Superstar Leo puts Haggas back in the spotlight

William Haggas experienced "professionally, the best five minutes of my life since Shaamit won the Derby" here and at Newbury yesterday. Superstar Leo started the ball rolling by taking the day's richest contest, the Super Sprint, at the Berkshire course and barely had the filly's trainer watched her scamper clear than he was welcoming Capricho into the winner's circle at his home track.

William Haggas experienced "professionally, the best five minutes of my life since Shaamit won the Derby" here and at Newbury yesterday. Superstar Leo started the ball rolling by taking the day's richest contest, the Super Sprint, at the Berkshire course and barely had the filly's trainer watched her scamper clear than he was welcoming Capricho into the winner's circle at his home track.

His first reaction was that he must avoid his father-in-law Lester Piggott in the near future. Piggott bred the daughter of College Chapel and saw her win the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in his colours, after which Haggas persuaded him to accept a substantial offer from American interests. Her new owners have now retrieved £72,000 of the purchase price. "Lester will kill me for selling her," said Haggas. "But it was a good offer, too good to refuse."

Superstar Leo, named, rather incongruously for a filly, after a boat in Hong Kong on which Piggott once enjoyed a party, found a tremendous change of gear for Michael Hills in the final furlong and at the line was was three and a half lengths clear of Elsie Plunkett with the dead-heaters Up Tempo and Threezedzz a short-head back. Zeitunzeen came in fifth of the 22 runners with the 11-10 favourite Romantic Myth, winner of the Queen Mary Stakes at Ascot, a never dangerous sixth.

It was Haggas's biggest payday since that glorious Saturday in 1996 when he took the sport's ultimate prize. But he has learnt not to agonise over lesser times and to enjoy the good moments when they come. "Days like today are why we're in it," he said, "but we know and accept they're not all like it."

Superstar Leo will eventually leave his Somerville Lodge Stables to race and ultimately breed in America, but before then there is a more ambitious target or her than yesterday's race which, though valuable because of its sales-related format, is only Class B. Next month's Phoenix Stakes at Leopardstown over an extra furlong beckons, and Superstar Leo was certainly not stopping as she broke the course record by 1.33 seconds. There was also a new record for Auenklang, head-hunted from Germany by Godolphin last year, in the opener at Newbury. The three-year-old was one of the best of his age in his native land last year but this was his first appearance since wintering in Dubai with his new masters.

He led throughout the six furlongs and quickened so smartly that he had six lengths in hand of Harmonic Way at the end. John Reid in the saddle was suitably impressed. "This is the best sprinter I have ridden for some time," he said.

The Teutonic theme was picked up at Newmarket later in the afternoon when Abitara, trained by Andreas Wohler at Bremen, took the Aphrodite Stakes, staying on stoutly under Jason weaver to beat Chez Cherie and poorly ridden Evil Empire, another Godolphin German recruit.

Abitara was a rare German-trained winner in Britain, in fact only the second since Star Appeal was a shock winner of the 1975 Eclipse Stakes. The first was Chagall, who scored at Doncaster last October and returned to Britain to run second in the Criterion Stakes here earlier in the month, shortly after his compatriot Sumitas chased home Dubai Millennium at Royal Ascot.

Given the way the wind seemed to be blowing as to the ability of German-based horses, and that she had won four straight races in Germany and France before yesterday, Abitara's starting price of 20-1 was insulting. She was a first runner in this country for her owner-breeder Manfred Ostermann, whose powerful Ittlingen Stud near Munster has produced such good horses as the German Derby winner Lando, whom Abitara will visit next spring, and Laroche and top-class filly Hollywood Dream.

* Coral have removed Montjeu from the betting on Saturday's King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Ian Wassell, Coral's spokesman, said: "We have seen each-way interest against Montjeu from shrewd sources. With the ground firm and a dry week forecast we believe Montjeu is unlikely to run."

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