There’ll be no grand pre-race declarations from trainer William Haggas about whether Dubai Honour will hand him a third win, in four years, in the Group 1 $5m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
It’s just not his style. Conservative is his style. Since he arrived in Sydney earlier this week most media have tried to garner his confidence levels but he prefers to err on the side of caution, at least publicly, before a ‘grand final’.
Haggas was at Canterbury on Wednesday morning, in his words trying not to get in the way, as his team puts the finishing touches on Dubai Honour, plus stablemates Protagonist and Purplepay, ahead of the showdown with Anamoe at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
“I’m not a great one for expecting too much,’’ Haggas said.
“I try to say as little as possible but I’ve never stopped talking since I’ve landed on Australian turf. I try to say as little as possible in general and let the horses do the talking and then I’m happy to speak afterwards if it goes well. But very often it doesn’t go well.
“You want it all to go right, I haven’t been for two years and it’s gone right and soon as I appear it’ll probably go pear shaped. That’s what usually happens.
“The team know exactly what they’re doing, I don’t think the horse needs to do anything quick he just needs to be fresh and well, but not too fresh, and he should hopefully run to his best.”
Dubai Honour announced himself as a challenger to Anamoe with a runaway win in the Ranvet Stakes (2000m) three weeks ago, just as Addeybb did, though by not quite the same margin, back in 2020.
Haggas said the five-year-old has always been a talent whereas Addeybb, who won the Queen Elizabeth in 2020 and 2021, was more the soldier.
That was on show as he ripped home in 33.31 (Punter’s Intelligence) for his last 600m at the end of the Ranvet Stakes, almost four lengths faster than anything else, and the fact he did it on dry ground came as a shock to the trainer.
“We felt he wanted to have a race before the Queen Elizabeth and I would have preferred a wetter track but Ryan (Moore) said he moved great and felt really good,’’ he said.
“He said ‘I’d be surprised if he really liked soft ground’ but his form is on soft ground. If he runs as well as he ran in the Ranvet he will be competitive.
“I’m very respectful of Anamoe and the others.
“I think (Dubai Honour) adds a bit of flavour to the race. If the Japanese hadn’t come and we hadn’t come (Anamoe) would be threes on and probably wins the race.”
It appears certain Dubai Honour will get the conditions Haggas says he relishes so the trainer’s main concern is having a genuine gallop over the 2000m. Though that didn’t bother the horse in the Ranvet he said it brings out the best in the European horses.
“In the Doncaster for Protagonist, for example, they jumped out like they were going to go flat out then they went round like it was three miles,’’ he said.
“I think the rain frightened them, they went so slowly though some horses did make up ground.”
Protagonist didn’t fire in the Doncaster Mile, finishing 12th, but as Haggas said the race wasn’t run to his liking and he sees plenty of reasons to back him up, even though it’s not common practice in the UK.
While he concedes Protagonist as to improve sharply, even on his Sky High win over 2000m, to be competitive in the Queen Elizabeth he said it’s a throw at the stumps worth having given the feet issue he had last week has resolved.
“I was a bit wary of dropping him back to a mile, James McDonald said when I mentioned the Doncaster I’d be better going a mile and a half,’’ he said.
“But I think if they’d gone a solid pace he’d have run better. It’s very unlike us to back him up but I feel we’ve got nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain.
“At the end of the day why not have a crack at a race like this.”
Haggas is adamant Purplepay is a better horse than the one who stepped out in the Coolmore Classic and finished down the track.
But he said the presence of Alcohol Free in the Group 1 $1m Sydney Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) makes him think the others are racing for second and he just hopes his mare can produce her best form with a softer track.
“She’s a better filly than that but we’ve had a bit of a wake up call since that race,’’ he said.
“She does like the wet ground. She’s a 33/1 shot and rightfully so but on her form in England she has a chance of running a good race.
“We put some headgear on and jumped her out of the stalls deliberately to try and get her focused.
“But if the Alcohol Free that was in England turns up they won’t beat her.”
As the trainer of superstar Baaeed, Haggas can speak a little about Alcohol Free who was purchased by Yulong for $10 million (AUS) and is now trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.
The July Cup winner from last year finished third behind Baaeed in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes (1609m) at Goodwood back in July.
“The thing with Alcohol Free is she’s a top class filly at every distance,’’ he said.
“She’s a tough, hardy, good filly. Purplepay won’t get within a mile of her at home. She’s come to Australia and it’s different, new connections, but if she turns up she’ll win.”
– Racing NSW