An email conversation with racing trainer William Haggas

'At the start you think you know it all, but really you're lost for years'


What is so good about Goodwood, which starts tomorrow? In most ways "glorious" is the right word, it's part of what makes British racing unique. All our top courses are so different – Newmarket, Chester, York, Ascot, Goodwood – in their demands and the spectacle they give and Goodwood's setting is magnificent, the standard of racing is high and the prize-money is fantastic. But in another way jockeys and trainers hate it. It has difficult bends and cambers and if you get a clear run in a big field it's a miracle.

What's so good about racing? There are more trainers than ever, more horses than ever, more fixtures than ever. We have Sheikh Mohammed and the other Maktoums here, which is particularly good for those of us who have their horses, but for everyone else too – they've invested in the industry, raised standards and everything trickles down. Looking in from the outside, it doesn't seem like an industry in crisis. But we insiders think it is, and it's up to us to keep banging the drum.

You took part in a boycott over prize-money at Yarmouth recently. Is that what you mean? We have to vote with our feet if we think things are wrong. If you don't think that running for £1,900 is acceptable, then don't enter; that's the only way to get change. I hope we in the trainers' federation can come up with constructive ideas. The mindset in the industry is more modern nowadays – it's not the old Jockey Club any more, automatically saying, "Can't'"

Has violence at meetings this year presented an image problem? The tracks make money from their post-racing pop concerts – at Newmarket the Friday nights help fund the year – and if you get 20,000 people and alcohol together you are going to get fights. Sadly, it's the culture we live in.

With the perceived difficulties facing the sport, why would anyone want to get involved professionally? Horses are more a way of life than anything else. You live the dream, even if it is a fantasy. The next yearling that walks in the yard might just be the one to catapult your career. I was lucky because my first winner came at a high-profile meeting. At the start you think you know everything, but really you're lost for years.

How did you begin life in racing? When I left school at 18 the old man, who had a textile factory, said that if I didn't have a job by 1 September I'd be working for him. Of course I gave it no further heed until 31 August and then thought, "Oh shit", and trudged off to clock on. On my first day off, three months later, I drove from Yorkshire to Newmarket and begged Jeremy Hindley, who trained a horse for my father, to give me a job. I said I'd muck out, mow the lawn, clean his car, anything rather than go back to the mill. And I'm still here.

What has been your best moment? It must be when we won the Derby with Shaamit. I had only 40 horses then and it was a tremendous feat for a small stable. But at that stage I had no real idea just how difficult it was. I've got many more horses now and haven't had a Derby runner since. We had another two decent horses that year, too, but the following season I had just 12 winners and all the new best friends we'd made disappeared.

Has your relationship to Lester Piggott been a blessing? Very much so. His knowledge has been invaluable and every time I go racing someone asks me how he is. But I don't think I'll ever get to the dizzy heights of instead of me being his son-in-law, he's referred to as William Haggas's father-in-law.

If not racing, what else? I adore cricket and if I have a day off I just love to go to a Test match. I'm very spoilt really; when I was at school I played some games for the MCC, and my membership is vital to me. Test cricket will always survive, even though the one-day game has changed the way it has played. The days of a Boycott grinding out 100 in a day and a half have gone. A shorter, low-scoring match can be just as fascinating, though. Like the Open golf at Birkdale was, where instead of being 15 under par they were shooting triple-bogeys.

Football? I used to go and watch Cambridge United until I had a run-in with the chairman. I always look out for results at Burnley, the local team where I grew up. A friend has a box at Arsenal and the Emirates is sensational. I know at the time we thought these modern, all-seater stadiums would be the end of life as we know it but they've helped clean up the yob culture. Off the pitch, anyway.

Lack of sportsmanship gets to me, and disrespect for referees and umpires. I mean, how many times does a referee in the penalty box surrounded by 11 players shouting in his face say, "Quite right, lads, I've made a mistake, it's a free-kick the other way"? When I was at Harrow, David Ellery was a junior master and he was the best referee because he had discipline and didn't take shit from anyone. And take the [England cricket captain] Paul Collingwood scenario [when he refused to call back New Zealand batsman Grant Elliott after running him out even though he had collided with bowler Ryan Sidebottom] – he's the luckiest man in sport that New Zealand won [that one-day match], otherwise he'd have been castigated for ever. Daniel Vettori [the New Zealand captain] was quite right to say that the spirit of cricket should not be allowed to deteriorate.

Back to Goodwood. What are your chances this week? We've been going really well but for us it's maybe a thinner week than usual. I think I've probably fired a lot of bullets at other meetings – we had a double with Aqlaam and Collection at Royal Ascot – and a stable our size doesn't have the wealth of horses to produce another 10 for Goodwood. I think our best hope is Alfathaa in the mile Listed race on Saturday.

Attachment

*Born 23 August 1960, Skipton, North Yorkshire.

*Married 4 March 1989 to Maureen. Two children, Mary-Anne and Sam.

*First trainer's licence 20 November 1986. Previously two years as assistant to Sir Mark Prescott and four years to John Winter.

*Trains at Somerville Lodge, Newmarket.

*First winner Tricky Note, 15 April 1987, Newmarket.

*Best horses Shaamit (Derby), Chorist (Pretty Polly Stakes, Blandford Stakes), Bog Trotter (Champagne Stakes, Greenham Stakes), Yeast (Royal Hunt Cup, Victoria Cup), High Low (Lincoln Handicap), Superstar Leo (Norfolk Stakes, Super Sprint, Flying Childers Stakes, 2nd in Prix de l'Abbaye), Majestic Missile (Molecomb Stakes, Cornwallis Stakes), Count Dubois (Gran Criterium), Brunel (Free Handicap, German 2,000 Guineas, Topkapi Trophy), Dupont (German 2,000 Guineas, Italian 2,000 Guineas), Suggestive (Criterion Stakes), Very Wise (Lincoln Handicap), Enticing (Molecomb Stakes), Monte Etoile (Ribblesdale Stakes), Conquest (Gimcrack Stakes), Aqlaam (Jersey Stakes), Jargelle (Super Sprint), Collection (Hampton Court Stakes).

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players