-1) had won five of her nine starts in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud, including a Listed victory at Newmarket on her first run of the current campaign, and was last seen finishing fifth in the Group Two Greenlands Stakes in Ireland.

The daughter of Dutch Art was dropping back into handicap company and after quickening up to lead, she had enough in reserve to fend off the strong-finishing 4-1 favourite Dark Trooper by half a length, with Orazio only a head further behind in third.

Haggas said: “I wasn’t going to run her to be honest with you, but Mrs (Patricia) Thompson said she had all her grandchildren coming and that she would like a runner, so I said I’d be delighted – what do I know!

“We knew the pace was on that side, I’m so thrilled, absolutely delighted. She’s homebred so to have a winner at Ascot for Cheveley Park, it’s just brilliant.”

Marquand said: “It was good to have a winner yesterday, but without a Summerville Lodge winner it just felt that the week was just lacking something.

“I’m thrilled to win on this filly as she’s one of my favourites in training. She’s not a Group One filly, but just her demeanour and everything about her and being one of Cheveley Park’s it’s nice.

“To be fair you could have nearly written her off being drawn one, it looked an impossible task on paper.

“She’s a lot quicker to get moving now and it’s a case of measuring when to go and win the race, but I had no choice about when to go. I couldn’t believe how well she was moving after a couple of furlongs.”

James Doyle said of Dark Trooper: “He’s a dude, he’s run a cracker. The action was just away from me a bit – he prefers to follow, follow, follow, and have a crack. But the runners dropped away and my targets were no longer targets inside the three, so we had to make a bit of running by ourselves, but really proud of him.”

Saffie Osborne was left frustrated after flying from last place into third on Orazio.

She said: “Obviously I was sat last – a lot of traffic issues. It’s frustrating as I felt like another couple of strides and I would have been in front, but it’s one of those things in those big-field handicaps.”

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Desert aiming to be Royal Ascot Hero again

There will be few more popular winners at Royal Ascot this week than Desert Hero should he register victory at the meeting for a second successive year in Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes.

The William Haggas-trained chestnut brought the house down 12 months ago when providing the King and Queen with their first taste of Royal Ascot success after coming out on top in a pulsating renewal of the King George V Stakes.

Desert Hero went on to win the Gordon Stakes before having to make do with minor honours in third when bidding to emulate Dunfermline, who 46 years earlier had provided the late Queen Elizabeth II with the last of her five British Classic wins in the St Leger.

The King and Queen celebrate Desert Hero's Royal Ascot win
The King and Queen celebrate Desert Hero’s Royal Ascot win (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Having been gelded during the winter, the son of Sea The Stars was beaten only a head by Okeechobee on his Sandown reappearance – and while he disappointed behind the reopposing Middle Earth in the Aston Park Stakes at Newbury on his most recent outing, his big-race pilot Tom Marquand is eyeing another afternoon to remember at the Royal meeting.

Marquand said: “Hopefully he will give me another great day. He will enjoy the trip and the ground and hopefully he will get a smooth trip round and can show what he did last year.

“I haven’t sat on him since Newbury, but I think his Sandown run (in the Gordon Richards Stakes) knocked him quite hard and it is hard to gauge sometimes how much a run takes out of a horse. I’m sure the team will have him in tip-top order.

“Last year was one of the highlights of my career and it will be tough to supersede that one, it was a special day to look back on, but hopefully there will be a few more. He needs the right trip round and a bit of luck, but hopefully he will get it.”

John and Thady Gosden’s Middle Earth was recording his fourth win from seven career starts when scoring at Newbury last month and connections are optimistic of another bold showing this weekend.

“Roaring Lion (sire) has obviously had a winner already this week (with Running Lion) and if he could have another with Middle Earth that would be lovely,” said David Redvers, racing manager to joint owners Qatar Racing.

“The horse is in great form apparently and Oisin (Murphy) thought he was probably one of his best chances of the week coming into it.

“The draw (eight of nine) isn’t ideal, but it is what it is.”

Continuous (right) winning the St Leger at Doncaster
Continuous (right) winning the St Leger at Doncaster (Tim Goode/PA)

The likely favourite is Aidan O’Brien’s St Leger hero Continuous, despite the fact he has not been seen in competitive action since finishing fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.

