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).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam