Charlie Appleby was not too disheartened to see his 2000 Guineas hope Master Of The Seas suffer defeat at the hands of lesser-fancied stablemate Naval Crown on Thursday.
Paddy Power pushed the Superlative Stakes winner out to 25-1 from 16s for the Newmarket Classic, with the winner into 40s from 66-1.
Appleby felt Master Of The Seas, who signed off as a juvenile with a very creditable two-length fourth to Thunder Moon in the National Stakes at the Curragh, will benefit from having the freshness knocked out of him when he returns to Europe.
Naval Crown, third in the UAE Guineas three weeks ago, set out to make all in the Meydan Classic over a mile under Mikael Barzalona and while Master Of The Seas cruised up, he could not reel the winner in.
“Naval Crown was a Group-level two-year-old and we obviously thought he was up to that level at two,” said Appleby.
“We weren’t planning to run him in the (UAE) Guineas, but he was working nicely on the dirt so we thought we’d run him and he ran a solid race.
“Coming back to turf was always going to be in his favour and he came into the race fit and with conditions to suit. He’s gone and done it nicely.
“I personally think we’ll come back in trip when we get back to Europe. Something like the Jersey Stakes, he’s got plenty of speed.
“I was pleased with Master Of The Seas, he’s very much a work in progress.
“He was very keen in the National Stakes and he’s shown signs of that at home, the lads have done a good job in getting him to relax but he’s fresh and well and showed that.
“With Master of Seas – he is fresh and well, and he showed that this evening. William (Buick) said he will come on a bundle for that. At least he learnt something this evening, William got him into a rhythm, he was here to win his race, but he got tired down the straight, but I am happy we got him out. He is very much a work in progress for Europe.”
Appleby and Buick were also on the mark with Star Safari in the Dubai Millennium Stakes.
Frankie Dettori is enjoying a fine Carnival meeting and was yet again seen to great effect, this time on Saeed bin Suroor’s Volcanic Sky in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy.
Dettori took the race by the scruff of the neck at halfway and stole an advantage he just about clung on to, as Global Heat closed to within a short head.
“I took it up halfway round the turn when the leader dropped away and I got first run on the others,” said Dettori.
“He kind of lost concentration at the end but he’s been running well all season and deserved a big one.”
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Master Of The Seas limbers up for a potential tilt at the 2000 Guineas in the Meydan Classic in Dubai on Thursday.
The son of Dubawi looked a top-class colt in the making after winning on his first two career starts at Newmarket last summer, including a Group Two success in the Superlative Stakes in July.
Charlie Appleby’s charge, who was last seen finishing a close-up fourth in the National Stakes at the Curragh in September, is a best-priced 16-1 for the first British Classic of the year at Newmarket in May ahead of facing five rivals at Listed level at Meydan.
“Master Of The Seas is well clear on ratings and we know that he is the class horse in the race,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.
“Any sign of last year’s performances is going to make him very hard to beat, although this is very much a prep race ahead of his European campaign.
“We were tip-toeing away with him and he was doing everything nicely at home, so I felt that I would rather give him a run at Meydan.
“We are looking at the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Hopefully he can get a nice run under his belt before heading back to Europe.”
Master Of The Seas is joined by stablemate Naval Crown, who finished third in the UAE 2000 Guineas three weeks ago.
Appleby added: “Naval Crown has race fitness behind him, having produced a creditable performance in the UAE 2000 Guineas.
“Reverting back to the turf is going to be more to his liking and, if Master Of The Seas doesn’t run up to form, Naval Crown is a horse who could pick up the pieces.”
Mayehaab, Sharp Spun, Yurman and Nibras Passion are the other hopefuls.
Appleby also saddles strong contenders in the two Group Threes on the card.
In the Nad Al Sheba Trophy, the Moulton Paddocks handler runs Ispolini, who needs to raise his game following a couple of below-par efforts so far this year.
“Ispolini has just been struggling to find his form lately – but he is a past winner of this race and any rekindling of that old form is going to put him bang there,” said Appleby.
Ispolini is one of four Godolphin representatives in the one-mile-six-furlong contest along with Saeed bin Suroor’s trio of Global Heat, Volcanic Sky and Brilliant Light.