“We’re very happy with him and he’s had two days away,” O’Brien told Racing TV.

“We maybe didn’t have the clearest run with him in the winter and the spring, but we’re very happy with him. He’ll improve from the run, but he is ready to win and he’s a lovely, straightforward, honest horse.

“We think this is a lovely race to start him back in, but we do think he will really come forward from the run.”

Missed The Cut was a winner at the Royal meeting in 2022
Missed The Cut was a winner at the Royal meeting in 2022 (Adam Davy/PA)

Decorated American handler John Sadler – most famous for training the unbeaten Breeders’ Cup hero Flightline – will fulfil a racing ambition when Missed The Cut becomes his first ever runner at Royal Ascot.

The five-year-old was formerly a high-class operator on these shores for George Boughey, winning previously at the Royal meeting before making the move to America, where he has thrived for the California climate, winning multiple Group races at Santa Anita.

Sadler said: “The horse is doing well, he’s been in Lambourn with Ed Walker. This will be a first for me and I’ve won internationally before, I’ve won in Dubai and won Breeders’ Cups and my last trip here was to pick up the Longines award with Flightline.

“We had such a good trip to London last time, I said it would be fun to run a horse at Royal Ascot and we have the right horse with the right ownership group. A lot of things fell in line that meant it looked like a fun thing to do.

John Sadler and connections of Flightline at the Longines awards in early 2023
John Sadler and connections of Flightline at the Longines awards in early 2023 (Molly Hunter/PA)

“We tried to make Missed The Cut a little bit of a dirt horse last year, but he wasn’t at his best, so now we have put him back on turf and has run four really nice races this year. You can see on his form he has no problem with American distances and has run over a mile and a half over there many times.

“We know he can run this trip and another thing that is lovely this week is the weather is gorgeous.

“He has won at this meeting before and little things like that makes us think he fits the bill and would be a good candidate to come and give it a try. With all due respect, when you are racing against Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden, my old California teammate, we know how tough these races are but we have our fingers crossed.”

Further strength in depth is added by George Scott’s stable star Isle Of Jura, who following a memorable winter hat-trick in Bahrain, made a successful return to Britain in Goodwood’s Festival Stakes last month.

Isle of Jura and Callum Shepherd after winning at Goodwood
Isle of Jura and Callum Shepherd after winning at Goodwood (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Of Isle Of Jura, Scott said: “Obviously he’s been a star for us this year and although he’s shown a good level form and a will to win, having won seven of his last nine starts, this is a big step up.

“He’s bred to be a very good horse and has the physique of a very good horse and we’re looking forward to the race.

“We’re conscious of the step up in grade, but feel like now is the right time for it and he’s earned his right in the field.

“He’s proven himself on a right-handed track on very fast ground and that’s what he’s going to get on Saturday.

“It’s rare you find horses with his will to win and I’ve no doubt that he has the ability to compete with these horses, it’s just whether he’s quite ready for it at this stage of his development. We’ll find out on Saturday.”

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Space Legend ready to make Ascot impact

Space Legend bids to provide owners Wathnan Racing with an immediate return on their investment in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday.

Runner-up on his sole juvenile appearance at Chelmsford in December, the son of Sea The Stars went one better in some style on his reappearance at Leicester before finishing a luckless second to Meydaan in the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood last month.

Space Legend would almost certainly have won that Listed prize had he not been denied a clear run when being produced with his challenge by Tom Marquand, prompting Wathnan’s racing adviser Richard Brown to recommend that the Qatari-based operation added the promising William Haggas-trained colt to their increasingly powerful squad.

“It was one of those things that happens in Goodwood and a furlong out he was last and had to come round them,” he said.

“I was very impressed by the way he made up his ground in that last furlong and he galloped out very strongly. He was definitely an unlucky loser and is a fine, big horse.

“Hopefully he can run a big race for us at Ascot, but is hopefully also a horse with a very big future. James (Doyle) has ridden him work and liked him very much.”

Space Legend is taken on by a quartet of Aidan O’Brien-trained runners in Agenda, Diego Velazquez, Chief Little Rock and The Euphrates, with Ryan Moore siding with Diego Velazquez, who was most recently seen finishing eighth in the French Derby, having been fourth before that in the French 2000 Guineas.

