Racing news and tips: Charlie Appleby sees big year ahead for Godolphin

Greg Wood at Meydan
The Guardian
<span class="element-image__caption">Charlie Appleby, right, and the jockey William Buick entertain the press at Meydan on Thursday morning.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph:</span>
Charlie Appleby, right, and the jockey William Buick entertain the press at Meydan on Thursday morning. Photograph:

Charlie Appleby, the trainer of the unbeaten Group One winner Wuheida, said on Thursday that his filly will head straight to the 1,000 Guineas on 7 May and then to the Oaks at Epsom in early June, while also suggesting that the latter race has been Wuheida’s primary target for many months.

Wuheida was fast-tracked from a maiden at Newmarket into Group One company on Arc day on Chantilly last October, when she made most of the running to win the Prix Marcel Boussac. She is the 10-1 second favourite for the 1,000 Guineas and a 14-1 chance for the Oaks but Appleby said here on Thursday that in his mind he has been working backwards from Epsom almost since her success at Newmarket last August.

“Even going into the Marcel Boussac we’d already pencilled her in for the Oaks,” Appleby said. “She’s a big, scopey Dubawi filly. They’re not renowned for being precocious at two, so when she went and broke her maiden and the race worked out really well, we all stepped back and said: ‘She really shouldn’t have done that’.

“We hadn’t revved her up but the way she did it, we all said, we might just have a filly on our hands that will surpass all expectations. We didn’t want to put too much mileage on her as a two-year-old but we also thought she was good enough to go straight into a crack at Group One company. If you don’t shoot for the stars, you’re never going to get there.

“She’s going to go straight to the Guineas. I don’t want to come back in trip to seven [furlongs in a trial] and I’m not worried about getting beat. Sometimes the European mind-set is that you don’t want to be beaten but you’ve got to look at the bigger prize and it’s how you get to that prize.

“Yes, the Guineas is obviously a big prize but the Oaks is where we’re going to see her at her best so we are working back from that. She might not be sharp enough to go and win a Guineas, we don’t know, but we’re going to get a better assessment of her if we can see her with a true end-to-end gallop going forward to the Oaks.”

Godolphin has been one of the sport’s major players for more than two decades but has sent out only two Guineas winners from its Newmarket stables this century. Both were in the 1,000 Guineas: Blue Bunting in 2011 and Kazzia in 2002.

Another Guineas winner in royal blue would be very welcome as last season’s juveniles embark upon their Classic campaigns following the latest change of emphasis in Godolphin’s grand plan. Both Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin’s other principal trainer, had significantly fewer horses in their stables last season, and their win totals dropped sharply as a result. The idea is that both will have been able to concentrate on quality over quantity and this is the season when the theory will be put to the test.

“The stats say we didn’t have as many winners last year,” Appleby says, “but we knew that before the season started as our policy changed away from numbers. The season before we knocked out 151 winners [from 663 runners, against 70 from 331 in 2016].

“It gives you more time to concentrate on what you hope are the nicer horses and they deserve that. I find it easier to work with smaller numbers, and it’s not as though we’ve cut our numbers in half. When I first took over [in 2013] there were 220 horses there. By the time I get the team [in Dubai] back the number will be about 160, which is very manageable as I’ve got a great support team around me.”

The older horses in Appleby’s stable include Hawkbill, last year’s Eclipse Stakes winner, while Suroor’s team for 2017 includes Thunder Snow, the ante-post favourite for UAE Derby at Meydan, whose price for the 2,000 Guineas ranges from 12-1 out to 25-1.

Two more of Godolphin’s big hopes for 2017, both trained outside their main yards, are also in action at Meydan on Saturday night: Richard Fahey’s Ribchester, a close second behind Minding in last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, runs in the Dubai Turf, while John Gosden’s injury-plagued Jack Hobbs, who has raced only four times since winning the Irish Derby in June 2015, goes in the Sheema Classic.

“I feel we’ve got our strongest team of older horses going forwards,” Appleby said. “There’s a nice team there and I’m excited about this season, I genuinely am. Until I’m proven otherwise about that, I’m going to carry on with that philosophy.”


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