Volcanic Sky, Global Heat and Ispolini finished second, third and fourth respectively behind the Bin Suroor-trained Dubai Future in the Meydan Cup earlier in the month.
Appleby’s Star Safari will be a hot favourite for the Dubai Millennium Stakes off the back of a course-and-distance win a fortnight ago, with Bin Suroor fielding Bedouin’s Story, Dream Castle and Royal Marine.
“Coming back in trip doesn’t concern us with Star Safari as he broke the track record for this distance at the Carnival last year,” said Appleby.
“He came out of his recent handicap win in good form and we are hoping that he can run a big race in this company.”
Space Blues made a winning return to action after a six-month break with a narrow victory in the stc Turf Sprint in Riyadh.
Winner of all four of his four starts in the summer, culminating in a first Group One success in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, the Charlie Appleby-trained five-year-old looks set for another lucrative campaign.
Krispen made the early running and was pressed by the former Richard Hannon-trained Urban Icon, who set sail for home in the straight.
Space Blues shrugged off his stablemate Glorious Journey, but had to knuckle down for William Buick to catch Urban Icon and last year’s winner, Dark Power.
He managed it in the shadow of the post to score a shade cosily in the end from Dark Power, ridden by Frankie Dettori, with Urban Icon just behind in third.
Appleby said: “Absolutely delighted with that. We knew he was a class horse coming into the race and he had a lovely draw. I could see (the ground) was a bit loose for him and our concern was that he might just spin a bit on it, but he’s come back on the bridle turning in like a class horse and put the race to bed at the right time.
“He travels for fun, watching the race there. I’ll be interested to see what William has to say because obviously Dubai World Cup night (Al Quoz Sprint) has to be taken into consideration.”
Buick said: “We had a great run through. He broke well and I didn’t want to be too close to the pace. The pace was perfect. It wasn’t too hot or too slow. I followed Frankie before the split in the straight. It was how I hoped the race would pan out. He was the best horse and I didn’t want to go for any heroics.
“You’d imagine this would set him for the Al Quoz.”
Gifts Of Gold sprang a 33-1 surprise when taking the spoils in the Red Sea Turf Handicap.
The lesser fancied of two Godolphin runners, Saeed bin Suroor’s six-year-old came with a surging run to assert a furlong and put the race to bed in the hands of Pat Cosgrave.
Gifts Of Gold had been well-beaten over mile at Meydan last month on his first run since since September, but bounced back from that over this one mile and seven furlongs.
Last year’s winner Call The Wind and Mildenberger set the early pace, until the complexion of the race changed at the top of the straight when plenty of horses were in contention.
Gifts Of Gold’s move proved decisive and the outsider took a handy advantage. Andrew Balding’s Spanish Mission looked dangerous, but had to settle for second place.
Godolphin’s first string, the Appleby-trained Secret Advisor, stayed on for third place.
Pink Kamehameha struck a blow for Japan when landing the Al Rajhi Bank Saudi Derby.
The three-year-old colt, trained by Hideyuki Mori and ridden by Keita Tosaki, proved too strong for opposition from Europe, America and the Middle East.
Soft Whisper, Godolphin’s UAE 1000 Guineas winner, was up with the pace from the start but had nothing left in the final furlong as Pink Kamehameha shot clear.
Steve Asmussen’s American raider Cowan finished strongly to take second place, just ahead of Dettori on the John Gosden-trained New Treasure.
Mori and Tosaki went agonisingly close to a double, only for Buick to deliver fellow Japanese raider Copano Kicking with precision and collar Matera Sky on the line in the Saudi Arabian Airlines Riyadh Dirt Sprint.
It was a repeat of 12 months ago for Matera Sky, when he was agonisingly beaten by New York Central after holding a clear lead.
Buick said: “It’s a big win. It’s the first time I’ve won on a Japanese horse outside of Japan.
“I’ve been to Japan many times and I’ve ridden a lot of winners there, but I never won one on elsewhere. I’m very grateful to the trainer and owner for giving me the ride on this horse.”
British challengers Oxted and Brad The Brief were unable to get in a real blow.
