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Appleby hopes to do Godolphin proud by winning first Epsom Derby for royal blue silks

Author: Duane Fonseca

15/02/2018
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Having won the International Trainer of the Year accolade twice over the last two years at the annual Horserace Writers and Photographers Association Derby Awards in the United Kingdom, the thought of a third title that would complete a fine hat-trick would have, at some stage, crossed Charlie Appleby’s mind. If only winning the honour was as simple as stretching your hand out and grabbing the gong, the Godolphin handler would have done just that.

“It’s a great honour to have won the title twice on the run, because it’s definitely not an easy award to win. It takes a lot to win a title like that,” Appleby said. “I must thank HH Sheikh Mohammed whose passion for racing and constant drive to achieve the highest professional standards serves as inspiration to us all. “Winning this award is a sign of what we have achieved as a unit on the global stage and that means our horses are away from home for long periods, and for such ventures to be successful, you need the right horses and an excellent team to ensure everything goes well, at home and on location. I am fortunate to have both. “HH Sheikh Mohammed always says that in achievements you have always to keep going forward.

What we did last year, was last year, and we have started back on zero again as of 1 January; we have to start working our way up again. “I am delighted with what has happened so far. We have started 2018 well in Dubai and we are a nice few winners into the carnival; the horses seem to be wintering well so hopefully we will have another massive year.” Appleby’s 2017 started well with a good amount of success in the Dubai World Cup Carnival where he finished second in the trainers’ standings, two wins short of Godolphin counterpart Saeed bin Suroor, who won 13 races.

However, things moved forward well for him and his Newmarketbased Moulton Paddocks team, who sent a small but quality consignment to Sydney, where Polarisation won the Group 1 Sydney Cup in April setting the pace for what was to follow. It was the first of four victories that proved crucial to him winning the International Trainer of the Year title for 2017. Appleby followed the Sydney win with Sobetsu’s stunning three length success in the Group 1 Prix Saint- Alary at Deauville in France in May. He landed the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly with Wild Illusion in October, and a little over a month later, was back in the winner’s enclosure when William Buick landed the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf when riding Wuheida to a one length victory, at Del Mar.

Summarising 2017, Appleby added: “Things started off really well for us at the carnival, which was a bit of fun with myself and Saeed ‘ding donging’ out for the trainers’ championship and Saeed doing me in again. He is a master at this now and that was a great way to start the year. “Then I sent a small team down to Sydney and Polarisation went and won the Sydney Cup, twice as it happened because the first time it was a void race and it will go down in history for that. But it opened early doors there. “Sobetsu then went on to win the Prix St Alary at Deauville which put the European Group One on board and from there, the season just went the right way with the 2yos performing very well and the older horses campaigning well.

Obviously, the crowning glory for the season was Wuheida winning at Del Mar and it was a very special moment because she is a filly that I have always held in high regard. “She has had her problems which have been well documented, so when she achieved what we always hoped she would one day achieve, it was a great moment and capped the year off. Thankfully, we had a second year in the running as International Trainer and it’s a great achievement; I can only thank HH Sheikh Mohammed for giving me the opportunity to have these horses and travel around the world with them.”

Appleby has a lot to be thankful for, having spent 15 years with Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation as travelling head lad, stable lad and then assistant trainer before his promotion to trainer in July 2013. He didn’t waste time trying to land his first Group One victory, which came when Outstrip won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita in November 2013. Appleby is edging closer to his 500th winner for Godolphin and could get there as early as this week at Meydan, having registered 497 so far, including the six from this year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival. The Breeders’ Cup win with Wuheida was his ninth Group One success.

“[At Godolphin] we are given our cards to play in respect of the horses and what we did last year sort of showed that we just get on with whatever job is in hand,” said Appleby. “To condition them and get them ready to their peak performance and aim them in the right races and most importantly win them. Godolphin had a great 2017 but we won’t rest on our laurels; we will go forward and improve again. So it’s a challenge but we have a team in place to more than meet those challenges. Hopefully, it’s going to be an exciting year.” Appleby’s first task going forward is this week’s carnival double header at Meydan on Thursday and Saturday. Among his many runners on both cards, he saddles Gold Town and Last Voyage in the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas on the Thursday card, and sends Bravo Zolo out to raid for the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes on Saturday.

“It’s always nice to have winners because it shows the horses are in good form. We are very lucky with the facilities and horses that we have here for the carnival, but as always, it is as competitive as ever,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong but it’s a ‘walk back’ really and you always want to see the horses perform on World Cup night, so we plan their campaigns in reverse almost. Basically I’ve brought a few horses with me to hopefully work back from there. Like Hawkbill and maybe Masar for the UAE Derby so it’s an exciting team and hopefully, if they stay healthy through the winter, we will have a good time.” As far as his personal goals go, Appleby says he is comfortable focussing on getting the job done for Godolphin.

“It’s hard to say what my ambitions are because every time I have a Group One winner, it’s my way of thanking HH Sheikh Mohammed for giving me this opportunity,” he said. “With regards to my own ambition, it’s to have as many winners as possible and, most importantly, to produce Classic winners. I haven’t had a European Classic winner so that obviously is a goal, but more so, I am here to deliver for Godolphin and his HH Sheikh Mohammed and to make him proud for giving me this opportunity.” And he knows the one race that might just about make the Dubai ruler extremely proud of his decision to promote Appleby to trainer. “Godolphin haven’t won the Derby in the royal blue colours.

I have to say from a personal point of view, I haven’t had a runner in there for the last couple of years and prhaps I have been thankful that they have not had a winner because I would love to put that winner on the board for His Highness,” Appleby said. “If you ask me what my real goal is, then it would be to win the Derby in the royal blue colours.”

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