A week on from Big Evs conquering America, Mick Appleby is still coming to terms with the Breeders’ Cup achievement of his speedster.
The son of Blue Point was already inked in the history books at the trainer’s Rutland base having provided Appleby with a first Royal Ascot winner in the summer, but he went one step further in Santa Anita, blitzing America’s best with a devastating display to give the handler a maiden success at the highest level.
The jetlag may now be subsiding, but the memories and magnitude of what his stable star accomplished are still hitting home for the Barnsley-born trainer, who has worked his way up from humble beginnings.
“It was absolutely amazing, I still don’t think it has sunk in yet,” said Appleby.
“All trainers would like Grade or Group One winners and going out to the Breeders’ Cup and getting our first one was something amazing, it was really special.
“I have to pinch myself and its hard to believe it has happened. It’s just been amazing and I’m still on cloud nine – it’s been like a dream.”
There were of course victories in California for the powerhouse operations of Godolphin, Juddmonte and Coolmore.
However, this was also the Breeders’ Cup where the lesser lights got their moment and the victory of Big Evs is testament to the hard work and ambition of a trainer who has served his time as all-weather champion and is eager to showcase his talent on the big stage.
His commitment to the cause has seen him treading a familiar beat around the all-weather circuit since returning from US, but he is proud to disprove the theory he is a one-trick trainer.
Appleby said: “We’ve always been pigeonholed as an all-weather trainer, but hopefully that disappears now and the world realises we are as good on grass, especially with two-year-olds, as we’ve never been renowned for having juveniles. But if you don’t have the ammunition, you can’t win with them.
“It’s hard work, it’s really hard work just keeping the horses sound, fit and injury free.
“I think its a great achievement and we’ve got a great team here – without the team it wouldn’t be possible. It’s great for everyone concerned. It means a lot to the whole yard.”
That hard work has seen the likes of Danzeno, Caspian Prince and Raasel pass through Appleby’s hands at his Langham training base, but he is in little doubt that his Breeders’ Cup champion is top of the class.
“He’s very quick and you have to very fast to go with him. He’s just speed,” said the Yorkshireman.
“He reminds me a lot of a horse we had called Caspian Prince, he would be the quickest horse I’ve ever had and won the Dash (at Epsom) a few times. He was lightning quick. I think Big Evs would definitely be up there with him.
“He was our first Group One winner so I would say he is (the best we have had). I’ve never seen a horse as quick as him, he’s absolute lightning.
“When we first started working Big Evs with the likes of Raasel and Annaf, we knew he was something special and really quick because none of the other two-year-olds could get anywhere near him.”
Like all underdog tales, this was a story that started with disappointment and in Big Evs’ case, defeat at Redcar on debut.
“We were gobsmacked he got beat, but it was the draw that beat him at Redcar and if you were on the stands side you had no chance whatsoever,” explained Appleby.
“He had to go right the way across the track to get to the leaders and if he had a better draw he would have won. We weren’t disappointed and he showed enough to convince us he was decent.”
He would go on to prove Appleby’s assessment of “decent” to be a slight underestimation when winning the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot on his second start, with a battling victory in the Goodwood mud soon to follow.
A chastising defeat when supplemented for the Nunthorpe is the sole blot on the Big Evs’ copybook, but he was soon back on form when demolishing the Flying Childers field at Doncaster.
“Obviously we had the blip in the Nunthorpe and we just had to put a line through that and then he bounced back so impressively at Doncaster,” continued Appleby.
“To be fair, I was umming and ahhing whether we should have gone to York, but the owner was very keen and it was his home track and a race he has always wanted to win.
“It was worth going for it and I think, in hindsight, Goodwood took a lot out of him on the heavy ground and was the contributing factor to him running poorly there. If he had another two weeks after Goodwood before the Nunthorpe, I think it might have been a different story all together.
“It was a relief he went to Doncaster and bounced back and I think that was his most impressive win. The time he did was staggering and after that we were definitely going to the Breeders’ Cup.”
There was little doubt in the Big Evs camp that their speedball would rise to the occasion, and when the bell rang and gates opened on the opening night of Breeders’ Cup action, he showed all of his champion qualities to cruise to victory in the hands of Tom Marquand.
Appleby said: “The good thing with him, he has good gate speed. He’s lighting out and straight into stride and gone.
“He was very good and especially first time around a bend. That was always going to be our concern whether he would be able to cope with a bend going as quick as he does.
“Tom gave him a brilliant ride and let him just find his feet round the bend and find the right leg. Once he got into the straight, he quickened away again. Tom said as soon as that one was closing on him, he had lots in the tank and went again. It was a great ride.”
Although there was Santa Anita glory for Appleby, there was disappointment for fellow Brit Adam West and both Big Evs and the Epsom handler’s Live In The Dream will return in 2024 attempting to lay claim to the title of the world’s fastest racehorse.
“There probably is someone faster somewhere and obviously some of the American horses are very quick, but I don’t know if there is any faster in this country,” continued the Langham handler.
“Live In The Dream is probably one that is quick. I would imagine we will be clashing at some point and that will be interesting.”
Next season will be top-level action all the way for Big Evs as Appleby searches for more famous victories on the big stage with his horse of a lifetime.
He added: “The good thing is Paul (Teasdale, owner) is not going to sell him. You get a lot of owners who when the offers come in would be snapping it up, but Paul has no intention of selling which is good for us.
“He’s already won his Group One and hopefully we will be aiming at all the Group races over five furlongs next year.
“We’ve just got to stay up there with him. We’re going to look forward to him next year, but obviously it will be a bit nervy as well about if he will train on, because you do always have that nagging thought in your mind. But I see no reason why he wouldn’t.”