Appleby pays tribute to ‘absolute star’ Caspian Prince

Much-loved veteran sprinter Caspian Prince is set for a happy retirement after trainer Michael Appleby called time on his successful decade-long career.

The chestnut, who is a son of Dylan Thomas, was bred in Ireland but began his career under the care of Eoghan O’Neill in France and initially ran over longer distances before finding his niche as a five-furlong sprinter.

In 2013 he was bought by his current co-owner, Stephen Louch, and was transferred to the base of Tony Carroll, for whom he won the 2014 Epsom Dash.

Caspian Prince made the Epsom Dash his own
Caspian Prince made the Epsom Dash his own (Steven Paston/PA)

Throughout his career Caspian Prince would go on to win the race twice more and would switch stables six times, but it was his four-season tenure at Appleby’s Rutland base that lasted the longest.

The reappearance of an old injury was the cause of his retirement, but the gelding bows out safe and well after a 10-year career that has seen him run 115 times, winning 23 of those races and collecting 14 places and £871,746 worth of prize-money in the process.

“He’s been a legend, an absolute star, he’s a nice character and I’ve been privileged to train him,” Appleby said.

“We’ve had some great times with him. We’ve had him for the last few years of his career and he always gives his all, he’s a favourite in the yard with the staff.

“He’s broken track records as a 12-year-old, you won’t see many horses doing that, I think he’s the oldest horse in England to win a class two.

“We’ve not been hard on him at all, we didn’t do too much with him because we kept him for the track.”

Caspian Prince with Tom Marquand after victory at Newcastle
Caspian Prince with Tom Marquand after victory at Newcastle (Dan Abraham/PA)

Caspian Prince will now move on to a second career in another discipline as his trainer feels he will be happiest staying in some sort of ridden work rather than retiring completely.

“We were half-thinking of keeping him at home and just putting him in the field with a couple of horse that have retired, but I don’t think he’s ready for that,” he said.

“I think he’d still like to be active and doing something else.

“We’ll find a really nice home for him with somebody who’ll want to do ROR (retraining of racehorses) or dressage with him because I think he’d still love to be doing something.

“We’ll find a home for him and have him on loan there so that if they ever don’t want him, we’ll be having him straight back.”

Zeyaadah back on track with Hoppings success

Zeyaadah put her Oaks disappointment behind her as she produced a telling late challenge to win the William Hill Hoppings Fillies’ Stakes at Newcastle.

Roger Varian’s Shadwell Estate filly could finish only a distant 13th of 14 behind the impressive Snowfall when sent off a single-figure price in the Epsom Classic at the start of this month.

But she put her career back on track in this Group Three, down to 10 furlongs on Newcastle’s Tapeta surface.

Jim Crowley held Zeyaadah up well towards the rear, and still had just one horse behind entering the straight. But she quickly made ground and overhauled eventual runner-up Technique in the final furlong to win more comfortably than the official margin of a head suggested – justifying her status as 15-8 favourite.

Crowley told Sky Sports Racing: “It just didn’t happen (for her at Epsom) – the rain tipped down that day, and she’s obviously a top-of-the-ground filly.

“She did win on it (heavy ground) one day at Newmarket, but I think she’s better on a better surface.

“Obviously today, I just had to sit a little bit. I was drawn eight, and didn’t really want to go three wide the whole way.

“They went a nice pace, and the horse in front was a nice target to aim at.

“She won pricking her ears. I thought she was going to go and win well, but she was probably just keeping a little bit up her sleeve as well.

“It’s a nice confidence-booster for her today, and I hope she’ll take a step forward again.”

Earlier on the card, Caspian Prince proved yet again that age is no barrier to him as he won the William Hill Gosforth Park Cup Handicap for the second successive year – at the age of 12.

Mick Appleby’s veteran sprinter showed his customary early dash, and the necessary determination too, to get to the front from the equally speedy Ornate and then hold off all challengers for a popular 12-1 victory under 3lb claimer Theodore Ladd.

Caspian Prince was winning for the second time in succession, and 23rd in all, on his 114th appearance – resisting the late thrust of May Sonic by a neck, with outsider Blue De Vega another three-quarters of a length back in third.

Ladd said: “It’s the biggest winner of my career so far.

“Last year, he actually sat second – which is unlike Caspian Prince. But that Ornate (third 12 months ago) has such early toe, so if you take each other on you burn each other out.