Diego Velazquez and Ryan Moore at Leopardstown
Diego Velazquez and Ryan Moore at Leopardstown (Damien Eagers/PA)

“We have four in here and there is little between all of them, with perhaps Chief Little Rock and Diego Velazquez having the best form credentials as it stands,” the jockey told Betfair.

“Chief Little Rock was very good from the front over a mile and a quarter at the Curragh last time, and he steps up in trip along with my mount Diego Velazquez, who was possibly a bit below par in the French Derby last time after finishing an excellent fourth in their Guineas.

“Things didn’t go his way there (in the French Derby), and hopefully he can show his true worth here. It’s obviously a very open race and Agenda put up a big performance at Chester last time, so I wouldn’t ignore his claims. ”

Francis-Henri Graffard’s French raider Calandagan, a dual Group Three in his homeland this spring, and John and Thady Gosden’s unbeaten dual winner Theory Of Tides also feature.

Graffard said: “He is a nice horse, he has won two Group Threes and the plan has always been to take him to Ascot for this race.

“A mile and a half won’t be a problem for him. He has a nice wide draw and we will see where we stand against this quality. He is not ground dependent.”

O’Brien fires a twin assault at the Group Three Albany Stakes, with Naas Group Three winner Fairy Godmother joined by stablemate Heavens Gate, who impressed on her second start at the Curragh.

Moore, who rides the former, said: “After being beaten on her debut, Fairy Godmother reversed the form with the winner Sparkling Sea in a Group Three at Naas last time, and did so nicely after meeting trouble in running.

“Again, we are dealing with unexposed two-year-olds here but I’d like to think she is the one to beat after the way she did it last time, though you have to respect Mountain Breeze. We also have Heavens Gate in here, who we considered running in the Queen Mary on Wednesday. She is not out of this.”

Mountain Breeze looks a major contender for Charlie Appleby and William Buick after impressing twice at Newmarket in May.

“She’s a half-sister to Pinatubo and was more impressive I felt on her second start when she stepped up to six furlongs and she goes there as a live player,” said Appleby.

“It’s billed to be a competitive race, as it always is, but she’s a filly that we’ve been very pleased with since the spring and she’s not disappointed us to date.”

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Klondike collects first prize in Grand Cup at York

Klondike benefited from a power-packed Ryan Moore ride to secure top honours in the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Grand Cup at York.

Unraced as a juvenile, the son of Galileo was a narrow winner on his three-year-old debut at Newbury last season before running with credit in both the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood and Newmarket’s Bahrain Trophy.

A disappointing effort in the Geoffrey Freer on his final outing of 2023 led to him being gelded during the off-season, and having made an encouraging return in handicap company at York’s Dante meeting last month, he was the 3-1 co-favourite of three on his return to the Knavesmire for this Listed event.

Moore was in no mood to hang around, sending Klondike straight to the front on what was his first start over a mile and three-quarters and committing for home halfway up long straight.

Salt Bay emerged as the biggest threat to the William Haggas-trained leader and a late lunge meant it was tight at the line, but Klondike stuck to his guns to hold on by a short head.

The winner is now guaranteed a starting berth in the £500,000 Sky Bet Ebor over the same course and distance on August 24.

“That was a very nice performance, happy with that,” said Haggas’ assistant Issy Paul.

“He made Ryan work for it a little bit, but he was in front quite a long way out and the ground is maybe a little bit sticky for him as well.”

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Tiber Flow bounces right back from York spill

Tiber Flow put a nightmare York outing behind him to win the Betfred John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock.

William Haggas’ charge suffered a nasty experience on the Knavesmire last month, with the gelding and jockey Tom Marquand enduring a crashing spill after being hampered in the Duke of York Stakes.

That mishap clearly left no permanent marks though as he benefited from a fine Marquand ride in the Group Three affair on Merseyside.

Marquand opted to switch from a stands side position to challenge through horses, finding a perfectly-timed gap as front-runner Quinault started to falter and grab the initiative with the winning post in sight.

