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Charlie Appleby confident 2,000 Guineas favourite Pinatubo is ready both physically and mentally




His first-season performances led international handicappers to rate him the best European two-year-old for 25 years, and Newmarket-based trainer Charlie Appleby is confident Pinatubo possesses the right mindset to justify his QIPCO 2,000 Guineas favouritism on Saturday (3.35pm).

The Shamardal colt won on all six of his starts in 2019, including a nine-length victory in the Group 1 National Stakes at The Curragh, as well as triumphs at Epsom’s Derby meeting, Glorious Goodwood, Royal Ascot and Newmarket’s Dewhurst Stakes.

It was form that influenced his rating of 128, the highest awarded since Celtic Swing (130) in 1994, and a greater figure than the legendary Frankel – a winner of the 2,000 Guineas nine years ago.

Pinatubo (35824539)
Pinatubo (35824539)

Now, the task is to land the first Classic of the Covid-19 delayed campaign at the Rowley Mile.

It is a race that has so far eluded the Godolphin trainer, but Appleby believes Pinatubo is primed – both physically and mentally – to end the wait.

“I think his asset is he’s the ultimate professional,” Appleby said during a Zoom press conference with reporters.

Dubai Future Champions Festival Saturday.Darley Dewhurst Stakes (Group 1) (Colts & Fillies)..5. Pinatubo..Winning jockey: William Buick.Winning trainer: Charlie Appleby Picture by Mark Westley. (35905693)
Dubai Future Champions Festival Saturday.Darley Dewhurst Stakes (Group 1) (Colts & Fillies)..5. Pinatubo..Winning jockey: William Buick.Winning trainer: Charlie Appleby Picture by Mark Westley. (35905693)

“He’s like any sportsman at the top end. You generally don’t see them fretting coming into a championship competition, whether it be boxing or golf.

“Those cool, calm customers are the ones that will often turn up with their ‘A’ game and channel their positivity into the match, the swing of the club or the punch of a glove.

“Those are his attributes – he just turns off, he’s a got a great mind on him. He knows when those gates open it’s game on.

“He is a well-balanced colt. He showed his true attributes last season, taking in some of the most challenging tracks in Britain at Epsom, Goodwood and Newmarket — and he has strengthened over the winter. He has met every challenge we have set him so far.”

Dubai Future Champions Festival Saturday.Darley Dewhurst Stakes (Group 1) (Colts & Fillies)..5. Pinatubo..Winning jockey: William Buick.Winning trainer: Charlie Appleby Picture by Mark Westley. (35905682)
Dubai Future Champions Festival Saturday.Darley Dewhurst Stakes (Group 1) (Colts & Fillies)..5. Pinatubo..Winning jockey: William Buick.Winning trainer: Charlie Appleby Picture by Mark Westley. (35905682)

There have been suggestions that following the conclusion of the weekend’s showpiece, Appleby will switch the champion juvenile’s focus to the Investec Derby at Epsom on July 4.

Appleby was non-committal when the question was put to him, but he did concede a decision is likely to be made on the back of Saturday’s display.

“The races are coming thick and fast and we’ll have to see what comes to the table,” he added.

“If he wins the Guineas by three or four lengths we would probably look at the St James’s Palace (at Royal Ascot) but if he just wins or, God forbid, gets beat then it could suggest a step up in trip will suit him.”

While much of the attention will focus on Pinatubo, Appleby is also planning to run Al Suhail.

The son of Dubawi was a winner at Yarmouth last August, and finished second in the Group 3 Dubai Autumn Stakes at Newmarket.

“The plan is to run him. He’s exciting and he’ll be a player but we’ll see more improvement when he steps up in trip,” said the trainer.

The aforementioned Autumn Stakes, meanwhile, was a race won by another Godolphin-owned horse – the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Military March.

Dubai Future Champions Festival Saturday. Military March Picture by Mark Westley. (35906019)
Dubai Future Champions Festival Saturday. Military March Picture by Mark Westley. (35906019)

Bin Suroor, who has won the 2,000 Guineas on two previous occasions, commented: “He’s in good form and working well. Physically he looks better than last year.

“That’s the reason he only raced twice and had a gap between races, he was on the weak side. But now he is physically really good and has done well.

“His form is good and looking at him, from the horses we have had in the past, he’s a solid horse.

“He’s big and strong and everything has gone right so far.

“I’m really happy with him and we’re looking forward to running in the Guineas to start.”