Charlie Appleby earned his first Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes with Modern Games powering to glory at Newbury and the most consistent of trainers was generous with his praise for the team effort.
Modern Games arguably has not received the credit his career has deserved thus far and the Godolphin handler was keen to make the point on a sun-drenched afternoon.
The facts are quite phenomenal. Born in the same year as stablemates Coroebus and Native Trail, both Classic winners, Modern Games had already proved himself as a juvenile, landing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on his final start in a six-race campaign.
While Coroebus was defeating subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Native Trail in the Guineas at Newmarket, Modern Games was sent to France. He duly did his duty, landing the French equivalent and giving Appleby a clean sweep in the colts’ mile division.
A runner-up effort to Baaeed in the Sussex Stakes was followed by Group One success at Woodbine in Canada. A QEII runner-up to Bayside Boy, then it was off to America, where he won around a two-turn mile at Keeneland.
Now a domestic Group One has fallen his way – in great style it has to be said, with William Buick having to “keep him interested” near the front end, according to Appleby.
A career at stud beckons at the end of the year for Modern Games and he will doubtless be popular with breeders.
Yet Appleby was not only happy to heap praise on the horse. His first call was from fellow handler Saeed bin Suroor, these days often overlooked as a key cog in Godolphin’s Newmarket operation.
He served notice a couple of weeks ago that he is still a player when Mawj won the 1000 Guineas – a fact not lost on Appleby.
“I am delighted for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, for Godolphin and for the team back at Moulton Paddocks, but more for this horse – he deserves it,” said Appleby.
“Coming into the race, he was a four-time Group One winner, but to win one on the domestic scene is a huge testament to him and his sire, Dubawi.
“He is his son – there’s no doubt about it.
“There was strength in depth and they have gone a good gallop. I said to William (Buick) to keep him up in the van and keep him interested. He is an older horse now, so you have to keep the interest there and give him a target.
“From William’s point of view, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but he has given him a fantastic ride and the jockey knows the horse so well, he knew exactly when to deliver the challenge.
“Ultimately we want to head back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”
Yet such is the mark of the man, who has largely turned Godolphin’s fortunes around, he was also eager to acknowledge Bin Suroor and the essence of Team Godolphin.
“I was delighted for Saeed to win the Guineas,” said Appleby. “He was the first person calling me there after the Lockinge.
“Everyone looks at us as working against each other, but we work for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and that is what myself and Saeed and everyone does, but we do it as a team.
“He was the first to call. That’s nothing new. Whether I win or he wins, we are winning for His Highness and that is what we all do it for. There is no rivalry – we are a team aiming to achieve the best.
“For him to have that Classic winner was brilliant. Everyone will say ‘Charlie, how well you are doing’, but as I always say to Saaeed, I’m about two championships behind you and about a thousand winners!
“I don’t think I should be trying to take any plaudits. It’s great to see Saeed win these type of races and great for the team. It was just brilliant for Modern Games, too. He deserves that.”