The 6-1 winner found plenty in the final half-furlong, coming home a length clear of Sirona with Pogo back in third.

Marquand said: “Obviously when we got him back home after York he looked fine but you just never know how a fall is going to have affected them.

“He’s a hardy little battler, everyone was happy with him, hence him being here today, but it was a bit of a fact-finding mission because as well as he looked at home you just don’t know.

“He hadn’t run over seven furlongs for a little while so I took him back from a horrible draw and in fact the race worked out beautifully. They went quick but coming up the middle made it easier for me rather than having to swing out wide.

“He seemed to really enjoy that and it’s fantastic to see him back to his best. To be fair, I just wondered if having being tried at a higher level he just found things a bit easier today, it was maybe that more than the trip – also going around a bend gave him something else to think about.

“He was strong through the line and seven furlongs is well within his stamina range.

“Before today the Chipchase at Newcastle was a possible option but whether that changes now he has seen seven out so well, I don’t know. Plans can change very fast.”

Assistant trainer Maureen Haggas added: “He’s a tough horse and as he gets older he’s probably getting a bit better.

“It didn’t look visually like he came around the bend very well, it nevertheless gave him something else to think about as he’s been doing most of his racing over six furlongs.

“There’s the Wokingham for him at Ascot but probably not, he’s won a good race today and I’m sure William and the owners will work it out.”

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Sea Theme bidding for Haggas hat-trick in race named after Lester Piggott

Sea Theme has been tasked with providing William Haggas with a third straight victory in the Betfred Nifty 50 Lester Piggott Fillies’ Stakes when she makes her seasonal return at Haydock on Saturday.

A progressive performer at three, the daughter of Sea The Stars scooped Listed honours in the Galtres Stakes before finishing her campaign with a below-par showing at Newmarket.

She now reappears in a race her Sommerville Lodge handler has won three times since 2019 and one named after his late father-in-law.

“It has been a lucky race for us and she is very well and has been working well, but it’s quite a competitive race,” said Haggas.

“I think she has a bit to find and I don’t know whether she has improved enough to win, but we will see.

“It’s a Group Three fillies’ race and we have a lot of them, so we always like to run something in it.”

Haggas is willing to ignore Sea Theme’s one disappointing showing in her career in the Princess Royal Stakes on home Newmarket soil, feeling her battling win at York before that took more than anticipated out of the talented filly.

A statue stands at Haydock, where Lester Piggott rode his first winner
A statue stands at Haydock, where Lester Piggott rode his first winner (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

“We thought she was over the top at Newmarket,” continued Haggas.

“She had a hard race in the Galtres and it was just one race too many. I would put a line through it.”

That is a view Philip Robinson, racing manager for Sea Theme’s owner Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum, concurs with.

He said: “She was a really progressive filly last year and she battled really hard when she won at York.

Sea Theme (left) in action at York
Sea Theme (left) in action at York (Mike Egerton/PA)

“That took a bit more out of her than I think we realised and she went to Newmarket and she didn’t seem to have got over York at all.

“William put her away after that and has given her plenty of time and she seems to be bouncing now, so hopefully she will run well.”

Night Sparkle won three on the spin for Michael O’Callaghan in Ireland and came close to opening her account for Andrew Balding when narrowly denied in York’s Bronte Cup on seasonal bow.

She is sure to be among the main protagonists here, as could be John and Thady Gosden’s lightly-raced Queen Of The Pride who caught the eye when stepping up to Listed company in her Goodwood return.

The daughter of Roaring Lion bumped into the useful, and more experienced, Gather Ye Rosebuds on that occasion and is backed by connections to have plenty more progression up her sleeve.

“I know she is in good form and the Gosden team are very happy with her,” said David Redvers, racing manager for owners Qatar Racing.

“She’s out of our St Leger winner (Simple Verse) and by Roaring Lion so we’re hopeful she will continue to improve as she gets a bit of distance.

“It was a lovely seasonal debut at Goodwood and we hope we can see some further improvement.”

Meanwhile, Charlie Appleby’s Sapphire Seas is another trying a mile and a half for the first time, with the Frankel filly – who won four of her first five starts – looking to get back on track having seen her momentum checked recently.

