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Ghaiyyath crowned best in the world for 2020

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.

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“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.

Stradivarius won the Gold Cup again at Royal Ascot by a wide margin
Stradivarius won the Gold Cup again at Royal Ascot by a wide margin (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“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.”

Ghaiyyath’s Group One treble lit up Appleby’s 2020

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.

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“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.

One Ruler and William Buick win the Emirates Autumn Stakes at Newmarket
One Ruler and William Buick win the Emirates Autumn Stakes at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“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.”

Ghaiyyath retires to stud

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.

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“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.”

Monday Musings: Arc Love Abounds

The betting will tell you that next Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a virtual match between 6-4 shot and dual fillies’ Classic winner Love and the Queen of world racing, Enable, who is available at 5-2 after just the 13 Group wins in an 18-race career over five seasons which has yielded 15 victories in all.

That two of them were in the Arc seems not to matter in the face of Love’s faultless campaign of 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. The memory of an almost unthinkable defeat when going for the hat-trick at Longchamp last October when Waldgeist got up late to deny her, and another second place to Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse Stakes this summer have only slightly dented Enable’s air of invincibility.

The promise of rain in Paris this week will not shake the confidence of the Gosden-Dettori-Abdullah team, nor will the prospect of facing some of the best colts in Europe on Sunday. Those two elements have still to be addressed by Love, representing the Aidan O’Brien filly and her Coolmore owners. Their three-year-old will have a 6lb weight advantage against her revered rival, but obviously boasts a great deal less experience.

That said, Love did run seven times as a juvenile, winning three. Two of those victories last year were on good ground, the other on good to firm. When she was defeated, three of the four were on good to soft or yielding. All three of her Group 1 successes this year have also been officially on good. Add in that she has yet to meet a colt and, while the margins of her wins have been uniformly eye-opening, this represents a new and deeper test.

At this distance, the big two overseas squads (as far as the French are concerned) of Gosden and O’Brien are garnering high-class back-ups. Gosden can bring another six-year-old, the multiple champion stayer Stradivarius, who has shown on two occasions, admittedly in defeat behind Ghaiyyath and Anthony Van Dyck in the Coronation Cup and Anthony Van Dyck again in Longchamp’s Prix Foy, either side of a third Gold Cup at Ascot and fourth Goodwood Cup, that he is effective at a mile and a half. Soft ground or worse would only add to his competitiveness on Sunday.

He will have Olivier Peslier in the saddle this time as Frankie is understandably ever more welded to Enable. The third Gosden runner is anything but a lightweight too. Mishriff had not been considered one of the stable’s superstars when he travelled over to Chantilly for the French Derby (Prix Du Jockey Club) in July, but he won the 10.5 furlong Classic by a length and a quarter from The Summit. Next time out, in a four-horse field for a Deauville Group 2 over slightly further than 12 furlongs, he more than tripled his advantage over the same rival. No non-entity he!

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The ground will finally determine which of the host of potential Aidan O’Brien contenders will form his back-up squad. Mogul is an obvious prime contender after his bounce back to form in the Grand Prix de Paris and the trainer was ready to forgive Japan’s lapses this season by pointing out that he has a good record around Parislongchamp, winning last year’s Grand Prix and finishing fourth to Waldgeist and Enable in the Arc. Derby winners Santiago and Serpentine would be possibles along with Anthony Van Dyck – less likely in the event of soft or heavy – and even Magical. I’m sure the mare herself, still on the upgrade at five, would relish the chance of another nip at Enable.

I think it could be a step too far for Pyledriver, but I feel Willie Muir’s three-year-old was unfairly condemned in many quarters as a non-stayer when third in the St Leger. Had he kept straight he could easily have been right there with Galileo Chrome and was getting back to the leaders again at the finish.

Recent Grand Prix de Deauville winner Telecaster will be aiming to complete his rehabilitation as a Group 1 performer without the services of Christophe Soumillon who guided him to a very easy success on soft ground that day at the conclusion of the August festival. That emphatic six and a half-length verdict on heavy ground at Group 2 level has encouraged Hughie Morrison and the Weinfeld family to take the plunge, with far less downside than the colt’s unfortunate Derby experience caused them last year.

A work-out over the full trip on the testing home gallop convinced Morrison that his four-year-old has the tools needed for a strongly-run Group 1 test and hopes it will keep raining. If Love or for that matter Enable can come through to beat that host of dangers on Sunday, she will deserve the highest accolade. But then, they both have been greatly acclaimed already. I take them in that order, LOVE to beat Enable and I’d be thrilled to see Telecaster get third.