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Charlie Appleby and William Buick took the honours with a treble at Meydan on Thursday, highlighted by Zakouski’s success in the Al Rashidiya.
The five-year-old had been beaten by Lord Glitters over the course and distance three weeks ago, but turned the tables in comprehensive fashion.
Buick had Zakouski well-positioned just off the pace set by Court House, before moving the Shamardal gelding off the rail early in the straight to make his move.
Quickening into the lead, Zakouski (10-11 favourite) went on to win by three-quarters of a length from Court House, who just held Lord Glitters for the second spot.
Appleby said: “I’m delighted. He’s definitely stepped forward for his first run. I felt that race became a bit disjointed.
“Coming into this evening we felt there would be more of a sensible pace and William got a lovely ride out there.
“We’ve stepped him up in trip there so we will probably look at the Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday as a semi-final for World Cup night.”
Zakouski was cut to 7-1 from 10-1 for the Dubai Turf on World Cup night with Paddy Power.
The red-hot combination got the meeting off to the best possible start when Star Safari (5-2 joint-favourite) took the Emirates Sky Cargo Handicap.
Star Safari was produced late to score by three-quarters of a length after two of Appleby’s other runners in the mile-and-a-half contest, Saqqara King and Al Dabaran, had made the running.
Secret Protector looked a bright prospect when landing the odds in cosy fashion to give the pair a quick double in the Meydan Trophy.
The 4-11 favourite led a furlong and a half from home and bounded clear to win by five and a half lengths from Areen.
The War Front colt had looked very promising in both his starts at Kempton and could be set for a good campaign on turf in the UK.
“I think he’s going to be one of the horses that is going to be towards the forefront of our three-year-old squad,” said Appleby.
“He’d have gained a lot of confidence this evening and physically he’s improving week on week. We’ll go back and look at the options. We’ve got something like the Feilden over nine furlongs at Newmarket.
“William said he could come back in trip. Personally I think he could be a nice 10-furlong horse for 2021.
“We’ve had a good night and we’ve had a few get beat as well. It shows how strong the competition is at the Carnival.”
Secret Protector was given a quote of 50-1 for the 2000 Guineas with Paddy Power.
Salute The Soldier (11-2) put himself into contention for the Dubai World Cup with victory in round two of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
Third in round one three weeks earlier, the Fawzi Nass-trained six-year-old was always in a good position behind the pace-setting Capezzano.
Adrie De Vries kicked on a furlong and a half out, but the strong gallop started to tell and he was all out to hold Thegreatcollection by a length.
De Vries said: “He hit the front soon enough. He always just does enough. He was getting very tired towards the end, but he was entitled to. We went fast and the ground is riding a bit deep.
“Hopefully we can now go for the big one (Dubai World Cup) with this horse. He has to step up again, but I think he will learn from today.
“He’s a late maturer and there is still room for improvement.”
The John Gosden-trained Dubai Warrior was awash with sweat before the race and was never at the races. Pushed along from the start, he was eased down by Frankie Dettori when well-beaten some way from home.
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Charlie Appleby is looking forward to seeing Naval Crown tackle a dirt surface for the first time in the UAE 2000 Guineas at Meydan.
After running with credit on his first two career starts at Newmarket and Ascot in the summer, the Dubawi colt made it third time lucky with a runaway victory in the Convivial Maiden at York’s Ebor Festival.
Naval Crown went on to be placed in a couple of Group Three races in France and makes his Dubai debut in Thursday’s Group Three feature.
Speaking in a stable tour for Attheraces.com, Appleby said: “He is untried on the dirt, but he ticks a couple of the boxes in respect that he takes a nice level of form into the race with experience and what he has shown us on the turf is a lot of natural gate speed.
“As we know, it is something that is a positive on that surface and if he can switch his turf form to that dirt surface, he is obviously going to be a big player on Thursday night.”
Naval Crown has upwards of 9lb in hand over his five rivals on official ratings. His biggest threat looks to be Mouheeb, who made a winning debut at Jebel Ali in December before being touched off by the Appleby-trained Rebel’s Romance in last month’s UAE 2000 Guineas Trial.
