Haggas's Global Spring Challenge

William Haggas has runners in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Australia in the next two months | Emma Berry


The grass gallops are now open on Newmarket's Warren Hill—a sure sign that spring is on the way, and formerly part of the traditional countdown to the start of the Flat season. These days, however, the top-class Flat action barely stops throughout the year which means that before the wraps come off the British turf season at Doncaster on Mar. 28, a number of the town's trainers will already have had some of their leading lights in action around the world.

This spring promises to have a more international outlook than usual for William Haggas and his team, who are set to have runners at the inaugural Saudi Cup meeting, the Dubai International Racing Carnival and The Championships in Sydney. For the latter, two of the stable's residents, Addeybb (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}) and Young Rascal (Fr) (Intello {Ger}), went into quarantine last week.

“I've always harboured this desire to do the Australian gig. Even after Ascot last year with Addeybb I mentioned to his team that I fancied having a crack at the QE2 next April and now we're on our way,” says Haggas.

The trainer is referring to the 6-year-old's victory at the Royal Meeting in the Listed Wolferton S., in which the heavy rain for the early part of week very much played to the gelding's strengths. In fact, it's almost two years since the mud-loving Addeybb stepped out on turf which wasn't described either as soft or heavy. He went on to win the G3 Rose of Lancaster S. after finishing runner-up in the G2 York S., and he rounded off his 2019 season back at Ascot, where he finished third in the G1 Champion S. Haggas is understandably hoping that there will be a repeat of the wet tracks found in Sydney in recent Australian autumns.

He says, “It's a little bit of a different soft, not quite an English soft, more soft on top and fast underneath, but they are having rain now in Sydney and a lot of the tracks have had cancellations recently with waterlogging. Hopefully that will seep in and if we get lucky that will suit him really well. It's a risk you have to take. The race is worth over £1,000,000 to the winner and he won't run for that in England until the Champion Stakes, so he has a bit of time to get over it.”

Owned by Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, the consistent Addeybb has become quite a favourite at Haggas's Somerville Lodge, which is no surprise given that he's won seven races through his four seasons in training there and has been in the first three on another four occasions.

“He's a marvellous horse, very genuine. He's just got better and better, and I'm definitely going to try him over further this year, over a mile and a half,” Haggas says. “He's a thoroughly genuine mile-and-a-quarter horse, and a good galloping horse, and when he gets his conditions he's pretty effective. He's not difficult to ride either.”

On the plane to Australia alongside Addeybb will be Bernard Kantor's Young Rascal, a potential runner in the G1 Sydney Cup. The 5-year-old shouldn't be inconvenienced by soft ground either, as he bagged a pair of Group 3 wins on soft and good-to-soft turf at Newbury as a 3-year-old after finishing seventh in the Derby. Gelded last spring, he added victory in a listed contest on the all-weather to this record in November before a fact-finding mission to Hong Kong.

“We deliberately took him to Hong Kong to see how he would travel,” says Haggas. “We knew the ground would be too fast for him but he'd had the summer off and came back and won a listed race at Kempton so, there we were, all gassed up in great form with no race. He was a little bit nervy with the travelling but he travelled back well and I think that experience will have done him good. I hope that he will take the travelling to Australia in his stride and that he does enough in Sydney to warrant a trip back to Melbourne in November.”

Haggas is certainly a good traveller himself, with an international outlook that is a must for trainers of large strings these days. His sole winner in Australia to date is OTI Racing's Fastnet Tempest (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), though various former residents of his stable have ended up down under, including the G1 Doomben Cup winner Beaten Up (GB) (Beat Hollow {GB}), who was bred by the trainer's father Brian, and Dal Harraild (GB) (Champs Elysees {GB}). Another, Raheen House (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), the full-brother to Sydney Cup winner Shraaoh (Ire), has recently joined the stable of Kris Lees.

The timing of the Championships at Randwick in early April is not the easiest for many European runners but, for the right horse, the valuable prizes on offer make the races worthy of consideration, according to Haggas, who says, “I had dinner with Peter and Frances Stanley years ago and John and Kris Messara were there. John was telling us about the concept of the Autumn Carnival—it hadn't started then—but his enthusiasm left a real imprint in my mind. It's always been on my radar but I haven't had the horses that I thought were right. Young Rascal could run here in the John Porter for £30,000 to the winner, and it's a competitive race, not an easy race to win, so it doesn't really need a whole heap of brains to work out that it's worth going.”

He adds, “I like Australia, I like the racing and I like the people, so I'm keen to give it a go. We're taking two good types.”

Before Haggas returns to Australia, he and his wife Maureen, a key asset in the success of the Somerville Lodge team, will be accruing plenty of airmiles with several trips to the Gulf.

The useful 109-rated Momkin (GB) (Bated Breath {GB}) has recently joined the yard from Roger Charlton and he is entered for the Turf Sprint at the Saudi Cup meeting on Feb. 29 for his Saudi Arabian owner-breeder Prince A A Faisal.

“I fear that the distance will be too short for him in Saudi,” Haggas notes. “It's 6¾ furlongs and I think he wants a mile, but his owner and I are very keen to support the day. He has an invitation so we are hoping that he might run well fresh. In Australia they do it all the time—run first time over a shorter distance and they can run really well, so we are hoping that might happen. He's due to go for a racecourse gallop next week and then he will go to Saudi on Saturday. I'd love Momkin's race to be a mile, but it's on turf and he loves fast ground, so we'll see.”

He adds of the meeting, “It's a very exciting concept and it's another fantastic opportunity for horsemen. Here is a country which had nothing internationally and now all of a sudden there's $29 million on the table. They've timed it well so it can go hand in glove with Dubai, so a lot of American horses will come out to Saudi and then go on to Dubai.”

Completing the international quartet is Pablo Escobarr (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who has already had his passport stamped for Dubai once this year but is temporarily back in Newmarket. Hussain Alabbas Lootah's 4-year-old finished runner-up to the David Simcock-trained Universal Order (GB) (Universal {Ire}) in the Listed Dubai Racing Club Classic on Jan. 2 and has the option of a first run at a mile and six furlongs in the G3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy on Feb. 27 or the G2 Dubai City of Gold over two furlongs shorter on Super Saturday [Mar. 7.]

“I asked Mr. Lootah if I could bring him back after his first run and he's due to leave on Saturday,” Haggas explains. “He has to qualify to run on World Cup night and I just fancy stepping up in trip for his next run. He gave a bit of weight to David's horse in the handicap in January but he was beaten quite comfortably so I wondered if he was quick enough for a better race at a mile and a half. I thought it would be a nice option to go up in trip so I put him in the Dubai Gold Cup just in case he improves for the step up to a mile and six. He's a very tough, handy horse and he could develop into a Melbourne Cup horse too.”

Haggas also has plenty to look forward to on the home front this year with a strengthened team, which includes stable star One Master (GB) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), the dual winner of the G1 Qatar Prix de la Foret. Sportingly, her owner-breeders Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stables have kept the mare in training as a 6-year-old at the stable which was once home to her dam Enticing (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}) and grandam Superstar Leo (Ire) (College Chapel {GB}).

“We've got lots of nice horses this year,” he says. “Our owners have really upped their game and we've got to start looking at these international contests as well as the big ones at home. When I started racing there was hardly any racing on the Flat anywhere after November. Now it's all over the world.”



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