*

Apart from the fact that the two horses I fancied for Saturday’s Cambridgeshire got impossible draws – one of them, Walhaan, won the race on his side and finished 13th of 27, I enjoyed the result. It was nice for Paul Hanagan that at the age of 40 – surely not - he was back in the big time after suffering such a bad injury from a fall at Newcastle when fracturing three vertebrae and having another – the sixth – badly crushed.

How he could come back from that I can barely imagine, but all he could do afterwards was thank everyone, especially Jack Berry House where he did most of his rehabilitation work, and long-term ally Richard Fahey who kept faith with him in the early stages of that recovery and continues to support the former champion jockey.

Now fully fit, and gratifyingly self-effacingly humble as ever, he teamed up with Paul and Olly Cole on Majestic Dawn and their lightly-raced four-year-old surged up the favoured stands rail to win by almost five lengths. This was only his second start of the year, after a last of ten around Kempton three weeks earlier.

At 40-1 it might have looked a forlorn hope, but Olly Cole certainly fancied Majestic Dawn’s chance as he had been fifth in the race last year behind Lord North. Cole junior has grown quickly into his role as co-trainer with his father and it is certain that all those earlier big race triumphs for Paul Cole can be remembered in the context of this revival in the yard’s fortunes.

Paul and Olly Cole were the first of the co-trainers to record a win, quicker even than Simon and Ed Crisford, who were operating under that banner earlier than their Berkshire-based counterparts. The Crisfords have had a brilliant season from their Newmarket yard and so have two much newer operations in the same town.

I remember a few years ago I discovered that George Scott, still working as assistant to Lady Jane Cecil at Warren Place, had a house in Newmarket where Ed Crisford, assistant to his father; James Ferguson, with Charlie Appleby for Godolphin; and George Boughey, Hugo Palmer’s assistant, were his house-mates.

In view of where they all are now, it’s interesting to ponder what they managed to talk about in the evenings when settling down to Coronation Street on the telly. Judging on Scott’s steady progress from his larger premises and support of father-in-law Bill Gredley, and the flying starts made by Ferguson and Boughey, the quartet probably did a little knowledge-exchanging about the business they are now adorning with so much promise.

Talking of promise, I wonder what will assail the ears of young Leo Sangster, christened last week by proud parents Sam and Maddy, over the next week or two. Sam is readying himself for another sales season with his thriving agency, but before that gets too demanding, the Sangsters and their co-owners have a date in Paris, where his late father Robert enjoyed three Arc successes in four years with Alleged (twice) and Detroit.

Sangster senior was one of the first owners that supported Nicolas Clement when he was compelled to take over the Chantilly stable of his father Miguel on his sudden death. Clement struck almost immediately in the 1990 Arc with Saumarez, ridden by Gerald Mosse (still going strong 30 years later) for owners Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky, the ice hockey legend, great friends of Robert Sangster.

Sam Sangster has already enjoyed Stakes success with horses trained by Nicolas Clement and they have high hopes of their bargain two-year-old Camelot filly, King’s Harlequin, bought for only €30,000, in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. King’s Harlequin won the Group 3 Prix d’Aumale, one of the customary trials for the Marcel Boussac, over the course and distance, in impressive all-the-way fashion last time and is sure to be a major contender on Sunday.

- TS

Ghaiyyath ‘unlikely’ to take Arc chance

Charlie Appleby has confirmed Ghaiyyath is unlikely to line up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp on Sunday week.

The five-year-old has been one of the stars of the season so far, completing a Group One hat-trick with a trio of tremendous front-running displays in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket, the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and the Juddmonte International at York.

He suffered his first defeat of 2020 when Magical reversed the International form in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown earlier this month – and Appleby feels a trip to France just three weeks later might be the wrong call.

Appleby said: “I think it is probably more a negative than a positive at the moment – I think we are saying the Arc is probably an unlikely next start for him.

“He has put up four big performances this year and the first two or three were nicely spaced out. We know that was one of his quickest back ups all season – from the Juddmonte to the Irish Champion Stakes.

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“To go for the Arc and then look for a target afterwards, i.e. the Breeders’ Cup – that would be a big ask for a horse like him, in my opinion, as he puts in so much.”

