He took over in the midst of a major crisis and opinion remains mixed as to the progress made by the team in Royal Blue. Charlie Appleby has been with Godolphin for many years and was appointed trainer for their Moulton Paddocks operation in 2013.
Born in Southampton in 1975, he was introduced to riding at a very young age, thanks in the main to his parent’s involvement with ponies and Arab horses. Though a keen golfer in his youth his ambition was firmly set on becoming a jockey. He became involved with point-to-pointers at the age of 12 and moved on to ride work for trainers Angela Knight and Jackie Retter.
He embarked on a nine-week British Racing School course in Newmarket at the age of 16, and has struck up a strong bond with the town ever since. He rode out at Susan Piggott’s yard after his course and was thrilled to be offered a job.
He soon became travelling head lad as well as race riding on the Flat as an amateur. Unfortunately his weight continued to rise and at 18 it became apparent that a career as a flat jockey was unfeasible. However, his time with the Piggott’s would prove a wonderful learning opportunity for the youngster. He was given greater responsibility within the yard and furthered his education and experience by being able to ride out with the legendary Lester Piggott.
He remained with them until Susan retired from training in 1995. He then joined David Loder who was known as a trainer capable of producing outstanding juveniles. Appleby was offered a permanent job as second travelling head lad by the Newmarket trainer. Quality horses started out at the yard including one of Godolphin’s greatest, Dubai Millennium.
Loder became the private trainer of two-year-olds for the Godolphin operation in 1998 and moved to the former Evry Racecourse near Paris. The French experience, which lasted two seasons, would prove invaluable for Appleby. He gave up work riding and was placed in charge of one of the six barns; organising the exercise schedules.
He travelled to Dubai for the first time in the winter of 2000, and was given the role of breaking in the two-year-olds. At the end of the 2002, Loder left Godolphin but Appleby was asked to remain and became involved with the main training set-up run by Saeed bin Suroor.
Taking on more responsibility he became yard manager. His career took another step forward in 2007 when he took on an assistant trainer role in Dubai. Two successful winters followed before a return to Newmarket in the spring of 2009. Initially he worked as head lad at Moulton Paddocks before taking over as assistant trainer. In 2013 after the much publicised crisis at the yard, he was promoted to the top job.
Leading juvenile Outstrip proved to be the standard bearer in his first season. The son of Exceed And Excel scorched to victory in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster beating The Grey Gatsby and Cable Bay in the process. He then slightly disappointed when coming home third in the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst at Newmarket. However, the grey colt then provided Appleby with his first success at the highest level when winning a thrilling Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
Appleby landed his first domestic Group 1 in 2014 when Charming Thought took the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket, defeating both Ivawood and Muhaarar. Sadly the classy son of Oasis Dream has yet to be seen this season following a setback. It is hoped he could return at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting.
With more than 200 horses in his care, the responsibility and weight of expectation is considerable. It’s fair to say that the big wins have yet to arrive, but it’s still early days, and there’s certainly a number of highly promising juveniles with the potential of challenging for top honours.
Emotionless demolished a decent looking field in a recent maiden at Newmarket. A son of Shamardal, he’s a huge colt who could prove to be top class. He’s entered for the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster which Appleby won with Outstrip. A strong performance there would likely see him heading for the Dewhurst. Culturati is another promising sort. The son of Dubawi was beaten by the Queen’s colt Recorder at Newmarket last time, but holds lofty entries for the remainder of the season. We have yet to see Firnas and Istiqlaal, both beautifully bred and entered for the Dewhurst in October.
This Saturday Appleby is set to run Safety Check in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury. He ran with great promise at Glorious Goodwood last time after a five month break, and is rightly well-fancied to go close against several talented three-year-olds, including Home Of The Brave and Limato.
Though the Group 1 winners are yet to flood in, it’s important to point out that Appleby is hitting a 26% strike rate of winners to runs. He is currently sixth in the trainers’ championship, with a top three finish not beyond the realms of possibility. Competition on the flat is tougher than ever, with the likes of Qatar Racing and Al Shaqab thrown into the melting pot.
Godolphin remains the team to beat as far as the owner’s championship is concerned, and in Charlie Appleby, they clearly remain confident that the operation is heading in the right direction. A big finish to the season would be more than welcome for the Moulton Paddocks trainer.