There was no second Classic victory for Charlie Appleby this year, but the emergence of Ghaiyyath at the top table ensured another campaign packed full of victories at the highest level.
Going into the season, all eyes were on the Classic potential of champion 2019 two-year-old Pinatubo, but it would be his late-developing stablemate who would steal the limelight with a series of dazzling performances – confirming the star quality Appleby believed he always possessed.
After trouncing his rivals in a Group Three at Meydan on his return, Ghaiyyath announced himself on the big stage with a hat-trick of top-level victories – starting in the Coronation Cup, re-routed from Epsom to Newmarket, in a course-record time.
Two imperious front-running displays followed back at 10 furlongs, with victory over Enable in the Coral Eclipse at Sandown, before – in Appleby’s opinion – Ghaiyyath’s finest victory, and what would be turn out to be his last, in the Juddmonte International at York.
Appleby said: “As much as we saw glimpses of his talent in 2019, I think the British public got on board after that Coronation Cup win, and thankfully he gave them something to follow through the summer.
“From there he dropped back to 10 furlongs for a great race in beating Enable in the Eclipse – and that set it up for a great Juddmonte International, where he beat a stellar field. They all came to have a crack at him, but he just found again.
“We went to the Irish Champion Stakes, and at the end of the day it was a great race and he lost nothing in defeat to Magical – and he had an Arc winner (Sottsass) in behind.
“We were looking forward to the Breeder’s Cup meeting. That didn’t develop in the end, but I feel he got a lot of admirers and it was fully rewarded in receiving the Cartier Horse Of The Year award.
“He brightened up everyone’s summer, and from a personal and a team point of view he developed into the horse we always hoped was there.”
Although Pinatubo failed to maintain his unbeaten status this season, he showed on more than one occasion in defeat that he had trained on – before claiming his all important Group One victory at three, returned to seven furlongs in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville.
Appleby said: “He is one of those horses that will go down as an exceptional two-year-old, but I think he gained a lot of plaudits at three because he danced every dance.
“He went to a Guineas and finished a respectable third off an end-to-end pace; then two weeks later he was there at Royal Ascot but again met defeat by a horse in Palace Pier that was finding his feet as a three-year-old.
“Dropping back to the seven, I was always confident it was going to be a formality for him – and he duly obliged.”
The Derby-winning trainer is a man with few regrets – but failing to get Pinatubo, who has also been retired to stud, to stretch his stamina out to win over a mile is one.
He added: “You will always walk away now and say ‘I wish I had won a Group One over a mile with him’ because I was confident he could get the mile. Who knows if he would have done it had the Guineas been run at its normal slot?
“He has been a fantastic home-bred son of Shamardal that we have taken pride and pleasure out of being involved with.”
Replacing Group One stars is never easy, but Appleby is better placed than many to find natural heirs – and in Superlative Stakes winner Master Of The Seas and Autumn Stakes hero One Ruler, he believes he has two colts capable of stepping up.
He said: “The likes of One Ruler, who campaigned well at Group level this season, is going to be an exciting horse for next year – as is Master Of The Seas, who won the Superlative, but had a bit of setback after the National Stakes. Both are wintering well.
“I think we will start looking at the Guineas with One Ruler, and I can’t see any reason why he won’t step up to the 10 furlongs.
“The question mark will always be that step up to a mile and a half – but to me, his main target will be the 2000 Guineas. Likewise with Master Of The Seas, we will look at the 2000 Guineas, but I can see him getting further.
“I’m very pleased with our two-year-olds that will soon turn three, because I think we have some strength and depth there to look forwards to.”
On William Buick champion’s jockey chances:
“He is keen to have another crack at it, and we are very keen to support him. If he can gain a champion jockey’s title on his CV it is something I’m sure he will be very proud to have. I was delighted with the challenge he put up to Oisin this year, and hopefully William can get the momentum going early doors and have a good crack at it. In my opinion he should be favourite – and he will be a hard rider to beat. He gained a lot of supporters through the year. He is a very talented rider, a good friend, and I’d love to see him have a crack at it next year.”
On Space Blues:
“He is a horse that has always been a yard favourite and he was a typical Dubawi in that he progressed as the year went on. His crowning glory was achieving that Group One success – which we felt was well-deserved. He is a genuine Group One contender on what he has achieved so far. As we all know, they get that bit of age on them and they get that bit stronger again. He is back in training after his setback and will start in either Saudi Arabia or the Al Fahidi Sprint in Dubai.”
On names to note in 2021:
“Noble Dynasty is a half brother to Barney Roy who hasn’t raced at Group race level yet but is another to look forward to. Royal Fleet, who won on his debut at Kempton, is another who will progress as time goes on.
“A’Shaari is the filly that is a full sister to Wuheida, who won very impressively at Newmarket on her only start.
“Two older horses who still have got to go forward again are Royal Crusade and Al Suhail. Both are out in Dubai to start their campaigns off, and we will see how far they can climb up the ranks.”