Ghaiyyath could make his next appearance over a mile and a quarter in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 17, or wait for a return to a mile and a half in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in early November.

“Without having a rubber stamp, we are looking like missing the Arc and looking towards Champions Day or the Breeders’ Cup,” Appleby added.

“Plans will be dictated by the conditions. The horse had a quiet week after Leopardstown, as he has done after each race this year, but we’ve been pleased that he is showing his wellness again. Ascot is there as a possibility for sure.

“We’ve seen what he can do over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. When you win an Eclipse, then a Juddmonte and then go and run a great race in the Irish Champion over 10 furlongs, I think people tend to forget what he can do over a mile and a half.

“He has only run three times over a mile and a half. He has broken the track record twice – in Germany and here in the Coronation Cup.

“We are in a lucky position. He is competitive over 10 furlongs and he is very good over a mile and a half in my opinion, and that brings the Breeders’ Cup into strong contention.”

Options are open for Pinatubo
Options are open for Pinatubo (Niall Carson/PA)

Another Appleby-trained star who will not be heading to Paris is Pinatubo.

The Prix de la Foret was mentioned as a potential target following his fast-finishing second in the Prix du Moulin last month, but he is set to run in either the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot or wait for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Appleby said: “Pinatubo is not going to go to France next week – he is having a break after the Moulin.

“All being well, you’ve got the two options – Champions Day at Ascot over the mile or the Breeders’ Cup. Again, without having a rubber stamp on it, you would say the percentage call would be to look towards the Breeders’ Cup.

“The Breeders’ Cup Mile could be tailor-made for him. We will go where the percentage call is right.”

Magical thwarts Ghaiyyath in Irish Champion epic

Magical got the better of Ghaiyyath in a pulsating finish to the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Seamie Heffernan, the five-year-old mare was turning around Juddmonte International form with Ghaiyyath, as the pair went head to head from the off.

As usual, William Buick set out to make all on the Charlie Appleby-trained 8-13 favourite – but the distress signals were starting to emerge at the top of the straight as Magical moved upsides, while Japan switched to the inside rail to throw down his challenge.

To his credit, Ghaiyyath kept fighting, but Magical (9-2) found an extra gear in the final half-furlong to pull clear at the line, scoring by three-quarters of a length as she repeated her victory from 12 months ago, becoming just the second back-to-back winner after O’Brien’s Dylan Thomas in 2006 and 2007.

O’Brien said: “We were very happy after York, we saw what she was able to do. When she went by herself in York, she just lost interest a little bit and then the others came around her and she started staying on after the race was over.

“What she always wants is to eyeball a horse and battle. Seamie was happy to make the running today if William wanted to get a lead and if William was going to go on, Seamie was going to go with him to keep her interested and he gave her a brilliant ride.

“She’s a serious mare when you get into a battle with her and when you really get into a battle with her, that’s when you really see what she can do, as you saw there today.

Magical just proved too strong for Ghaiyyath
Magical just proved too strong for Ghaiyyath (PA)
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Magical was initially retired from racing at the end of last year after a setback ruled her out of a planned Breeders’ Cup run, but owners John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith reversed that decision and returned her to training in the spring – a move that has reaped rich dividends.

O’Brien said: “The lads made the call and all credit to them for doing it.

“She was booked to go to No Nay Never and we were just so delighted that they decided to give her another go. They said that hopefully No Nay Never will be there next year and hopefully she will be as well. She’s an amazing mare.

“I suppose we are learning about her all the time. If you get away from her she gets a bit lazy, but if you get into a fight with her very few will eyeball her.

“That’s what she did – she eyeballed the colt all the way.

“She’s a great filly. It wasn’t a big field, but they were all good horses in it. Armory (third-placed stablemate) ran an unbelievable race as well.

“It’s a massive race. Of all the European races, prestige-wise, this is one of the top, if not the top, because on ratings over a 10-year period, this nearly comes out on top of all the races.

“Every year all the high-rated horses turn up here. It has a perfect place in the calendar, perfect ground, perfect distance.”

O’Brien also houses 1000 Guineas and Oaks winner Love in his Ballydoyle yard, and she currently tops the betting for next month’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp.

Magical could also be in the frame for that race – although the Prix de l’Opera is alternative option on the same day, with a trip to America another possible

O’Brien added: “She has the choice of the Arc or the fillies’ race on the same day. It will depend on what the lads want to do with Love.

“The Breeders’ Cup could also suit her really well.”

