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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.

“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.”

Champion juvenile Pinatubo retired to stud

Pinatubo, last year’s champion juvenile, has been retired to stand at Dalham Hall Stud.

Trained by Charlie Appleby and owned by Godolphin, the son of Shamardal enjoyed a perfect two-year-old campaign, winning all six starts.

From humble beginnings at Wolverhampton, Pinatubo went on to win the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, before graduating to Group One glory with a nine-length verdict in the National Stakes at the Curragh.

Also successful in the Dewhurst at Newmarket, he earned a rating of 128 – the highest juvenile figure since Celtic Swing in 1994, with his mark putting him 2lb ahead of Frankel at that stage of his career.

Appleby’s charge started this season as a beaten odds-on favourite when third in the 2000 Guineas and then finished second in the St James’s Palace Stakes, before getting back to winning ways in France in the Group One Prix Jean Prat.

He was last seen when a fast-finishing second in the Prix du Moulin behind Persian King at the beginning of September.

Pinatubo was brilliant in the National Stakes at the Curragh
Pinatubo was brilliant in the National Stakes at the Curragh (Niall Carson/PA)

“It has been a great honour and privilege to train a horse of this calibre and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has taken great pleasure in following his career,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com

“To have a homebred, especially a descendent of the late Shamardal, is fantastic for the breeding operation and we look forward to seeing him stand at Dalham Hall Stud.”

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.

“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.”

Clock Watcher: Lessons from Harrovian

After an extended pandemic break, Clock Watcher is back! This semi-regular feature aims to highlight interesting performances from a sectional timing perspective. Before we dive into those noteworthy efforts, a quick recap to set the scene.

Sectional Recap

Sectional timing aims to tell us more about how a race was run by splitting it up into segments, or sections. Moreover, we can understand more about an individual horse's performances from these splits as well; and, by comparing with history - what we call 'par' - we can frame races and runs in a much broader historical context.

The idea is to note those horses who may have been inconvenienced either by the run of the race or how they themselves ran within it, and to 'mark up' such efforts for consideration in future. Such mark ups are one more piece of the puzzle: often they'll add little or nothing, but occasionally they are the significant differentiator. Our job as form detectives is to assimilate information from which to make value judgements. Sectional information is another piece of evidence to consider in the general form evaluation case, if you feel so inclined.

Thus, on the basis of a number of previous races over a given course and distance, we can have a reasonable idea of what the optimal energy expenditure might be. A marathon runner will look to run every one of the 26 and a bit miles in a very similar time because that is the way she uses her energy most efficiently and therefore runs her best time.

Because of the configuration of racecourses and races - standing start, bends, undulations, obstacles in jumps races - the shape of a par line will never be flat; instead it will have a curve that intrinsically accommodates all appropriate considerations. It will, in other words, enable us to gauge what happened in any given race against the body of directly relevant 'case law' that preceded it.

There is oodles more insight on how geegeez.co.uk publishes these data in our user guide, here.

What are we looking for?

What we are looking for might vary from race to race, situation to situation. But, more helpfully, two obvious things to spot are fast finishers and solid composite numbers.

Fast finishers are those runners whose closing splits, when compared to their overall time in percentage terms, were quicker. This is often called a finishing speed percentage (or FS%), and a high relative FS% implies a horse finished with more in the tank, more to give. That suggests he might go better next time.

Composite ratings are an attempt to consider FS% alongside the actual speed of a race. After all, if I walk the first 26 miles of a marathon over most of a day, my ability to run the last 385 yards will be far superior to even the best athlete who has run the previous 26 miles at world record pace. My finishing speed percentage will be massive but my overall time - and therefore any attempt at combining final time and finishing speed - will betray how easily I took things earlier on.

That's an outlandishly exaggerated example to emphasise the point that horse races are habitually run steadily and won by the runner with the best combination of track position and finishing speed. Furthermore, not only can we know through sectionals which horse(s) has/have the best finishing kick but we can also overlay that knowledge onto how we perceive today's race will set up.

A horse with a lightning kick may be severely compromised by a strong early gallop but could be a fantastic bet in a paceless heat.

Sectional Examples

Examples make everything more comprehensible, so let's look at a few events since racing returned post-lockdown.

Palace Pier / Pinatubo - St James's Palace Stakes

I'll begin with a fairly banal one - insofar as punting utility goes - but one that very well illustrates the two elements we seek, the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

This was the race in which Palace Pier announced himself on the big stage, charging past last year's champion juvenile, Pinatubo, and the controlling race leader, Wichita.

The three-part OMC (Opening, Midrace, Closing) sectionals image below shows the extent to which they quickened in the final quarter mile (the orange/red rectangles) with the upgrade column on the right hand side attempting to quantify how much more each might have been able to give.

The colour bar above the result table contains the 'race' sectionals: those of the race leader at the end of each section (in this case, at the six-furlong pole, the two-furlong pole, and the finish line). The bars inline are for each individual runner.

 

This slightly more detailed five-part 'Call Points' view illustrates things further:

 

Here we can see that Palace Pier covered the final two furlongs in splits of 11.68 seconds and 11.71 seconds. That was partly a function of the (relatively) steady first three-quarters of the race but mainly it relates to his talent.

Pinatubo, for his part, has looked to me a slightly doubtful stayer at a mile, particularly in the context of his brilliant two-year-old form. He was quickest from four to one but couldn't quite see it out. A subsequent win in a seven-furlong Group 1 in France last time supports the theory, though not beyond reasonable doubt. The Breeders' Cup Mile, a race contested around a tight oval track where seven-furlong speed is ideal (think Expert Eye), looks a perfect target.