Of the latter, Appleby added: “He goes for the Saudi Derby and he would have a bit to find on ratings, but his profile is going the right way and he deserves a chance there.
“We are looking forward to seeing him run.”
The other Group Three on the card is the Firebreak Stakes, for which Matterhorn is a red-hot favourite.
An eight-time winner when trained in Britain by Mark Johnston, the six-year-old has been off the track since claiming Group One glory for Salem bin Ghadayer in round three of the Al Maktoum Challenge last March.
There is plenty of British and Irish interest on the undercard, with Ed Walker’s Desert Doctor a leading hope for the opening six-furlong handicap and Ken Condon’s Could Be King and the Charlie Hills-trained Fleeting Prince in contention for the Dubai Sprint.
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Ghaiyyath has been crowned as the Longines World’s Best Racehorse for 2020.
Trained by Charlie Appleby for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, Ghaiyyath won three of Europe’s biggest Group One contests.
His year began in Dubai where he took a Group Three by a wide margin before he won the Coronation Cup, which was run at Newmarket last season.
After that he took on the mighty Enable, as she reappeared in the Coral-Eclipse but could not catch Ghaiyyath – who was relentless from the front under William Buick.
Buick repeated the same tactics in a top-class Juddmonte International at York – in which he beat Magical, 2000 Guineas hero Kameko and Prince of Wales’s winner Lord North. The race on the Knavesmire was recognised in the awards as the best in the world in 2020.
Magical turned the tables on Ghaiyyath in his final outing in the Irish Champion Stakes, but he had already done enough to secure the prize, with a final rating of 130.
Appleby said: “I’m obviously delighted, first for Ghaiyyath and also His Highness Sheikh Mohammed.
“It’s a much-deserved award, given what he did this summer – he wore his heart on his sleeve, and for me and the team he brightened this summer up in what we know was a testing season.
“All credit goes to the team and Godolphin and, most importantly, Sheikh Mohammed for allowing us to train a horse like this and allowing us to give him the time that was needed to come to the fore.
“I’ve been fortunate over the last couple of years to have him over 10 and 12 furlongs and then Blue Point over five furlongs, and both were at their best at the age of five – which is all thanks to Godolphin allowing us to keep them in training, so they can show what they can do as the finished article.
“Darley Stud were very keen to get their hands on him once they knew he was coming to the end of his career, and I’m sure he’ll be a prized asset. He’s a third-generation sire after Dubai Millennium and Dubawi – they all competed at the highest level. He’s got a fantastic pedigree and is striking-looking.”
Bob Baffert’s Authentic (126) was crowned leading three-year-old and the top dirt performer on the back of wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“Authentic was just getting better and better, and to put him up there with some of those great horses is amazing,” said Baffert.
“It takes a really good horse to win the Derby and the Breeders’ Cup, like (American) Pharoah did. It’s just an honour. To have a horse that good is what it’s all about.”
Frankie Dettori claimed the World’s Best Jockey title for a third successive year, a title based upon performances in the 100 highest-rated Group and Grade One races all over the world.
Dettori, who turned 50 in December, said: “It’s a great honour to win it for the third year in a row – who’d have thought at my age I could still do it!
“It’s a great initiative from Longines to have it for the 100 best races around the world.”
Dettori enjoyed another memorable Royal Ascot and, of course, landed a third King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes with Enable.
“For us Royal Ascot is the pinnacle, and Stradivarius has been around for years. He’s an amazing little horse with a fabulous turn of foot,” he said of the multiple Gold Cup winner.
“Palace Pier is a wonderful miler who came on the scene at Royal Ascot, winning an epic St James’s Palace. He then took on his elders in the Jacques le Marois, which is one of the best mile races in Europe.
“It goes without saying Enable has not just been the best horse but the horse I’ve loved most in my life – she’s won races around the world.
“We tried to win three Arcs, but just couldn’t make it. She managed to win three King Georges which is a record, though.
“I miss her a lot, but she gave the public so much joy, and she helped me win this award.”
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Charlie Appleby’s Rebel’s Romance maintained his unbeaten record in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at Meydan, as Mouheeb made him pull out all the stops.