Charlie Appleby (right) with Ghaiyyath following his Juddmonte win at York last month
Charlie Appleby (right) with Ghaiyyath following his Juddmonte win at York last month (David Davies/PA)

Appleby was magnanimous in defeat, and is no rush to map out Ghaiyyath’s next outing.

He told www.godolphin.com: “I talked with William Buick afterwards, who said that it rode like a decent race and they have gone a good gallop. Turning in, Ghaiyyath was there with every chance but full credit to Magical, who is a multiple Group One winner.

“They have produced another good duel up the straight but she has come out on top this time.

“Ghaiyyath will have a short break now before we decide on our next target. We will make a call over the coming weeks and discuss everything before confirming where to go next with him.”

Ghaiyyath geared up for Irish Champion challenge

Ghaiyyath bids to confirm his superiority over defending champion Magical in a fascinating rematch for the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The Charlie Appleby-trained Ghaiyyath has arguably been the star of the season so far – completing a hat-trick of Group One wins with dominant displays in the Coronation Cup, the Coral-Eclipse and the Juddmonte International.

Aidan O’Brien’s Magical was three lengths in arrears when runner-up on the Knavesmire, but gets the chance to exact her revenge on home soil and become only the second dual winner of the Champion Stakes after former Ballydoyle ace Dylan Thomas (2006 and 2007).

Speaking on an Irish Champions Weekend preview, Appleby said: “Previously he has taken time to come back to himself after his races, but as a five-year-old this year he’s very much the finished article.

“His performances are always very big – he’s never easy on himself even when he’s winning. He puts those big figures out there and in the past it’s taken its toll, but thankfully this year he’s taken each race very well.”

The Newmarket handler is keen to get this weekend’s assignment out of the way before deciding whether to allow Ghaiyyath to bid for glory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe next month.

He added: “A decision on the Arc will be a wait and see. We purposefully took our time before deciding to definitely run in Ireland, we just took it day by day and we’ll regroup after it.”

William Buick and Ghaiyyath have formed a formidable partnership
William Buick and Ghaiyyath have formed a formidable partnership (David Davies/PA)
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Ghaiyyath’s regular partner William Buick is able to travel to Ireland for the ride following a recent change to Covid-19 protocols.

He said: “As far as I’m aware he’s in good shape.

“He’s running over the same trip he’s been running over the last twice in this country. It’s a good race for him.

“I don’t know whether the Arc is in the discussion or not. Let’s get this race out of the way and we’ll see.”

Magical won the Pretty Polly Stakes and the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh prior to chasing home Ghaiyyath at York – and O’Brien feels she is capable of raising her game.

He said: “She doesn’t owe anybody anything. She’s raced against the best. We feel we haven’t really seen the best of her yet.

“Someday when everything will fall right she’ll be at the height of her powers and we’ll see.

“She’s a serious, high-rated, incredibly genuine mare. We keep tweaking things as we go along to see if we can get another little bit from her to get her to show everybody what she shows us at home every day.

“I don’t thing we’ve seen her very best yet, but it could come one of these days.”

Ryan Moore has sided with Japan
Ryan Moore has sided with Japan (Nigel French/PA)

O’Brien also saddles Japan – who was not far behind Ghaiyyath when third in the Eclipse, but disappointed on his latest outing in the King George – as well as outsider Armory. Interestingly, Ryan Moore has sided with him over Magical, the mount of Seamie Heffernan.

Of Japan, O’Brien said: “He came back from Ascot with very sore soles in his feet. We don’t know if it was sole pressure from the shoes or if he stood on something, but both front feet were very sore.

“He was lame for a few days after. Then we took the shoes off completely and we rode him bare foot for 10 days and he came back 100 per cent sound and his action came back 100 per cent and he’s shod now.

“He’s in full work and has been taking it very happily. He’s travelling well in his work and everything seems good, so it was a legitimate excuse.

“We look forward to seeing him run now – we’re very happy with his work.”

Sottsass bids to provide leading French trainer Jean-Claude Rouget with a second win in the race following the 2016 triumph of Almanzor, with Jessica Harrington’s Leo De Fury completing the sextet.

Sottsass will be ridden by Colin Keane, who said: “I’d say it will be a brilliant race to watch.

“Obviously Ghaiyyath was impressive the last day, Magical is the queen, she never runs a bad race and our horse I’d say has been trained with an autumn campaign in mind so you might not have seen the best of him yet.”

