Haggas joins Hannon and Johnston in racing's 200 club
Newmarket has a new colossus, with William Haggas becoming the trainer with the biggest string in town.
The Derby-winning trainer had a string of 183 last year, but starts 2017 with 201 according to Horses In Training, which is published by Raceform today.
Haggas, who took out a licence in 1986, trained 58 horses at the start of the century but year-on-year additions to his stable strength have pushed him towards the top of the league table.
He joins only two other Flat trainers in Britain, Richard Hannon and Mark Johnston, in having more than 200 among those who have declared the number of horses they have in training.
Stable numbers constantly fluctuate as horses come in and out of training at different times, while other yards prefer not to declare the full extent of their string.
Nevertheless, Haggas will begin the Flat turf campaign with considerable firepower and a live Classic prospect in Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet among his team.
“We had a lot two-year-olds last year,” he said. “We’ve kept a few this year and have more older horses – double the amount we normally have.
“According to the book I have the most horses in Newmarket, but I can assure you I haven’t. We do have a good string, however.”
The rise of Hugo Palmer continues, with the trainer’s team up to 170 – only four years ago he had 29. Godolphin have also strengthened, with Saeed Bin Suroor training 190 and Charlie Appleby 160.
Others who have made notable gains are Karl Burke, whose string has risen to 132 from 96 last year, Keith Dalgleish (113 from 79) and Owen Burrows (81 from 47).
Johnston has four horses fewer than last year and is slightly down on two-year-olds, with the trainer, who listed 41 juveniles for Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in 2016, having been sent 23 this year.
Johnston has adapted to a change in his stable’s makeup by training more than 90 two-year-old winners in each of the last two campaigns, double the number of previous seasons, when he enjoyed more success with three-year-olds.
Johnston has won the last two editions of the Brocklesby Stakes – the latest with The Last Lion, who ended the campaign by winning the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes – but doubts he can make as quick a start next month.
“It will certainly be more difficult,” he said. “Obviously having done it for the last two years we’re keen to get a fast start, but if you look at last year three of the first four winners were Darley horses and there’s not so many of them and they’re not as far forward. It will be more difficult to get that fast start, but we’ll be trying all the same.”
He added: “We’re proud of our record. In the past people have tried to pigeonhole us, particularly as producers of stayers. It’s a while since we’ve had a stayer. We’ll take what we’re given and train them.”