With wins at Newcastle and Kempton under his belt already, the Dubawi gelding brought a tall reputation into the race and all appeared to be going smoothly as William Buick circumnavigated the field on the final bend.
He looked sure to put the race to bed as soon as he hit the front, as his stride lengthened – but the also-unbeaten Mouheeb refused to wilt.
The Jebel Ali winner stuck to his task gamely, not allowing Rebel’s Romance any peace in front, but in truth Buick did not have to get too serious with his mount and he managed to keep him at bay, with the pair well clear.
Appleby said: “That was a perfect first experience on dirt and he will have learned a lot. He was a bit slowly away as we expected, but he has travelled strongly and picked up well.
“It looked close at the end, but when you watch it back William has really looked after him and given him a nice education with the UAE 2000 Guineas in mind.
“Whatever he does this year though he is going to be a really nice horse for 2022 and is one to look forward to. As a gelding, hopefully he will be around for a few years.”
Buick said: “It was a very pleasing performance, he adapted well to the dirt which is never easy.
he responded when the second horse came at him so he had something left in the tank
“His two wins at home came on an artificial surface, but running on a dirt track is so different.
“I thought he showed his class today, he was always going to come on for today and I’m sure they’ve left something to work on so it was very pleasing overall.
“I could feel my horse getting lonely in front, but then he responded when the second horse came at him so he had something left in the tank.
“The horse who finished second won well at Jebel Ali and looked a good horse that day, I think they set a decent standard.”
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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.”
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The Dubai Gold Cup and the Melbourne Cup will again be high on the agenda in 2021 for Charlie Appleby’s Cross Counter.
The five-year-old became the first British-trained winner of the Melbourne Cup in 2018 – and added the Dubai Gold Cup to his big-race CV the following March.
Cross Counter ran just three times this year, finishing fifth in Saudi Arabia before returning to Britain to take third in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown.
Appleby hopes his charge can bounce back to his best next season.
“Off the back of Twilight Payment winning the Melbourne Cup at the age of seven, hopefully there is still a bit of life left in Cross Counter,” he said.
“To win the Melbourne Cup as three-year-old is a tough gig to do. He went back and put up another good performance in the race last year (finished eighth), and I just felt this year during the summer he showed the signs of fatigue, so therefore we knocked his season on the head and gave him the rest of the summer off.
“He is out in Dubai getting some sunshine, and we will start his campaign there. I’d probably say the Dubai Gold Cup would be his main early-year aim.
“It’s hard for him to run in those handicaps with big weights like he did in that race in Saudi Arabia last year, so I’d think we will aim for the Dubai Gold Cup.
“If he can rekindle his form he will be competitive in that – then longer term, we might work back from a Melbourne Cup with him.”
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Charlie Appleby’s two best horses have both retired to stud this month – but he may be about to unearth a new stable star if One Ruler can continue his rise in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.
After waving goodbye to multiple Group One winners Pinatubo and Ghaiyyath in recent weeks, Appleby has a vacancy for a new flag-bearer.
So far One Ruler looks like he may fit the bill, based on his smooth victory in the Autumn Stakes last time out – which came with cut in the ground at Newmarket.
“He has handled the juice well at Newmarket,” said Appleby.
“He is out of a French family, and generally they run on the slower side of good, so the ground wouldn’t worry me.
“Getting the trip last time and seeing that improvement was key for me. He will be going there as a serious player.
“I think 10 (furlongs) will be his maximum (next year). On the mare’s side (Fintry) she was a miler, and he shows a lot of natural pace, but he saw that mile out well.
“I don’t see him at the moment being a mile-and-a-half horse, at this stage, but we will let him winter away first.
“He did what he did at Newmarket and he did get beat on the flat track at Doncaster, but I think that was a bit of inexperience – and tactically we rode a different race to what we had done on his previous starts.”
Aidan O’Brien will have to wait until next year to draw equal with the late Sir Henry Cecil on 10 victories, after withdrawing Wembley at the 11th hour on account of the ground on Town Moor.
O’Brien’s two most recent winners, Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia, both went on to land the 2000 Guineas – and from a large entry at the five-day stage, this year he had been due to rely solely on the Dewhurst runner-up.
