AS a successful businessman, Brian Haggas expects perfection.
It is why nothing will be left to chance if Harris Tweed – named after his company – is to run in Europe’s richest handicap, the Betfred Ebor, a fortnight today.
The race is a tantalising proposition after Harris Tweed’s impressive victory at Glorious Goodwood – Haggas is a proud Yorkshireman while his son William, the horse’s trainer, is enjoying a richly rewarding run of form at York this summer.
“It’s a tough race and everything has to go right,” Haggas senior told the Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview.
“It will depend on the ground – he needs good to soft or soft and can you tell me what the weather will be like in two weeks time? – and everything has got to be right.
“If things come to pass – ground, draw and the jockey does not make a horlicks of it – then he has a very good chance.
“It doesn’t take a genius of my calibre to tell you that. Invariably in these big handicaps, somebody is organising a low weight for a horse with a little bit more ability than it would appear.”
Haggas, who lives at Nesfield between Ilkley and Bolton Abbey, says his fall-back position is a race back at Goodwood on August 24.
Although he would love to win the Ebor, a race that remains synonymous with Yorkshire racing, Harris Tweed’s needs will come first – this is a horse that Haggas bred.
He bought Frog, the mother of Harris Tweed, at a sale in Newmarket “wandering round with nothing to do” because he noted that she was related to Best Girl Friend, a horse that he “fell in love with” at Deauville in the 1970s.
His judgement has been vindicated. Harris Tweed, now six, threatened to win a big race after landing the former John Porter Stakes at Newbury in April 2012 before finally pulling clear under George Baker, an unnaturally tall jockey, at Goodwood.
“I’d never met the good man before. It was the first time that he’d ridden for me and my son,” explained Haggas.
“My son made a very good point afterwards. He said that he would rather have a heavier jockey than a light jockey with a lot of lead in the saddle. It helps with the balance.”
Understandably Haggas is proud of the success that his son and his wife Maureen, daughter of legendary Flat jockey Lester Piggott, have enjoyed this season thanks to durable horses like Mukhadram who is now a leading contender for York’s Juddmonte International after winning the Sky Bet York Stakes two weeks ago.
Haggas senior says of his son with paternal pride: “He’s getting the hang of it. He has a very able and supportive wife who is fiercely loyal. They have split up their roles in the yard. They used to argue a bit. Now it works wonderfully well. She does the feeding and stable side and William does the planning, the entries and the training.
“Maureen has that wonderful skill which her father Lester Piggott had – when she gets on her horse, she knows its ability very soon. She has that feel. If she says a horse is not ready to run, she’s right. If she says a horse has a lot of potential, she is invariably right.”
Today’s racing centres on the Betfred Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock where Telescope, co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson among others, bids to prove his Group One credentials after a series of training niggles. He faces a stiff test from the likes of Lady Cecil’s Noble Mission – a full brother to Frankel – and the Richard Fahey-trained Area Fifty One.
Meanwhile, Ascot hosts the annual Shergar Cup team competition where James Doyle will hope to give Great Britain and Ireland a winning start on the Haggas-trained Nine Realms.
A fixture which invariably fails to fire racing’s imagination, it is perhaps more significant that Ireland’s top jockey Joseph O’Brien – son of the record-breaking trainer Aidan – travels to Haydock for an eyecatching book of rides, including Sri Putra in the feature and four rides for the Haggas stable.
He would not be making the trip unless he thought the likes of Graphic, Danchai, Westwiththenight and Dare to Achieve had solid winning chances.
Bolger, meanwhile, is relishing the prospect of pitting his crack miler Dawn Approach against brilliant opposition in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville tomorrow.
In what looks possibly the hottest race of the season, the 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes winner will be meeting the likes of Intello, Moonlight Cloud, Declaration Of War and Elusive Kate.
Dawn Approach is reappearing just 11 days after suffering a narrow defeat to old rival Toronado in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, but Bolger is not one to shirk a challenge.
“I love the competition at the highest level and this is as high as you get,” he said.
The one to beat is William Buick’s mount Elusive Kate. A controversial winner of Newmarket’s Falmouth Stakes over Sky Lantern, she then won her second successive Prix Rothschild over course and distance a fortnight ago and will be helped by a favourable draw on the running rail.