By Jon Lees
GB: William Haggas needs a warm, dry spell of weather over the next ten days to secure the participation of Mohaafeth in the Cazoo Derby – but if the colt gets his ground, the trainer says he is “up for it big time”.
Undefeated in three starts this year, Mohaafeth leapt into contention for the Epsom Classic when following up a handicap victory with a five-length victory in the Listed Newmarket Stakes.
During a media conference on Wednesday, Haggas revealed the son of Frankel had undergone a searching workout on a soft track at a Newmarket’s Rowley Mile but he would not be in favour of running him on a similar surface at Epsom
“Jim [Crowley] came in and rode him on the Rowley Mile,” said the trainer. “He worked with two very smart older horses [Ilaraab and Faylaq] and he worked very nicely.
“The ground was too soft for him. I’ve been quoted several times saying this horse is a top-of-the-ground horse and I stick by that. It was a hard piece of work and it was designed to be tough and now we hopefully will have an easy time until next Saturday.”
Other contenders for the two-day Cazoo Derby Festival got a chance to work at Epsom on Monday and Haggas continued: “I think it was heavy or bordering on heavy, so I am told, and it dries pretty quickly there.
“If we can get some warmer weather and some drier weather Andrew [Cooper, clerk of the course] won’t have to touch his watering can and it’ll be what it’ll be. If it’s soft I would be keen not to run and wait for Ascot – but if it’s good or faster then we’re up for it big time.”
Mohaafeth will be Haggas’s fifth runner in the Derby, which he won with Shaamit at the start of his training career in 1996. The colt is yet to tackle the Classic distance of 1m4f.
“I’ve always felt it’s not whether they are going to see it out, it’s whether they are going to improve,” said the trainer. “Whether he is going to end up being better at a mile and a half than a mile and a quarter I am not so sure, but there is no better race to find out. We’ll be very keen to give it a go.
“It’s an open Derby and an exciting one in that it doesn’t appear to be dominated by Aidan. It looks like Mr Bolger and a few of us English souls are going to be able to put up a horse that could be a contender.”
Mohaafeth cost the late Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate 350,000gns as a yearling in the hope of reaching the top level, Haggis revealed.
“When we bought him as a yearling he was our ‘Derby horse’ in big inverted commas,” he said. “When he went to Lingfield in March I didn’t think he was our Derby horse but I thought he might end up being an Ascot horse.
“Even in his handicap win at the Craven meeting, it was impressive but it was off 85. It was really that effort in the Newmarket Stakes that appealed to everyone and brought him into focus.
“It could be that he was really flattered by that, but it also could be that the horse is making good improvement quite quickly. I’ve obviously taken the latter line.
“Whether he is up to it, we’ll find out, but he was visually very impressive at Newmarket and the form is strong if it is to be believed. The handicapper’s view was that it was a good effort and he stuffed him up 19lb to 111. He needs to be 120 to win the Derby.”
Cazoo Derby betting (Ladbrokes): 7-4 Bolshoi Ballet, 4 High Definition, 6 Mac Swiney, 7 John Leeper, Mohaafeth, 9 Hurricane Lane, 11 Third Realm, 14 Van Gogh, 16 Sir Lamorak, 25 bar.