Andrew Balding is another trainer with a good record in the race, having struck with Elm Park and then subsequent Guineas hero Kameko 12 months ago, when the race had to be run at Newcastle because of waterlogging at Doncaster.
This year Balding saddles King Vega, a maiden after two starts but who showed a good level of ability when second in the Solario Stakes last time out.
“I’m really pleased with the horse, and we’re all looking forward to it,” the Kingsclere trainer told Sky Sports Racing.
“I think he’s probably the highest-rated maiden in the country, but I’m sure there are plenty of unraced horses that are pretty decent waiting to come out.
“He’s a horse we’ve always rated very highly. He ran a very decent race in the Solario, and the extra furlong will certainly be to his advantage.
“It’s going to be slow ground. Lope De Vegas tend to go well with dig in the ground.
“He was worked on the grass here in the last three weeks. He seems to enjoy a bit of ease, and I don’t think the ground conditions will be too much of a concern for him.”
Assessing the quality of the opposition, Balding added: “The Dewhurst was a true Group One test, as it should be. Wembley just missed out and he’s a horse that has improved with racing. Aidan’s got a fantastic record in the race. He’s very much the one to beat.”
John Gosden will be looking to Megallan to bring him a change of fortune, after several stable stars disappointed on Champions Day.
The Kingman colt, out of a half-sister to Golden Horn, was fourth behind One Ruler last time out.
“He got in trouble at Newmarket the other day,” said Gosden.
“He got forced back and had to come back round them, but he ran a very good race. It will be interesting to see how soft it does get up there. However, he is in good form going into it.”
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Van Gogh bids to provide Aidan O’Brien with a record fifth victory in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud on Saturday.
In a Group One inaugurated in 2001, the Ballydoyle trainer first struck gold with Mount Nelson in 2006. He has since added to his tally with Jan Vermeer (2009), Roderic O’Connor (2010) and Johannes Vermeer (2015).
Van Gogh heads to France with plenty of experience under his belt from six career outings and has been placed three times at Pattern level, most recently chasing home Charlie Appleby’s One Ruler in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago.
“We were delighted with Van Gogh at Newmarket,” said O’Brien.
“We took our time on him, and he came home very well.
“It was a good performance – he looked like he was finishing his race off well, and we are looking forward to seeing him run.”
After electing to run the aforementioned One Ruler in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on the same afternoon, Appleby instead sends the unbeaten La Barrosa across the Channel to take on Van Gogh.
The Lope De Vega colt looked a high-class prospect when winning on racecourse debut at Ascot in early September, and furthered that impression with a Group Three success in Newmarket’s Tattersalls Stakes three weeks later.
Appleby said: “La Barrosa won the Tattersalls Stakes, which turned into a little tactical affair, but he got the job done.
“It’s going to be very testing ground at Saint-Cloud, but we are confident with his pedigree that should suit him.
“He did show his class to win from the position he was in at Newmarket, but he has got to improve again stepping up to a Group One. I think going up to a mile will help him, for sure.”
Simon and Ed Crisford’s dual winner Jadoomi is the other British challenger in a seven-strong field.
The other Group One contest on the card is the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, which is run over a mile and a quarter.
O’Brien has also claimed this prize on four occasions, most recently with Recital in 2010, and this year relies on Bolshoi Ballet – who was third on his Newmarket debut before opening his account in some style at Leopardstown just last week.
“He ran green at Newmarket first time out, but then he won well at Leopardstown the next day,” said O’Brien.
“There’s lots of stamina in the pedigree, so you wouldn’t be too worried about stepping up to 10 furlongs.
“Hopefully he runs well.”
British hopes are carried by David Menuisier’s Belloccio and Gear Up from Mark Johnston’s yard.
Belloccio faces a significant step up in class after winning on his introduction at Salisbury a few weeks ago, and bids to provide his French-born trainer with a second Group One in as many weeks following Wonderful Tonight’s success at Ascot last weekend.
Menuisier said: “He’s a horse we like. He won on pure ability at Salisbury, because he was still raw and has come on big time for the run.
“We feel he’s a good horse, and at this time of the year you don’t have much to lose. If he runs well it would be fantastic, and he could well do that. If he doesn’t, what would we have lost?