Appleby told www.godolphin.com: “Sapphire Seas has definitely come forward since York and we feel that stepping up to a mile and a half is going to suit. She heads to Haydock in excellent shape.”

Ralph Beckett’s Lady Boba signed off last season with Listed success in France, while on her penultimate start she finished second to Charlie Johnston’s Madame Ambassador in a typically competitive backend Newmarket handicap.

Madame Ambassador has run three times since then and heads to Haydock in peak condition having found the scoresheet in the Listed Rothesay Stakes at Ayr 17 days ago.

Madame Ambassador heads to Haydock on the back of a win at Ayr
Madame Ambassador heads to Haydock on the back of a win at Ayr (Simon Marper/PA)

“This was sort of a natural progression after winning a Listed race to step up to Group Three company,” said Johnston.

“I’m fairly confident about the trip and she has won over a mile and a half a couple of times in the past, but her Listed win was over a mile and a quarter and her best form has probably been at a mile and a quarter.

“I thought this was worth a shot and if we can be in the shake up here it opens up possibilities like the Lancashire Oaks.

“Last year there was only five runners and this year there is 14, so it is obviously a bit more competitive, but there doesn’t look to be any standout horses in it and we’re going there off the back of a win and in-form which is more than what could be said for most of them.”

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Haggas rules out Derby bid for Economics

William Haggas has confirmed his runaway Dante Stakes winner Economics will not run in the Betfred Derby at Epsom on Saturday week.

Initially entered for the premier Classic, the Night Of Thunder colt was withdrawn prior to last week’s six-length victory at York, with Haggas saying: “The whole point of taking him out was I didn’t think it was the right track and the right race for him at this stage of his career.”

Having won one of the key Derby trials so impressively, there were inevitably calls for connections to supplement Economics at a cost of £75,000 – but after discussions with owner Sheikh Isa Salman Al Khalifa, Haggas has announced he will not be added to the field on Monday.

He told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “We want to give him more time, he’s a big lovely, scopey horse.

“It’s a shame these races come up so quickly and he just needs some more time, that’s my view.

“He’s Sheikh Isa’s horse, but he’s very respectful of his trainers and he felt with Jake (Warren, racing manager) that we made a team decision. We discussed this at length before the Dante and my view never changed, but obviously it’s a huge race and with fancied horses falling by the wayside the temptation became greater.

“The Derby is the Derby and while we might go over a mile and a half later in the year, at the moment we feel that a mile and a quarter is good for him. He’s got plenty of speed, he’s by Night Of Thunder.

“It’s my job to look after the horse to the best of my ability and if that’s not good enough so be it.”

Economics was impressive at York
Economics was impressive at York (Mike Egerton/PA)

With next weekend’s Prix du Jockey Club also ruled out, future plans for Economics remain fluid.

Haggas added: “We’ll know at the end of the season how well the Dante works out, but I don’t know where we will see him next. I just want to let him mature, he’s an enormous horse and can do so much more physically, that’s what is exciting me.

“It’s hard enough to get a nice horse, it’s another thing to ruin one.

“We think and hope the fact he bled at York was because he banged his head on the stall. We’ve scoped him since and it was fine.”

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Sea Just In Time looks poised for Goodwood on Saturday

Sea Just In Time is in line to back up the impression she created on her Newmarket debut by way of the William Hill Height Of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood on Saturday.

The Sea The Stars filly is from the famous Time Charter family and looked booked for big things when bolting up by almost five lengths on her debut at the Guineas meeting.

Haggas resisted the temptation to rush her and prepare her for the Oaks and will instead keep her to calmer waters in Listed company, with options like the Ribblesdale and Irish Oaks potentially down the line.

“I think she’ll run. She’ll either run this weekend or at Goodwood’s next meeting (in the Agnes Keyser Stakes),” said Haggas.

“She’s a pretty nice filly so I think we’ll run. She’s just not quite thriving yet, she doesn’t really look much different from Newmarket and I don’t want to set her back.

“I’m not too worried about the ground or anything and I think she’s pretty good.

“I just don’t want to set her back, but she’s got to run some time if we want to start looking at a higher grade. You know me, I’m never in a rush, it’s no bad thing.

“Chorus will run if Sea Just In Time doesn’t.”

