Any horse saddled by William Haggas in the Investec Derby is always worth a second glance but his representative this year, Young Rascal, may be worth more than that given links of his connections to the race.
Despite only having three previous Derby runners, the Newmarket handler has already tasted victory in the Epsom Classic after sending out Shaamit to take the 1996 renewal along with saddling Storm The Stars to finish third in 2015.
Dealing with high pressure situations is nothing new for Haggas, but with the son of Intello owned by Bernard Kantor, managing director of the race sponsor, the emphasis to succeed will be greater than most.
The Yorkshire-born Haggas said: “He (Kantor) has spent the last 10 years of Investec sponsoring and watching me squirm every time I have a Derby runner and I’m going to be watching him as this will get to him big time.
“Obviously we’ve always tried to get a horse to run in the Derby for him. If he was buying a yearling, he is always looking for one to run well or that could win the Derby.
“Of course it’s his company’s race and this is his passion. I stood with him when Dancing Rain won the Oaks and he presented the trophies and it was a golden moment for me.
“Bernard has been a very good friend for a long time. I’ve trained for him for 22 years and to be able to produce a horse in top shape on Derby day for him would be very special for me.”
First impressions count for a lot and the one Haggas made on a good friend of Kantor’s more than 20 years ago is the reason he finds himself in the position he is in today.
Haggas added: “The association all started through a marvellous old chap called Laurie Jaffee. He had a horse called London News. He came out of South Africa and won in Hong Kong.
“Laurie said would you train him for either the Queen Anne or Prince of Wales’s Stakes, it was Bosra Sham’s year, and we said yes, absolutely, but the horses at our yard went wrong.
“So when the horse won in Hong Kong I said Mr Jaffee I can’t take this horse because my horses are wrong and I’d hate the horse to get whatever they’ve got, so I said ‘I’m really sorry I can’t have him’ so he sent him to Barry Hills.
“Bernard came to London to set up Investec in England from South Africa. He knew Laurie well and Laurie said if you ever have horses in training have them with me and he did so that’s how it started.”
The prospect Young Rascal appearing in the Derby may not have been obvious at the start of the season, but after his impressive victory in the Chester Vase there is no doubt he deserves his place in the line-up.
Haggas said: “Throughout the winter I thought the Derby might be too early in his career. He did really well at Newbury and ran a really good time at Newbury. It looked a pretty warm maiden, although the second got beat after.
“He justified going to Chester and when he got there he did well. I think that form is probably not good enough, but I think the horse is getting better.
“Shaamit was very natural and this horse is learning. Shaamit only won a median auction at Doncaster in November as a two-year-old before he ran in the Derby, but he had done lots of work.
“He worked with the Glory Of Dancer, the Dante winner trained by Paul Kelleway, at the racecourse, and he went much better than him. He went with Dushyantor, Henry’s (Cecil) horse, that was well fancied and he went much better than him. We had a good idea he was quite good.”
While the bookmakers suggest the Aidan O’Brien-trained Saxon Warrior is as good as home already, Haggas is optimistic Young Rascal goes there with a fighting chance.
He said: “What Aidan has achieved is unbelievably remarkable. He has done a brilliant job and is very hard to beat and is feared wherever he goes.
“The horse in the Guineas (Saxon Warrior) was very impressive. He has done it at two and he looks like doing at three, so he will be hard to beat, but you never know what happens – he could get boxed in and nobody saw Wings Of Eagles coming last year.
“It’s a very hard race, the Derby. They’ve got to be right up for it, as it can ruin a career.
“To find one with a chance is difficult, but I think Young Rascal has got a chance.”