BUSINESSMAN Brian Haggas hopes his Harris Tweed can return to winning ways in tomorrow’s totepool.com Pontefract Castle Stakes – one of the most prestigious races of the year at the West Yorkshire track.
Trained by his son William, the seven-year-old has failed to fire in his two starts to date this season and connections are hoping that the track will be watered before racing or they may withdraw from a contest that has been won by footballer Michael Owen’s Brown Panther for the last two years.
Haggas senior, a textiles magnate, is philosophical. The likelihood of fast ground prompted him to pull Harris Tweed out of last year’s Ebor at the final declarations stage, only for an unforeseen deluge to turn conditions on York’s Knavesmire into a stamina test.
The proud Yorkshireman’s horse was also desperately unlucky to be beaten a nose by Royal Diamond in the Long Distance Cup on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot last October.
“Provided the ground is not too rock hard, he will run and will be trying his best as always,” Haggas told The Yorkshire Post. “Because rain is so difficult to predict, it is just a matter of luck, but there was no chance of the ground being soft enough at Ascot this week.”
Haggas says he has been advised by his son that the horse is “in very good from” after two runs this season at Ascot when he blew very hard and then lost a lot of weight.
However Harris Tweed will be difficult to beat if he comes close to replicating his Champion Day form. “That was fantastic. So unlucky,” added the owner. “The winner, ridden by Johnny Murtagh, did get done for a whip offence...I think it is a bit hard when someone breaks the rules and keeps the race, but that’s life.
“Every day is a new one – for the owner, the trainer and the horse.”