Ghaiyyath heads super six in Irish Champion

Ghaiyyath will face five rivals in a red-hot renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday, the first day of Irish Champions Weekend.

Charlie Appleby’s stable star has enjoyed a perfect season, winning the Coronation Cup, beating Enable in the Eclipse and strolling to victory in the Juddmonte International at York.

His trip to Ireland had been up in the air until a change in quarantine regulations meant usual jockey William Buick could take the ride and following a steady gallop on Thursday morning, his participation was confirmed.

“It was a routine piece of work to check his well-being, and he has come through it without a worry,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.

“It was not strong work, more a breeze, which is normal procedure three days before a race. He’s telling us that he’s ready now for another big race.

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“We are really looking forward to the weekend. He travels to Ireland at the peak of his career, unbeaten in four starts this year, three of them Group Ones, two of which were officially rated the best performances globally in 2020.

“He’s now a five-year-old, and by any standards, he is lightly-raced. He has run only 12 times, winning nine and placing twice. This is his fourth season in training, and I believe what we are now seeing is an outstanding racehorse at the top of his game.”

Fantastic Light (right) edged out the brilliant Galileo in 2001
Fantastic Light (right) edged out the brilliant Galileo in 2001 (John Giles/PA)

Appleby added: “He’s going to Leopardstown in as good a condition as we have ever had him. I’m as pleased with him as I was before the Juddmonte International at York, where I thought he was very professional in the manner he went about everything.”

Aidan O’Brien fields three against the Godolphin star in Magical, who finished second to Ghaiyyath at York, last year’s Juddmonte International winner Japan and Armory.

Adding further spice to the contest is Jean-Claude Rouget’s Sottsass, who will be ridden by Colin Keane. Rouget won the race in 2016 with Almanzor.

Jessica Harrington’s Leo De Fury completes the field.

Fancy Blue has enjoyed a great season already
Fancy Blue has enjoyed a great season already (George Selwyn/PA)

The other Group One on Saturday’s card is the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes in which 11 will go to post.

They are headed by Donnacha O’Brien’s Fancy Blue, already the winner of the French Oaks and the Nassau Stakes this season, but she is now dropping back to a mile. She will be ridden by Ryan Moore.

His father Aidan fields Irish 1000 Guineas winner Peaceful along with So Wonderful and Love Locket, while his brother Joseph runs Argentinian import Wilds Dreams and New York Girl.

Jessica Harrington’s Albigna was a Group One winner last year, but was well beaten in the Guineas on her return and in Group Three company recently. She will be joined by stablemate Valeria Messalina.

Johnny Murtagh is also doubly represented with Champers Elysees and Know It All.

Ger Lyons’ Ides Of August and Jim Bolger’s Jack Duggan will aim to maintain their unbeaten records in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes, while in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile, Simon and Ed Crisford’s Century Dream will aim to add to his recent Goodwood win against John Quinn’s Safe Voyage – another good ride Keane has picked up.

Ghaiyyath all set for Irish Champion Stakes

Ghaiyyath will run in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, after pleasing trainer Charlie Appleby in a routine piece of work.

The five-year-old showed his well-being when put through his paces with his usual lead horse on Wednesday – to confirm his trip to Ireland this weekend.

“It was a routine piece of work to check his well-being, and he has come through it without a worry,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.

“It was not strong work, more a breeze, which is normal procedure three days before a race. He’s telling us that he’s ready now for another big race.

“We are really looking forward to the weekend. He travels to Ireland at the peak of his career, unbeaten in four starts this year, three of them Group Ones, two of which were officially rated the best performances globally in 2020.

“He’s now a five-year-old, and by any standards, he is lightly-raced. He has run only 12 times, winning nine and placing twice. This is his fourth season in training, and I believe what we are now seeing is an outstanding racehorse at the top of his game.”

Hopes are therefore very high for another big run on Saturday, after Ghaiyyath’s three successive Group One victories this summer – preceded by a Group Three success at Meydan in February.

Appleby added: “He’s going to Leopardstown in as good a condition as we have ever had him. I’m as pleased with him as I was before the Group One Juddmonte International at York, where I thought he was very professional in the manner he went about everything.

“He showed his maturity. With every race this year, I think he has got better. From Newmarket, where he broke the course record for one and a half miles, galloping from end to end, to Sandown, where he beat Enable….to York, where his brilliance shone through.”