'He's transformed' - Haggas hoping to shake up Champion Stakes with Dubai Honour
A spell with Olympic gold medal winner Laura Collett sparked a remarkable transformation in Champion Stakes dark horse Dubai Honour according to William Haggas, who on Wednesday discussed his three-strong assault on Saturday's Group 1.
The son of Pride Of Dubai has improved 25lb this year, taking his form to new levels in his last two starts with a pair of Group 2 wins in France. He was first successful in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville before coming from last to first to land the Prix Dollar in decisive fashion at Longchamp on Arc weekend.
That success prompted connections to stump up the £75,000 supplementary fee for a first crack at a top-level race, with his trainer pinpointing a trip to see Collett – who won gold with Great Britain in team eventing in Tokyo – as the turning point in him showcasing his talent.
"In the winter we lost him, he got very free and didn't want to do anything," Haggas said. "We sent him off to Laura and she sent a video of him six weeks later and he looked absolutely magnificent. He was a completely different horse and he's done nothing but thrive since, he's transformed.
"We ran him in the Dollar and James [Doyle, jockey] said he showed a very smart turn of foot. He was well on top at the finish. I put the suggestion to the owner [Mohamed Obaida] to supplement and he nearly bit my hand off for it. He's an intriguing runner."
Haggas will also be represented by last year's winner Addeybb and Al Aasy – with the Somerville Lodge trainer warning the ground may not suit the former – and believes Derby and King George winner Adayar is the one to beat should he turn up.
Speaking on a Great British Racing Zoom call, he added: "Addeybb's ideal conditions is the track passing an inspection the morning of the race, he sloshes through that. I'm not sure drying, gluey ground will be soft enough.
"His record at Ascot and right-handed is fantastic, but this is a hugely competitive race. Mishriff was awesome at York and Adayar is a bloody good horse. I'd be really frightened of him, even at a mile and a quarter, he'll be hard to pass.
"Al Aasy is much better than he showed last time at Newbury. He's talented and is no mug, even in a race of this quality. He's been rubbished by everyone, so I'd love to see him run a good race."
Haggas's chief hope on the day is Baaeed, who is vying for favouritism with Palace Pier in a vintage running of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes having stretched his perfect record to five with success in the Prix du Moulin last time, despite the trainer admitting he suffered a minor setback before that race.
Haggas said: "He's extraordinary. I've been enormously impressed with what he's done in such a short space of time, but he has a big task in front of him. It's a hell of a race – probably the best mile race of the season.
"I don't want to undermine the horses that finished behind him at Longchamp, but I'm sure we didn't see him at his best. You'll see the best of him on Saturday."
Haggas is set to be doubly represented in the Long Distance Cup with Hamish and Roberto Escobarr, while he will be three-handed in the Balmoral Handicap with Aldaary, Montatham and Johan.
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