William Haggas Profile

Name William Haggas
Born Aug 23, 1960
Age 60 years
Birthplace Skipton, Yorkshire
Nationality British

William Haggas is the quiet assassin of Newmarket trainers, with a string of accomplished horses that have won him a Derby and an Oaks at Epsom.

William Haggas is the quiet assassin of Newmarket trainers, with a string of accomplished horses that have won him a Derby and an Oaks at Epsom.

One of the trusted trainers of Her Majesty the Queen, Haggas won the aptly titled Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Australia's Randwick racecourse in 2020 and 2021.

Early years

Although he has now lost much of his Yorkshire twang, the Newmarket trainer actually hails from Skipton on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.

Haggas' father Brian was a textile magnate involved with the manufacture of the famous Harris Tweed. But his son's education wasn't threadbare, as the young Haggas attended the prestigious Harrow public school.

At Harrow, one of Haggas' junior masters was the school teacher and football referee David Ellery who Haggas described to www.independent.co.uk as being the best match official because he "didn't take sh*t" from anyone".

After school, Haggas faced an ultimatum from his father of finding a decent job or coming to work in textiles. He lasted three months in the textile factory before driving to Jeremy Hindley's racehorse yard to beg him for a job.

Hindley, a trainer of over 700 winners, gave Haggas the immediate task of looking after the booking of a certain apprentice jockey named Michael Hills, the rider who would go on to win the Derby for him on Shaamit in 1996.

Formative training years

Haggas went to Newmarket in the early 1980's to join a host of ambitious assistant-trainers who would eventually go it alone.

Also working in Newmarket at the time as assistants were William Jarvis, who was working with Henry Cecil, James Fanshawe and John Ferguson with Sir Michael Stoute and James Eustace who was at Mark Tompkins' yard.

Haggas worked as assistant to Sir Mark Prescott for two years and then the late John Winter for a further four years.

He took out his own licence in late 1986 and Tricky Note provided his first winner on April 15 1987 at Newmarket.

Haggas acquired a 20 box yard at Somerville Lodge and began a career that would go to great heights.

In 1989 he married Maureen, the elder daughter of the famous jockey Lester Piggott and the trio presented a triple-threat.

A win for Bog Trotter in the LaurentPerrier Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September 1990 provided a bit of fizz to his fledgling career.

Epsom Derby win with Shaamit

Barely 10 years after starting his career, Haggas entered the big time with a bang as 12/1 chance Shaamit gave Haggas his first Classic with the Epsom Derby.

The horse was tipped up pre-race by no less than Lester Piggott himself but all eyes were on the Sir Henry Cecil trained favourite Dushyantor.

In 1996, with the country in the throes of Euro '96 football fever, the race was run at an earlier time before the England match but jockey Michael Hills arrived just in time on Shaamit.

A quarter of a mile out, Hills struck the front in the pink silks of Khalifa Dasmal and although Dushyantor made a late effort, Shaamit had enough in the tank to take the greatest flat race in the world by one and a quarter lengths.

Group One winners

Haggas' success in Group One events has been a slow and steady progress after that epic Epsom Derby win.

In 2000, Haggas sent Count Dubois to Milan to contest the Gran Criterium at San Siro.

On heavy going, Basil Marcus kept Count Dubois focused to prevail by a neck from the Aidan O'Brien trained King's County.

Next was a win the 2004 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, and a trip over the Irish sea freshened up the mare nicely for a half length win over Jim Bolger's Alexander Goldrun.

Haggas continued his continental exploits with victory in the 2009 Group One Prix du Moulin at Longchamp with Aqlaam. Michael Hills' mount ran on well, carrying the famous blue and white silks of Hamdan Al Maktoum, to score by one and half lengths from Famous Name.

Haggas' own fame was building and he was about to make a splash again with a smart filly called Dancing Rain.

Dancing Rain Oaks win

Dancing Rain would have had Haggas jigging in the grandstand as the 20/1 shot struck a surprise in the 2011 Epsom Oaks.

In the run-up to the race, Dancing Rain had kicked Haggas' wife Maureen in an accident during training, breaking her leg, but there were no hard feelings when the horse took to the track at Epsom.

Not unlike Serpentine's, front-running 2020 Derby win, Dancing Rain made all the running on the Epsom Downs and the Aidan O'Brien trained Wonder of Wonders could only get within three-quarters of a length.

Haggas had become one of the select few trainers to have won both the Epsom Derby and Oaks.

A decade of success

Johnny Murtagh could have ridden Rosdhu Queen on the short hop from Haggas' yard to the Rowley Mile at Newmarket for the Cheveley Park Stakes in 2012.

Indeed, the 4/1 chance Rosdhu Queen won the Group One contest a shade handily with a one length victory over Winning Express, trained by Ed McMahon.

In 2013, Haggas was to train for another Queen, this time Her Majesty The Queen, when he was added to the troop of royal trainers.

He sent out a first winner in the distinctive purple and red colours of the Queen in May 2014 when Purple Spectrum won a maiden at Windsor racecourse, just down the road from the royal residence at Windsor castle.

By 2014, the Haggas-Al Maktoum connection was striking gold again as Mukhadram took the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. Paul Hanaghan swept home by two lengths at the Surrey track while the John Gosden trained favourite, the Fugue, owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber, struck a bum note in sixth.

Haggas, took on and beat the mighty Ballydoyle operation of AP O'Brien in the 2016 Racing Post Trophy. The Italian jockey Andrea Atzeni, whose mother is a dentist, fought tooth and nail to get Haggas' Rivet Delight ahead in front of the O'Brien mount Yucatan at Doncaster.

Sea Of Class

Any trainer with a horse out of the superlative Sea Of Stars would hope for a decent animal and the filly Sea Of Class certainly lived up to a lot of the promise of her sire.

Over the Summer of 2018, jockey James Doyle, in the standout yellow silks, rode Sea Of Class to five victories including the double of the Irish Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks.

Only the wonder-mare Enable could deny Sea Of Class victory in the 2018 Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, as Haggas' charge stayed on strongly in Paris, only to be denied by a short-neck.

Sadly, after suffering from colic and an aggressive tumour, Sea Of Class was put to sleep aged four in 2019.

Addeybb Australian exploits

It's not just the distance but Australia seems a world away from UK racing and not every British trainer has what it takes to challenge for the top prizes down under.

Yet, William Haggas has targeted and won the Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the Randwick racecourse in Sydney with Addeybb in 2020 and 2021.

On both occasions, the locally trained Verry Elleegant could not live with Haggas' "Beast from Britain" as the royal trainer won the Sydney race named after the Queen.

Al Aasy

"He's a boy, and he knows he is" said Haggas to racingpost.com of his new star in the making Al Aasy, the horse with swagger.

The four year-old grabbed the attention with two easy wins at Newbury in May 2021, with his opponents never getting within four lengths of the bay colt under Jim Crowley.

The bookmakers priced-up Al Aasy at no bigger than even money for the Epsom Coronation Cup in 2021 while the horse holds an entry for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October 2021 and looks set to continue Haggas' tradition of saddling seriously smart horses.

Private life

William Haggas married Maureen, the elder daughter of famous jockey Lester Piggott in 1989. Together they have two children, Mary-Anne and Sam. Sam Haggas is involved in racing as a bloodstock agent.

Away from racing William Haggas is a keen cricketer and enjoys watching Test-match cricket. He is the only current trainer to have played cricket at Lord's, having featured for Harrow against Eton while a schoolboy.

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