Appleby Aiming To Outstrip Last Year's Breeders' Cup Hat-Trick

Charlie Appleby keeps a watchful eye on his string as dawn breaks at Moulton Paddocks on Thursday | Emma Berry


NEWMARKET, UK–The Breeders' Cup has special resonance for Charlie Appleby, who trained his first Grade I winner at the championships not four months into his tenure as trainer for Godolphin back in 2013.

That important first milestone was provided by Darley homebred Outstrip (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) in the Juvenile Turf, and if the American race fans didn't pay much attention to Appleby that day, they do now, for it was a win which set the tone for the years to follow, not just at the Breeders' Cup, but in top-level races in North America generally. Rarely does an Appleby runner under-perform when sent stateside, and more often than not they will return with another trophy to add to the overflowing sideboards in the trainer's office at Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket. 

Behind his desk, neatly spaced, are three matching trophies from Del Mar last year, when Appleby and his newly-crowned champion jockey for 2022, William Buick, took Del Mar by storm. As important as those victories were for the racing stable, the icing on the cake for Sheikh Mohammed's vast breeding operation was the fact that Yibir (GB), Space Blues (Ire) and Modern Games (Ire) are all homebred sons of Darley's flagship stallion, Dubawi (Ire).

“It was a big win,” says Appleby casting his mind back to Outstrip while catching up with some Australian racing on TV before heading out to oversee his first lot. “And it was one of those very surreal moments. To stand at Santa Anita with that backdrop and watching your first Grade 1 winner go by the line…”

He tails off, momentarily reliving a significant moment in his own career, which has gone from strength to strength in subsequent seasons to see him crowned champion trainer in Britain last year for the first time. It is a title he is odds-on to retain as 2022 draws to a close.

“Look, I'd been in the operation for a long time before that, so you always know what these moments mean, but when you're holding that trophy, and my name was next to it, that does really give you an amazing feeling, and a feeling that you want more,” he adds.

“So the Breeders' Cup has always been a meeting that we've campaigned. I'm not saying we've campaigned hard, but I feel that we've always tried to find the right horses to be the most competitive anyway. And thankfully, it's so far been a lucky hunting ground.”

In 2017 came the turn of Wuheida (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) in the Filly & Mare Turf, while Line Of Duty (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) gave Appleby his second strike in the Juvenile Turf the following year. That race has now gone the trainer's way three times, though last year's success was not without drama. One of his two intended starters in the race, Albahr (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), became fractious in the stalls, forcing him and his stablemate Modern Games to be removed from the gates. In a tumultuous few moments ahead of the start, it initially appeared as if both horses had been scratched from the race, but eventually Modern Games and Buick were reinstated and went on to win, with chaos ensuing for punters. 

“Last year was an amazing year. I felt that we added plenty of drama to the meeting as well,” says Appleby with no little understatement.

“Walking away with three homebred winners and all three of them by Dubawi, I did say to the team there, as much as we say 'well, that was great', we must try harder next year to better that. That might take a little bit of surpassing though, because it was a huge achievement by everybody and we were very proud to walk off the racetrack with what we'd achieved.”

Indeed, it will be hard to top those results at Keeneland this year, but the Appleby team—and the trainer consistently refers to the stable's success as 'we' rather than 'I'—certainly plans to give it a good old rattle.

The one thing I'm confident of with Naval Crown
is that he's got gate speed in abundance

The seven runners bound for Kentucky all came through their last piece of fast work on Wednesday in good heart, and will continue with routine canters until shipping on Saturday. With Space Blues now at Kildangan Stud in Ireland and Yibir not travelling, it falls to Modern Games to lead the raiders as he bids to add the Breeders' Cup Mile to his victory last year. In the interim, he became Appleby's third Guineas winner of 2022 when landing the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, following the victory of the late Coreoebus (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) in the 2000 Guineas and Native Trail (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Modern Games has already made another trip back across the Atlantic this year to win the GI Woodbine Mile. 

“When unfortunately Coroebus didn't turn up for the Sussex Stakes, it was felt that Modern Games was the substitute. But he posted one of the closest finishes to Baaeed when finishing second in the Sussex. He then went to Canada and won very well there,” says Appleby. 