Palace Pier's Topspeed figure for this effort was 108 and relates to how quickly he got from the start to the finish. Alpine Star, the filly who won the Coronation Stakes over the same course and distance 35 minutes earlier, ran a far more even tempo and recorded a slightly faster overall time to be awarded a 110 Topspeed figure.

But Palace Pier's composite rating - a combination of Topspeed and our Upgrade of 23 - brings him to 131. Alpine Star's effort received no upgrade and therefore remains on 110.

Here's the rub: in a steadily-run race, a feature of both his runs this year, all evidence suggests Palace Pier would readily outpoint Alpine Star. But if it was likely to be more truly-run I'd be less bullish at the likely odds.

One of the main problems, as can be seen below, is that there remains - more than a year after RMG (the company in charge of Racing TV's racecourses' broadcast rights) first published data for a meeting at York - no publicly available sectional output for the roughly two-thirds of British tracks that they cover. I wish it wasn't this way, and I yearn for good news on this front soon.

A Spot of Revision for Harrovian

Another of the John Gosden phalanx of top-class equines is Harrovian, who caught the eye when winning in taking fashion at Doncaster over a mile and a quarter on 26th June. He, and second placed Archie Perkins, were almost five lengths clear of the third that day, a gap established exclusively in the final quarter mile.

I've included the 'by furlong' sectional percentage chart this time: this view helps to understand how a runner's energy was expended and can be compared to the par line - which is grey in this case due to the limited confidence afforded by only 73 races in the course and distance sample. Beneath the chart I've also included the OMC splits for Harrovian and Archie Perkins.

 

Note on the chart how the red and green lines, representing the selected runners, run close to the dark grey par line until half way (five out, 6-5 on the chart); and how they then extend away in the second half of the race. This tells us that the highlighted runners ran close to optimally (though a little slower in the first two furlongs (S-9, 9-8)) in the early stages before finishing well.

One of the reasons I chose this example is because both horses have again run in the same race since, Saturday's John Smith's Cup. Although there are no official sectionals for that race, they looked to go quite fast early (as might be expected for a 22-runner heritage handicap), which may not have suited either Archie or Harrovian.

Here is the Gosden runner's full form profile:

 

Compare that with his winning form profile, and with sectional data switched on (the box top left):

 

All three of his career wins have come at ten furlongs, on good to firm ground, and in small fields. Of the two of that trio for which we have sectional insight, both featured fast finishing fractions off even to slow earlier meters. I'll be very interested in Harrovian when he gets this kind of setup again.

 

Yarmouth Upgrades

There have been a few races of interest run at Yarmouth since the resumption. Its proximity to Newmarket is a factor in enticing very good horses, and here are two I think worthy of note.

The first of the pair was a juvenile on debut called Yazaman, who achieved the biggest geegeez upgrade figure of any horse since racing resumed (at the tracks covered by our data supplier, Total Performance Data). Ostensibly not much of a race, Yazaman was sent off 10/11 favourite in a field of four.

They went pedestrian fractions in the early part of the five furlong contest but then engaged turbo, as best as unraced juveniles can.

William Haggas's winner completed the last quarter mile in less than 21 seconds, which is really very fast indeed, especially for a juvenile debutant.

To some degree this is now ancient history, as Yazaman has run twice subsequently: first he was a gallant second in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot. Sent off 20/1 that day, the cat was subsequently out of the bag when he again ran up, at 6/1 this time, to Tactical in the Group 2 July Stakes at  Newmarket's big summer meeting.

He's rapid and a drop back to five should see him just about win in minor Pattern company.

On 4th July, another two-year-old, this time Ventura Tormenta trained by Richard Hannon, rocked up having been pitched in to none other than the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes on his debut. He ran a huge race there to be sixth, and had plenty in reserve when turning away Sidi Mansour and four others over six this day. As can be seen from the running lines below, Ventura controlled things throughout: an even opening quarter, a steady to slow middle quarter, and then a burst of acceleration and 'eat my dust'.

He didn't seem to get home on the July course over seven furlongs in Newmarket's Superlative Stakes but has since confirmed his class by winning the 6f Group 2 Prix Robert Papin last weekend. English-trained horses finished first and second there, French horses comprising the rest of the field, to affirm my (and many others', in point of fact) contention that French racing has lagging behind a little for a season and a half or so.

Second to Ventura Tormenta at Yarmouth, Sidi Mansour has run since and been beaten in a bigger field at Windsor. But, having covered the final half mile at the Norfolk track in the same time (46.70 seconds) as Sunday's Group 2 winner, he may go one better in a small field where he can put his pace to good use.

Looking Forward

There may be a case to answer from the after-time police regarding the above, even if a number of those highlighted have since been beaten and are suggested for another day. With no such subsequent form here is one more, at a slightly lower level, for the future.

The Yarmouth fillies' novice event won by Almareekh might work out all right: the winner has an entry at Doncaster on Saturday and the third, Viola, may run in a handicap at Redcar next Monday. But it is the fourth placed filly, Ice Sprite, who has made my tracker.

This was her second career start, and first of the season, and the William Haggas-trained daughter of Zoffany was a long way (15 lengths to be precise) behind the leader with half a mile to go. More materially, she was between three and six lengths behind the three fillies that eventually beat her at that same point.

 

As can be seen from the red bars in her result row, Ice Sprite made a big move between the four and the two, and ran the final quarter (24.01 seconds) quicker than all bar the winner (23.95 seconds). Eased off in the last fifty yards, each way backers may have felt miffed that she was beaten a diminishing neck for third; but she looks attractively rated off just 70 for a potential handicap tilt next time. With only two starts to her name, there are all sorts of reasons to believe she can do better in upcoming spins. She is entered in the 3.20 at Newmarket on Friday.