By Gary Nutting
William Haggas is eagerly looking forward to Ascot’s Summer Mile meeting again - and for once it’s not the Group 2 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile that is the main source of his excitement.
The Newmarket trainer has a cracking record in the two-day fixture’s showpiece event having won it three times in the last ten years - Aqlaam (2009) and Mutakayyef (2016 & 2017) - and will be represented this time by AWESOMETANK.
However, he feels the filly will be “up against it taking on the boys”, explaining that the race is seen more as a preparation for an upcoming first foray across the Atlantic.
“Awesometank is a dual Listed winner and twice Group 3-placed and as this is likely to be her last year of racing we’re keen on a trip to Arlington for the Beverley D,” he says.
“She needs another run before then (August 10) and this race fits in nicely after her last outing (runner-up in the Princess Elizabeth at Epsom on Derby Day).”
As far as anticipation goes the Ascot race that’s got Haggas buzzing is the Woodford Reserve Handicap, also on Saturday.
With the more exposed Boerhan declared for the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket on Thursday, the yard could be doubly represented by FAYLAQ and DESERT ICON - both of whom still hold a Great Voltigeur entry at York next month.
“I’m not necessarily thinking Group races at this stage, but things can change quickly and both are among a quartet of above-average potential staying three-year-olds who we’ll have to juggle carefully as the rest of the season unfolds,” he reveals.
“Faylaq won as easily as his starting price (1-3) suggests at Newmarket last time so there are no concerns about him turning out again just 16 days later.
“Desert Icon had to work a little harder in a much stronger handicap at Salisbury the previous day and could wait for Goodwood if we decide Ascot comes too soon.
“The other two in the group are Hamish, who bids to defy a penalty in the 1m2f novice at Newbury on Thursday and Dal Horrisgle, impressive winner under top-weight in a Haydock handicap over that trip last week.”
The stable’s other principal Ascot entry this week is veteran sprinter MUTHMIR in the Betfred Heritage Handicap on Saturday.
The nine-year-old, a three-time Group 2 winner, holds an alternative engagement in Listed company in the John Smith’s City Walls Stakes at York and Haggas will choose which race is likely to suit him best.
“Muthmir ideally wants a fast pace and lots of cover, which you would normally get in a high-grade handicap,” he says.
“He ran well to be fifth in the ‘Dash’ at Epsom two outings ago and has been dropped a pound so he’d definitely have a chance.
“Equally if it looked like being a reasonably-sized field at York he could go there as they never hang around over five furlongs on the Knavesmire.
“He keeps his form and enthusiasm well and you can forget Sandown last time as there were only nine runners and he saw too much daylight.”
Haggas, who has his team in terrific form, is hopeful of landing at least one Group prize this week, either at Newmarket or York.
In addition to BOERHAN - “he’s better than he’s shown on the track this season and blinkers should have a beneficial effect” - he’s lined up a two-pronged attack on the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes with ONE MASTER and BESHAAYIR.
“One Master is the better of the pair, even though Beshaayir beat her on their seasonal debuts at the Curragh, and ran a blinder to be third in the Queen Anne last time,” he says.
“But seven furlongs is really her best trip and it’s a question of finding the best available races before she drops back in distance for the Prix de la Foret, which she won last year.
“Beshaayir is now a Group 2 winner after going the handicap/Listed route last season and deserves this crack at a Group 1. The trip’s perfect for her.”
ISLAND OF LIFE is another to have progressed from handicaps, although she’s yet to win a Listed or Group race despite knocking on the door - she gets the chance to put that right in the William Hill Summer Stakes at York.
“She’s done us proud with the improvement she’s made, and it would be great for her broodmare career if she could win a stakes race. We’re going all out to help her achieve it.”