“Then with the QEII on Champions Day, as the rain came down again on the day, I thought 'should we really be running this horse?'. But he was in great order, and as always, he went out on his shield, finishing second in ground that William said he hated from start to finish. 

“It won't be too soft at Keeneland. I imagine Kinross will start favourite, but he's up there and in great order.”

The statuesque Rebel's Romance (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) is one of two Godolphin runners, along with Nations Pride (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), being aimed at the Breeders' Cup Turf, claimed last year by Yibir. The four-year-old has had quite the season, with four straight wins culminating in back-to-back Group 1s in Germany over 1m4f.

Appleby says of Rebel's Romance, “He's a past UAE Derby winner and he went out to America on the back end of that winter in Dubai to potentially participate in the Kentucky Derby, but he met with setbacks out there so that didn't materialise. We went back out to Dubai to try and continue his dirt career, which again didn't materialise last winter, but he's been a revelation since we switched him to the turf.

“He stays well, he's got the experience, he's well travelled. I think he's a big player on the night. He'll be joined by Nation's Pride, who's a three-year-old coming into it with a similar profile to Yibir. Obviously they both won the Jockey Club Derby Invitational en route to the Breeders' Cup. But prior to that, Nation's Pride does bring a bit more American experience to the table as well.”

That experience  was provided by the son of Teofilo heading straight from his eighth-place finish at Epsom in the Derby to take second in the GI Belmont Derby before winning the GI Saratoga Derby.

Appleby adds, “Nations Pride will probably go off favourite on the day. William [Buick] will ride him and James [Doyle] will ride Rebel's Romance; they're two live players.”

If he gets a good draw, [Silver Knott] is probably the
horse they've all got to beat realistically

The trainer is also double-handed in the Turf Sprint with the Dubawi duo of Naval Crown (GB) and Creative Force (Ire), who finished first and second, a neck separating them, in the G1 Platinum Jubilee S. at Royal Ascot.

“They are both rock solid little horses,” states Appleby. “Creative Force had a break after the summer and we were delighted with his reappearance run on Champions Day, finishing third. He's definitely come forward for that run.

“Naval Crown has got quicker, dare I say it, as the season's gone on. But it hasn't quite gone right for him since the Platinum Jubilee. He ran a good race in the July Cup [when second to Alcohol Free] but was disappointing on very quick ground [at Haydock] and then obviously disappointed on the soft ground on Champions Day. “But the one thing I'm confident of with Naval Crown is that he's got gate speed in abundance. That's what's needed over there, so that's a tick for him. He's got experience and I think he'll enjoy being back on a turning track.”

Appleby also takes aim once more at the Juvenile Turf, this time with the smart Silver Knott (GB) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), who already has a pair of Group 3 wins to his credit, and whose yearling half-brother by Dubawi was recently recruited to the Godolphin team for next year to the tune of 1,500,000gns at Tattersalls. 

“His form has worked out quite well and, dare I say it, he has a profile similar to Outstrip,” notes the trainer. “He's competed at a nice level and a sounder surface will suit him, so hopefully we will get that. If he gets a good draw, he's probably the horse they've all got to beat realistically.”

Completing the septet is the G3 Sirenia S. winner Mischief Magic (Ire) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}), who was subsequently fourth to Blackbeard (Ire) in the G1 Middle Park S. and will line up in the Juvenile Turf Sprint. 

“He's got plenty of natural pace and he's definitely a player,” Appleby adds.

“As we all know, you've got to have a lot of luck around there. You've got to travel well, you've got to acclimatise well. And in the shorter-distance events, you have to have a draw. So there's still a few more hurdles to get over, but it's an exciting team to be taking out there.”

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.

Copy Article Link

Liked this article? Read more like this.

  1. Three's a Charm: The Wonder Mare Set to Star Again at Ascot
  2. Notable Speech Heads Classic Clash On Royal Ascot Opening Day
  3. Shamrocks In The Bluegrass: Lesley and Ted Campion of Dundrum
  4. Sandown Debut For Galileo's Craven Breeze-Up Topper
  5. Tributes Paid As Tim Preston Dies At 80

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.