IT IS still scant consolation to William Haggas that his stable star Sea Of Class was involved in one of the defining races of 2018.
After all, the Yorkshireman’s fabulous filly still came off second best to the Frankie Dettori-ridden and John Gosden-trained Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Drawn out wide, James Doyle’s mount was closing with every stride at ParisLongchamp where it pays to be prominent because of the track’s configuration and it took a prolonged photo-finish to separate the two protagonists.
The elation of Enable’s team was matched by the dignity shown by Haggas and Doyle in defeat after being denied Arc glory, the ultimate in European racing, by the narrowest of margins.
However, Haggas is already looking forward to a rematch in this year’s Arc when Enable will seek to win Europe’s blue riband race for a historic third time.
“I think the programme has been designed to encourage connections of fillies like these to keep them in training and this is essentially a reward for that,” said the Newmarket-based trainer whose father-in-law is the legendary jockey Lester Piggott.
“It’s very rare for a filly like Enable to stay in training at five, and very often a filly like Sea Of Class would be retired, too, after the season she has had.
“I got wind that Enable was going to stay in training before it was announced and it just means we’ve got another year to take her on. It has got to be good for the sport and a boost for the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) as they get some criticism, but this one they got right by encouraging these horses to stay in training.
“Sea Of Class is obviously a high-class filly, but we’ve got to get her through the winter and get her enthusiasm back and start all over again.”
Though the daughter of 2009 Arc hero Sea Of Stars had to settle for second best in France when in pursuit of her own Group One hat-trick following wins in the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks, a potential change of tactics is on the cards.
Haggas said: “She was quite keen in her work early doors and we sort of got into the thing of getting her settled.
“The two small-field Listed races at Newbury she won, we could afford to drop her out if you like and have her at the back of the field as she didn’t have many opponents and that became the trademark way to ride her.
“I’m not convinced that is the way to ride her and one of the things we are going to try to do next season is ride her more prominently.
“There is no point giving them starts as effectively that is what cost us in the Arc, as we gave Enable too much rope early on. Both James and I will be keen to try a different tactic when the time comes.”
Despite Sea Of Class not running as a two-year-old the Classic-winning handler knew from the very start he was dealing with a potentially top-class filly – one capable of going on to achieve such high levels of success.
Haggas said: “She didn’t come in until Christmas 2017, but when we started working she always showed a bit.
“Her victory in the Irish Oaks was pretty impressive, as she came from the back of the field, and in the Yorkshire Oaks she was really good when she broke clear.
“In the Arc, okay she got beat, but she was probably another step ahead again. Each run was an improvement on the previous one and that is what each trainer wants from their horses.”
Having enjoyed the type of season every trainer aims to live with a talented filly like Sea Of Class, who has recently returned from a short break at Gilltown Stud, Haggas earmarked another filly that could be up to reaching such lofty heights in time.
He added: “We had a few run promisingly at the back end. There is a filly of Mr (Anthony) Oppenheimer’s we like called Frankellina.
“She won at Yarmouth and although it was not that impressive, and there is still a long way to go, I do like the look of her. Whether she is a Sea Of Class, I’m not sure about that, but she is nice at this stage.”