“Mick said to me ‘if that Ornate wants to go on, don’t get in a battle with him – and he’ll come home strong at the end’.

“I’m absolutely over the moon.

Stephen Louch, who co-owns Caspian Prince with Rutland trainer Appleby, added: “Words can’t describe him really – he’s taken us to some fantastic places.

“He’s 12 years old, and he’s still running like he’s four. He’s coming up against some cracking horses today – that was a really tough race.

“We won it last year. But to come back and win it twice, against good opposition and 12 years old, he is amazing.

“He just loves racing. A horse will fall out of love with racing at one point in his life – (but) he just seems to love it, and thrives on it.”

There was drama in the opening Three Mile Handicap, in which Ben Curtis suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder while riding a finish on Henry Spiller’s Crack Regiment.

The 5-1 shot collared favourite Tarroob to be first past the post by a head  – and he kept the race after a stewards’ inquiry, despite carrying the runner-up right in the closing stages with Curtis unable to take corrective action.

The winning jockey was clearly in pain and dismounted on pulling up, however, and had to give up his three remaining rides on the card.

Caspian Prince out to continue Dash domination

Veteran sprinter Caspian Prince bids to win the World Pool “Dash” Handicap for a fourth time from seven attempts at Epsom on Saturday.

The admirable 12-year-old has taken the prize for three different trainers – Tony Carroll in 2014, Dean Ivory in 2016 and Tony Coyle in 2017.

He has also finished down the field three times – for Carroll in 2015 and in 2018 and 2019 for his current trainer Mick Appleby.

The Rutland-based handler reports his stable stalwart to be in fine shape, although he would have preferred a higher draw than four.

Mick Appleby, trainer of Dash regular Caspian Prince
Mick Appleby, trainer of Dash regular Caspian Prince (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He’s in good order. Hopefully he should run well,” said Appleby.

“He’s not got the best draw, though. We could have done with a better one and I hope they don’t get much rain.”

In contrast, Tim Easterby is hoping for easier conditions and is not sure if high numbers for his two runners – 19 for Sunday Sovereign and 16 for Copper Knight – is as much as advantage as it used to be.

“You don’t have to be drawn high these days. A lot of the winners have been coming from low recently,” he said.

“Both are in good form and as long as the ground is good and not too firm, both will run well. The softer the better for both of them.”

Two past winners – Ornate in 2019 and Duke Of Firenze in 2013 – represent Bawtry trainer David Griffiths.

Ornate was in action only last Saturday in the Listed Achilles Stakes won by King’s Lynn, and Griffiths feels that is what he needed ahead of going for the Dash again.

“He came out of the race really well. He had a good blow. He runs off a good mark,” said Griffiths.

“He’s in good form, he loves Epsom and I think his run at Haydock last week will have put him spot on Saturday.”

Duke Of Firenze, who is aged 12, sneaks into the contest right at the bottom and runs off a feather weight.

He has been as busy as ever and will be running for the 15th time in 2021, including on this course when he was third to Recon Mission in April.

“He’s had two wins this year. He’s been running well and ran well at Epsom,” said Griffiths.

“He didn’t run brilliant the last twice, but that’s probably because of the (soft) ground and he likes Epsom. He comes alive there.”

Century Dream goes for a third win in the Cazoo Diomed Stakes.

Trained by Simon and Ed Crisford, the seven-year-old was successful in 2018 and again last year when it was run at Newbury.

Duke Of Hazzard makes his first appearance at Epsom but connections expect him to handle the track.

The five-year-old, trained by Paul and Oliver Cole, is a three-time winner at Goodwood which has similar undulations.

Duke Of Hazzard goes for the Cazoo Diomed Stakes
Duke Of Hazzard goes for the Cazoo Diomed Stakes (Joe Giddens/PA)

“He’s in the best form of his life. We’re very happy with his work. He’s a well-balanced horse so I think the track will suit him,” said Oliver Cole.

A fascinating contender would have been Maximal as the only three-year-old in the field, but persistent rain on Friday led to him being declared a non runner.

The Galileo colt, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, has finished second behind two Classic hopefuls, Hurricane Lane (Cazoo Derby) and El Drama (French Derby) in two races over a mile and a quarter in the spring.

There are four three-year-old fillies in the other Group Three on the card, the Princess Elizabeth Stakes.

Martyn Meade, trainer of Statement, believes the 12lb allowance given to the younger fillies could help give her the upper hand.

