Epsom Derby still ‘ultimate test’ believes former winner Haggas

William Haggas.
William Haggas.
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TWENTY years after saddling Shaamit to Epsom Derby glory, Skipton-born William Haggas says the race remains the “ultimate test”.

Under the now-retired Michael Hills, Shaamit denied favourite Dushyantor by a length and a quarter. “He was supposed to run in the Dante but he had an issue so it was his first start of the year,” said Haggas.

“It was very nerve-racking but we were quite happy with his condition as we had done a lot of work with him at home with Paul Kelleway’s Glory Of Dancer, who had won the Dante, and Dushyantor, of Sir Henry Cecil’s, both of whom were fancied for the Derby.

“He had gone better than both of these horses and we knew we had a chance. It was quite hard to believe that within nine years of training we had a chance of winning the Derby.

“He was a good horse and the owners were keen to have a go. Probably in racing it is my greatest moment. There are lots of trainers better than me that have not won one and wish they had. It is a great thrill to win it.”

The immediate aftermath following such a success can become a blur and Haggas says this was the case with Shaamit after the trainer was persuaded to run the horse by his father-in-law Lester Piggott.

He said: “I don’t think you really have a clue what is going on. The race was quite early on the day as the European Football Championships was kicking off at 3pm and the television wanted to get both the racing and football on.

“Afterwards you are just on cloud nine as everyone wants to congratulate you. Winning the Derby is a combination of excitement and relief as, when you have a nice horse, the key is getting them fit for the day.

“I don’t really know what makes a Derby winner it just depends on the horse that falls with you and making sure you just get the horse in form. You need the ability to stay, and to have speed and balance. It is the ultimate test and you need a lot of things in your favour.

“Hopefully I can find another horse good enough to win it again.”