“I really don’t think either the trip or the conditions will bother him – he might even handle them better than some.
“I’m intrigued to see how he runs, more than confident, but if he runs well I wouldn’t be surprised – because he’s a horse we love.”
Gear Up won on his debut at York and returned to the Knavesmire to win the Group Three Acomb Stakes, before finishing fourth in last month’s Royal Lodge at Newmarket.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: “Judged on his run at Newmarket, you would be hopeful the step up to a mile and a quarter would see more improvement in him.
“We left Newmarket a bit frustrated. I felt they didn’t go very quick through the middle part of the race; Frankie (Dettori) sprinted into the dip on New Mandate (winner), and we were quite a long way out of our ground two furlongs out, then we were beaten only a couple of lengths.
“It will be bottomless ground on Saturday, but he has won on good to soft at York – and he goes there with a live chance.”
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Act Of Wisdom continued on an upward curve as he initiated a double for Charlie Appleby at Newmarket.
The Galileo colt – who is a full-brother to Appleby’s former Grade One winner Line Of Duty – made it a hat-trick of wins for the season with a tenacious success off top-weight in the British EBF Future Stayers Nursery Handicap.
Having looked booked for a place, the 100-30 shot followed up victories at Goodwood and Nottingham when picking up well late on to pass Rewired close to the line, going on to score by a nose.
Appleby said: “William (Buick) said every time I asked him he kept responding. James (Doyle), who had won on him on his previous two starts, said the same – that he is never going to win by far, you are always confident you are going to get there but it just looks hard work.
“He is one of those characters that doesn’t look the most willing of partners, but he goes out there and knows where the line is.
“He will be a nice horse next year. You could work back potentially from something like the Queen’s Vase.”
Royal Touch was sent off as if defeat was out of the question in the British EBF Future Stayers Novice Stakes, but the 8-15 chance was upstaged by his stablemate Hurricane Lane (3-1), who claimed the mile prize by two lengths to complete Appleby’s brace.
The Newmarket handler said: “He is a big, scopey horse. We’ve always liked him at home. He travelled well. As Adam (Kirby) said, they got a bit tired in front of him and he picked them up quite comfortably in the end. He is a nice horse to look forward to next year.”
Jim Boyle only has a small two-year-old team but he could have a potentially smart one among them in Entwine, judging by her four-and-a-quarter-length victory in the Watch And Bet At MansionBet Fillies’ Novice Median Auction Stakes.
Boyle said of the 4-1 winner: “She has shown us a good bit at home, but you are never quite sure of the opposition. We knew she would handle the ground as she handled it well at Salisbury.
“We’ve not got too many two-year-olds to compare her against so we were a little bit feeling in the dark. but we were hopeful she would improve.”
He added: “That was always going to be her last run. We will put her away now and she could easily be a black-type filly. She is a good-moving filly with plenty more to come, she has got a nice bit of scope about her.”
A step up to Listed company could beckon for the Mark Johnston-trained Freyja (11-2) who gained her second win of the campaign when taking the Best Odds Guaranteed At MansionBet Fillies’ Handicap by a length and three-quarters.
Assistant trainer Charlie Johnston said: “She is a tough little filly. She won in soft ground at Hamilton two starts back so at least she seemed to handle the conditions.
“We are very pleased – she has only had nine starts in her career, winning four of them. She is now probably nudging into a rating in the one hundreds.
“I would not rule out running in the Fleur De Lys at Lingfield next week. For her pedigree, black type is important.”
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Charlie Appleby will split his two smart juveniles up this weekend, with La Barrosa set to run in the Criterium International in France while One Ruler stays closer to home for the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.
La Barrosa has won both his races to date, on debut at Ascot and then as an odds-on favourite in the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket.
Both of those were over seven furlongs and he will step up to a mile at Saint-Cloud.
The Doncaster race is also over a mile, with One Ruler is among the ante-post favourites.
A close third to New Mandate, who has subsequently franked the form in Group Two company, on his penultimate outing, the son of Dubawi was last seen winning the Autumn Stakes in good style.