Martyn Meade is expecting a big run from Statement in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes
Martyn Meade is expecting a big run from Statement in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes (Nigel French/PA)

“It is a very generous weight allowance and she is in great form. I think she’s pretty well in,” said the Manton handler.

“It’s a different race to what she has run in before, but I think she can step up to that taking on older fillies.”

Illykato, Nazuna and Thank You Next are the other three, while the older ones include two five-year-olds in Maamora and Posted.

Caspian Prince kicks off 2021 campaign in Dubai Dash

Veteran sprinter Caspian Prince begins what is likely to be his final season in Meydan on Thursday.

Part-owned and trained by Mick Appleby, the speedster officially turned 12 this month but showed throughout 2020 he is far from a back number.

He has had 106 races, winning 21 times and is approaching the £1million mark in prize-money earned. He will be beginning a fifth Dubai campaign in the Dubai Dash, which unusually for him sees him carrying a good deal less than top-weight.

“He still seems in good order. He went out last week and if he’s in the sort of form he showed last year, he should give a good account,” said Appleby.

“It’s unusual for him not to be in a handicap with top-weight, hopefully he should go well.

“He’s got a big following – people like these sprinters, they can follow them year after year. I imagine this will be his last season, hopefully he can get a win and try to go out on a high.

“He’s won almost £1million and, sadly from my point of view, horses like him don’t come along very often.

“He broke a track record at Yarmouth last year and there still won’t be many as fast as he is over that first furlong.”

At the head of the weights is the former Roger Varian-trained Ekhtiyaar, who is now with Doug O’Neill, while Charlie Hills’ Equilateral and Charlie Appleby’s Lazuli also line up.

Caspian Prince highlights Yarmouth treble for Tom Marquand

Caspian Prince continued to defy his advancing years when forming the highlight of a treble for Tom Marquand at Yarmouth with a front-running success in the Free Tips Daily On Handicap.

Although now in the twilight of his career, the Mick Appleby-trained Dylan Thomas gelding showed he still retains plenty of ability at the age of 11 after setting a new five-furlong course record of 58.57 seconds on his way to the 21st victory of his career.

Making the most of his sharp exit from the stalls, the 11-2 shot found more than enough to repel the late challenge of dual course and distance winner Texting by a neck.

Marquand, who rode Caspian Prince as a teenager while working with his former trainer Tony Carroll, said: “What a legend. It was a fair effort making his own running.

“I was lucky to sit on a horse like that aged 13 and I’m still lucky to be sat on him aged 22. He is a soldier.

“There were a few times there I thought we were beat, but he kept finding a little bit more.

“He has been a cracking horse over the years. He is still winning races at 11 years of age and it is testament to everyone that has kept him in one piece.”

A return trip to Dubai in the winter could be on the cards for Caspian Prince according to the winning trainer, provided he remains in good heart.

Appleby, speaking away from the track, said: “This is the third year we’ve had him and he has been a good old boy. He still shows plenty of enthusiasm at home.

“If the ground stays quick, then we will keep on running him over here. It’s a possibility that he could go back to Dubai as he does go well out there.”

William Haggas has saddled plenty of talented individuals to their first victory at the Norfolk track, and Ready To Venture (4-6) could be another after getting the ball rolling for Marquand with a length-and-a-half success in the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes.

The Newmarket handler said: “You never know the quality of these races, but she could do no more than win. I think she is a top of the ground filly and hopefully she is useful.”

Ready To Venture holds entries in the Group Two Shadwell Rockfel Stakes and Group One bet365 Fillies’ Mile, both at Newmarket, however Haggas will let the dust settle before making future plans.

He added: “We have got her in a few smart races, but we will work out what to do nearer the time. Her mother, Wonderstruck, was a very good stayer that stayed a mile and a half well.”

Nicklaus took full advantage of a drop in the weights to complete Marquand’s hat-trick, and bring up a double for Haggas, by gaining his first victory since scoring at the track two years ago when battling back to defeat King Ragnar by a head in the Handicap.

Haggas said of the 7-1 winner: “He obviously loves the sea air. I thought he did very well as he got headed then picked up well.

“The handicapper let him down 3lb after his last run and he needed every pound of that as he had not won for two years.

“I’m very pleased for (owner) Highclere Thoroughbred Racing as I didn’t think I was going to get a winner for them this year. It is great as four of them have come up to see him as well.”