William Haggas has extra special reason to look fondly upon Royal Ascot - his first winner Yeast (1996) ran in the colours of his dad Brian and his second, Superstar Leo (2000), was half-owned by father-in-law Lester Piggott.
‘The Longfellow’ of course dominated the great meeting for so many years, riding a total of 116 winners that included two eight-timers, and Haggas came up trumps for him again as an owner when Mont Etoile landed the 2006 Ribblesdale.
“Of course, it was great to win there for the old man,” says the trainer of Yeast’s trailblazing Royal Hunt Cup triumph. “But it was also a relief to open my account at the meeting.
“There was plenty of confidence behind the horse. He’d won an early-season maiden at Newcastle, giving loads of weight as a four-year-old to Wixim, who went on to win the following year’s Sandown Mile for Roger Charlton.
“I knew from speaking to Roger that he thought a lot of his horse - which is why he started odds-on that day - so we felt Yeast was well treated even after he’d won the Victoria Cup on his handicap debut.
“The race went like clockwork. Kieren Fallon basically made all and didn’t see another rival. That was off 87 and the horse went up to 112 at his peak, so you could say it was one of my better efforts!”
Haggas, who also won the Derby that year with Shaamit, has gone on to prove one of the best in the business, setting himself very high standards, so it’s not surprising to learn he’s rather underwhelmed by an overall tally of eight Royal Ascot winners.
“Any winner there is special and while I’m grateful for the ones we’ve had, there haven’t been enough of them,” he adds. “But the team’s in good form and hopefully we can add to the scoreboard, albeit I’m realistic - it’s not as though we’ve got any hot favourites.”