Haggas will also be represented in the colts’ race, the British Stallion Studs EBF Cocked Hat Stakes by Space Legend.

“Space Legend is quite a nice horse in the Cocked Hat as well, he won’t be last. He won nicely at Leicester,” he said.

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Desert Hero warming up for Royal return with Newbury outing

Desert Hero takes another step on the road back to Royal Ascot in the Sky Sports Racing Aston Park Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

The William Haggas-trained four-year-old lit up the showpiece meeting last summer when providing the newly-crowned King and Queen with their first victory at the Royal meeting in the King George V Stakes.

Desert Hero went on to establish himself as a genuine Classic contender by following up in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood before rounding off his three-year-old campaign with an honourable third in the St Leger at Doncaster.

And having made an encouraging return when beaten a head into second place by Okeechobee in Sandown’s Gordon Richards Stakes over a mile and a quarter, the chestnut son of Sea The Stars is well fancied to go one better and book his return to Berkshire next month, with the Hardwicke Stakes his objective.

“He ran very well at Sandown and he should be just as good if not better at this trip (mile and a half), it should be right up his street,” said Haggas.

“I thought he stayed on very well at Sandown and was just a bit rusty, but I was very happy with him.

“Hopefully we will have him for his very best after this for the Hardwicke.”

Middle Earth after winning the Melrose Handicap
Middle Earth after winning the Melrose Handicap at York (Molly Hunter/PA)

Another runner with Ascot on the agenda is John and Thady Gosden’s Middle Earth, who won three of his five starts last season but disappointed in the Leger.

Now jointly owned by Qatar Racing and leading Australian trainer Ciaron Maher, the Roaring Lion colt will be heading across the globe later in the year, but not before showing up at the big Ascot meeting.

David Redvers, racing manager for Qatar Racing, said: “We’re very much looking forward to getting him back on track, he seems in rude health and the long-term target is the Melbourne Cup. Ciaron Maher has bought into him and going to Australia is very much the plan for later in the year.

“This race is a nice starting point and hopefully a stepping-stone to the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot.

“We think he’s done very well over the winter, physically he’s turned into a very nice horse having looked a bit of a baby last year, so we’re hoping he’ll improve.”

The Ralph Beckett-trained Salt Bay looked much improved for a gelding operation when a close third as a 33-1 shot for the John Porter over the course and distance last month and connections are hoping for another positive showing this weekend.

“His two best races have both come at Newbury so it is a place he likes and he seems to like a flat track,” said Alex Elliott, racing adviser to owners Valmont.

“His first run back this year was top drawer and we think he has come forward from it. He won’t mind conditions and we’re looking forward to running him.”

Other hopefuls include Charlie Appleby’s King Of Conquest, George Baker’s stable stalwart Cemhaan and the long-absent German recruit So Moonstruck, who is poised to make his debut for Owen Burrows following 685 days off the track.

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Haggas weighing up options for Sea Just In Time

William Haggas has yet to fully commit to running the exciting Sea Just In Time in Newbury’s Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes on Saturday.

The daughter of Sea The Stars made an ultra-impressive debut in the hands of Tom Marquand at Newmarket on the Friday of the Guineas meeting, with connections now keen to test her credentials at a higher level before possible Classic assignments come on the radar.

Having not been declared for the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York, it was thought the talented three-year-old was booked for Listed action this weekend in the last race of the Lockinge day card.

However, Haggas admitted he is still to make a final call on the filly’s participation, with Goodwood’s William Hill Height of Fashion Stakes (May 25) a further option if the Somerville Lodge handler elects to give his filly extra time before striding out for a second time.

“She will run at Newbury or Goodwood, I just need to see if she needs another week, but we will see,” said Haggas.

“The trouble is I have no chance of running her in the Oaks if she doesn’t run on Saturday, so I have a decision to make which direction we go if she’s good enough.

“She was very impressive in her maiden and I think it is likely she will run at Newbury on Saturday, but we will see.”

Sea Just In Time does not hold an entry for the Betfred Oaks at Epsom on May 31, but connections do have the option to supplement at a cost of £30,000 during the confirmation stage, which like the Goodwood race is on May 25.

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