‘God it’s hot,’ said a Newbury waitress escaping into the lift from rain-soaked crowds jostling in the bars last Saturday. ‘Yes,’ I agreed. ‘It’s steaming.’ ‘Oh no,’ she replied. ‘That’s just the ladies waiting for Tom Jones,’ and the veteran Welsh warbler was indeed scheduled to be the after-racing entertainment.
People go racing for different reasons and for punters one significant clue on Weatherby’s Super Sprint Day was the presence of trainer William Haggas. An invariably courteous interviewee when he is on the premises, the Newmarket maestro is by his own admission not one of those trainers who see jolly slap-up lunches at the races as part of the package they offer. He would rather be at home most times plotting future opportunities for his four-legged clients.
His day began well with Al Aasy winning the ten-furlong Listed Steventon Stakes in the hands of Jim Crowley. The Shadwell-owned six-year-old had earned a reputation for not relishing a battle, which explained why he was allowed to start at 100-30 but he was always going easily and quickened nicely in the final furlong. Said his jockey afterwards: ‘Well, we’ve all been called names sometimes, haven’t we?’ His candid trainer agreed of Al Aasy: ‘Physically he’s been a battle and mentally he’s not straightforward.’ But he added: ‘That’s very satisfying for everyone. They badgered me to run him over a mile and a quarter. I wouldn’t but I finally succumbed.’ What was worth noting was William’s observation that Al Aasy still didn’t look right in his skin but ‘he is coming’. Expect him to be back winning Group races soon.
The worst moment this year for Haggas and his stable jockey Tom Marquand came in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot when Relief Rally was beaten a nose by the American filly Crimson Advocate.