Newmarket trainer Charlie Appleby targets staying at the top after another record-breaking season
Finding a superlative to describe the year which Charlie Appleby has enjoyed is a relatively easy task, but for those of his training colleagues with aspirations of toppling his team in 2023 they face what looks set to be a challenge of epic proportions.
Since celebrating his first QIPCO 2,000 Guineas success back in April, everything has fallen into place for the father of four, who in addition to being crowned Champion Flat trainer for the second year running also smashed his previous best annual tally of 115 winners.
While taking an immense amount of pride in what he, and his team, have achieved, Appleby, who recently saddled his 1000th domestic winner for Godolphin, is well aware that maintaining such a status on a regular basis is now the biggest challenge he faces.
The Newmarket handler said: “Without being too confident I felt we would match last year’s figures and the momentum we got early doors really helped.
“Half way through the season, regardless of the championship, it was in my mind that I wanted to try and surpass what we achieved numerically so to get that done was great.
“When you have got the likes of Aidan O’Brien, John and Thady Gosden and William Haggas out there doing what they are doing you can’t afford to drop the ball.
“From the team’s point of view the hardest part is to stay where we are. To stay at the top of the table was the challenge and thankfully we have managed to do that which is phenomenal.”
With so many big race wins to choose from Appleby could be forgiven if selecting one as a highlight proved a tricky task, but none can quite match the victory secured by Coroebus in the opening Classic of the season on the Rowley Mile back in April.
He said: “Winning any race at Royal Ascot is special and we were lucky at the meeting again this year with the likes of Coroebus in the St James’s Palace Stakes and Naval Crown in the Platinum Jubilee, but winning the 2,000 Guineas would be the real highlight.
“We have had horses knocking on the door in the race but to finally get the job done this year was a sense of relief. It is our first Classic of the season and being a Newmarket trainer it is very special to win it.
“Native Trail, after finishing second in the 2,000 Guineas, went to the Irish 2,000 Guineas as favourite on what he had achieved and what he could potentially achieve. Once that was won, that was a sense of relief and a very enjoyable day.”
Modern Games was a rare sight on domestic shores, however he helped Appleby create history by becoming the first man to win all three 2,000 Guineas in the same year with three different horses when claiming the French 2,000 Guineas.
And it is the son of Dubawi’s consistency that has earned him special praise, alongside Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Rebel’s Romance, who started his incredible run with victory in the Listed House Of Cavani Menswear Fred Archer Stakes at the July Course.
He added: “I’d give the model of consistency to Modern Games. From start to finish he has been impressive as every race he has had has been in a Group 1. Whether you are winning or losing it takes a lot out of you and he never lay down once.
“For him to go to Champions Day on ground which was a negative he still put up a performance like he did then to back it up with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, you doff your hat to and say fair play mate. He is the horse I give the most credit to.
“On the flip of the coin you have a horse like Rebel’s Romance who has won his last three Grade/Group 1s. When I started off with him in that Listed race at the July Course in June , did I think I would be winning a Breeders’ Cup? Probably not.
“He takes the ticket of the horse that has surprised us the most.”
While no one can take the success Appleby has enjoyed this season away from him, next year is a clean slate, but with genuine contenders for the 2,000 Guineas among his ranks more hometown Classic glory could await.
He said: “Noble Style has not been seen since winning the Gimcrack impressively. He had the colic setback but he is fine and is back in work.
“He will probably start off in the Greenham down at Newbury as he has got a lot of natural speed which we have seen.
“Staying is the question mark. On pedigree there is strong enough evidence that he should stay the mile but at the end of the day he has got to prove on track he can get the extra two furlongs. As we stand at the moment he is a serious Guineas contender.
“A horse that we have not seen since he won emphatically in Canada is Mysterious Night. I think he is a horse that deserves to put in those trials in the spring to see where we are. The way he has developed and the scope he has puts him in the picture.
“You also have to put Silver Knott in there. He only went down by a short head in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which is a race we have used with horses that have tasted Classic success, i.e Modern Games. He is definitely in the Guineas mix.”
For all that Appleby has achieved, however, he recognises that none of it would be made possible without the continued support of two important individuals, his wife Aisling and his boss Sheikh Mohammed.
He said: “I’d like to thank my wife Aisling and all the kids for their support throughout my career as having such a loving family alongside me makes sharing all the success that much sweeter.
“To achieve what we have done in securing champion owner and trainer titles and William (Buick) lifting the champion jockey title and Dubawi being crowned champion sire is just fantastic.
“More importantly though this is what His Highness Sheikh Mohammed deserves. His enthusiasm is just relentless and it is instilled into the team and hopefully this is what the results are showing.”