Appleby said of One Ruler: “As we saw, stepping up to the mile for the first saw further improvement.
“He has come out of the race well. We had it in the back of our minds to look at the Vertem Futurity Trophy with him and he has done very well the last 10 days. We are pleased to let him take part on Saturday.”
He went on: “La Barrosa won the Tattersalls Stakes, which turned into a little tactical affair but he got the job done. He has come out of it well.
“We know that as he is by Lope De Vega he will like the soft ground. He is likely to head to France at this stage for the Criterium International, which looks a small field but a competitive field.”
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Ghaiyyath, one of the highest-rated horses in the world, has been retired to stud, Godolphin has announced.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, the five-year-old came into his own this season, winning three Group Ones in England.
He started with victory in the rearranged Coronation Cup at Newmarket, followed up in the Eclipse at Sandown, beating Enable, and then put up an imperious display in the Juddmonte International at York.
Most recently, his winning run was brought to an end by Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
Ghaiyyath had been in the mix to run on British Champions Day at Ascot and the Breeders’ Cup, but the decision has been taken to retire him to stand at Kildangan Stud in Ireland.
“Ghaiyyath has had a fantastic career, winning nine of his 13 races,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.
“His high-class cruising speed and relentless style of galloping was a joy to watch – and as I have said before, this year he came together both physically and mentally and looked the finished article.
“It is obviously disappointing not to be taking him to the Breeders’ Cup – but the exertions of a long season, which started in Dubai in January, were starting to show, and the decision has been made to retire him.
“He was an outstanding part of the Moulton Paddocks team, and I know that his numerous top-level successes gave our Principal, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, a great deal of pleasure.”
The decision comes on the back of Appleby also seeing his other stable star, Pinatubo, retired to stud recently.
William Buick rode Ghaiyyath in 11 of his 13 career starts, and eight of his nine victories.
He told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s a truly exceptional horse – and obviously this year, he’s the highest-rated in the world.
“Everything he did was just so flamboyant and so explosive – he really wore his heart on his sleeve, and I’ve been very privileged to have ridden him to some great wins.”
Buick was impressed with Ghaiyyath from his earliest days in the yard.
“As a physical specimen, he’s an amazing-looking horse – and everything he did early on was always ahead of everyone else,” he added.
“He’s just been a fantastic horse, from day one.
“He became renowned for that ability to go the pace he went and keep going, and even then at the end of his races to quicken from that pace and really put the race to bed.
“As he got older, more mature, he managed to channel his energy a little bit better – which we really saw this year.”
Buick nominated Ghaiyyath’s victory over Enable in this year’s Eclipse as his finest.
“For me, his crowning moment was probably at Sandown when he really confirmed that he was absolute top-drawer.
“Then he backed it up at York in the Juddmonte (International) – so those are the two that stand out.
“He’s certainly one of the best, if not the best, middle-distance horses I’ve ever ridden.
“He could do things that very few horses can do.
“The ability he had to keep up the pace was just phenomenal, over a mile and a half – that’s just something that you really don’t see.”
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One Ruler resumed his progression with a decisive success in the Emirates Autumn Stakes at Newmarket.
After finishing third behind subsequent Royal Lodge scorer New Mandate in a Listed contest at Doncaster last time out, the Charlie Appleby-trained Frankel colt bounced back to winning ways in the Group Three prize.
Racing over a mile for the time, the 5-1 winner showed a smart turn of foot in testing conditions to cross the line a length and three-quarters clear of Van Gogh.
Following the race One Ruler was introduced at 25-1 for next year’s 2000 Guineas by William Hill and 20-1 for the Derby with Betfair and Paddy Power.
Winning rider William Buick said: “Charlie was always adamant he would want the mile, but at the end of the day he has got a turn of foot. The combination of stepping up to a mile and running in this ground for the first time was always a bit of a worry, but he saw it out very well.
“I think it was a real good performance as he was last off the bridle and showed a real turn of foot in that ground as well. We know he is better on better ground so it is a lovely performance.
“It was the right race for the horse so you are hoping it goes well, but a lot of the horses have never been on that ground before.
“I think he will get further, but for the moment he is a miler. I think he will get a mile and a quarter.”
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