William Haggas is the son of Yorkshire textile entrepreneur Brian Haggas but, having worked for his father for three months, he famously drove to Newmarket and begged the late Jeremy Hindley – who trained a horse for his father – for a job. Haggas has been in Newmarket ever since, working as assistant trainer to Sir Mark Prescott and the late John Winter for two years and four years, respectively, before obtaining a training licence, in his own right, in November 1986. He sent out his first winner, Tricky Note, from his base at Somerton Lodge on Fordham Road the following April.
In 1989, Haggas married Maureen, elder daughter of Lester Piggot. In 1996, at a time when he had just 40 horses in his yard, he saddled Shaamit to win the Derby. The Mtoto colt, who was making his three-year-old debut, was driven out by Michael Hills to beat the favourite, Dushyantor, trained by the late Henry Cecil and ridden by the late Pat Eddery, by 1¼ lengths. Haggas had to wait 15 years for his next Classic winner, Dancing Rain in the Oaks in 2011 but, in the meantime recorded many notable successes, at the highest level, at home and abroad. These included Count Dubois in the Gran Criterium at San Siro in 2000, Chorist in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in 2004 and Aqlaam in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp in 2009, to name but three.
More recent Group 1 successes include Rosdhu Queen in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket in 2012, Mukhadram in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in 2014 and Rivet in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in 2016. All in all, William Haggas has saddled nearly 1,700 winners during his career and, in 2017, recorded his most successful campaign ever, in terms of number of winners and total prize money.
He is, quite rightly, one of the most respected trainers in Newmarket and, although his early season strike rate of 3-19 (16%) is nothing to shout about, the season is only just over a month old, as far as the trainers’ championship is concerned. Haggas’ three-year-olds are always worth keeping an eye on, so look out for the once-raced pair Al Muffrih, by Sea The Stars, and Allieyf, by New Approach, when the flat season proper gets underway. Both ran promisingly, under sympathetic handling, last season and are open to any amount of improvement.