With landmark victories gained in the Derby and Melbourne Cup, it is safe to say 2018 is a year trainer Charlie Appleby will not be forgetting in a hurry.
Building a team capable of fighting on every front has not been an overnight process – but after laying down solid foundations since taking over Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket, the 43-year-old reaped the rewards in a campaign which was nothing short of phenomenal.
Appleby said: “Five years ago when we opened Moulton Paddocks up to the media, the one thing I said at the time is that we knew what the goals and the vision were within Godolphin.
“The team at Moulton Paddocks had a lot of youngsters and we just needed to build the foundations. There was no doubt going into 2018 we felt we had the strongest three-year-old team we’d had on paper.”
In a year packed full of milestone moments, selecting one that stands out above everything else is a tough call – but in the eyes of Appleby the victory of Masar in the Invested Derby at Epsom in June is the clear pick.
He said: “We kicked the year off in Dubai on World Cup night with Hawkbill and Jungle Cat both winning Group One races.
“We left Dubai on a high and from the moment we touched back down in Newmarket the winners kept flowing at the Craven and Guineas meetings.
“We rolled on to Epsom and there is no doubt it was the highlight of the year Masar winning the Derby, it will go down as my best day in racing and more importantly Godolphin were back winning a Classic.
“I went into the race open minded, as Saxon Warrior was the one everyone was talking about – rightly so on the back of his Guineas success in which Masar finished third.
“The question mark was the trip, but we were very confident he would get it. The race itself at the time was enjoyable to watch.
“They went a sensible gallop and everything went very smoothly and from two down I knew they had us to beat.
“The aftermath was something I will never forget, seeing the delight on the face of Sheikh Mohammed and having the royal family there as well.
“We all know what Sheikh Mohammed has done for racing and there was not one person on that racecourse that was not delighted to see him win and to be the person that delivered it was very special.
“The one thing Sheikh Mohammed said after the Derby was that we can now go to Royal Ascot and enjoy it.
“When you are not under that pressure things tend to happen, and it did, with Blue Point winning the King’s Stand and Old Persian in the King Edward VII.”
Taking on the best the world has to offer is a different ball game and the Breeders’ Cup victory of Line Of Duty would in most seasons would be an exceptional triumph, it was one that was surpassed by Cross Counter’s moment of magic in Flemington.
Appleby said: “Any winner at these championship meetings takes a bit of doing, as it is hard enough getting there.
“Above all it was a Galileo that produced our juvenile winner at the Breeders’ Cup and that showed where we are now in the game.
“It was just great to have a winner on the world stage, while Wild Illusion lost nothing in defeat having won two Group One races before that.
“Victory in the Melbourne Cup was sweet, though, as it’s a race that Godolphin have been trying to win for more than 20 years.
“To be the first British winner and to have the first winner for Godolphin was huge and a great way to finish off the year.
“You get sucked into it all and it is not until you watch the replays that it sinks in a bit more.
“Walking back in with Cross Counter you look at the crowd and realise what has just happened and it takes time to sink in.”
For all the success Appleby has achieved this year, it would not be possible without the continued support of Godolphin supremo Sheikh Mohammed – something of which he is grateful for and hopes will continue for many years to come.
He said: “I have a very good relationship with Sheikh Mohammed, I have been with Godolphin for 21 years and know what their vision and goals are.
“Sheikh Mohammed built the operation to be an international stable that was to be competitive at the highest level and hopefully this year has helped fulfil that.
“We have got a job to sell racing and I think that is what we have done this year and we are back where we want to be.”
Winx will bid to extend her remarkable winning run to 30 races and beyond as the brilliant Australian mare stays in training next year.
There is confirmation too, however, in a statement from trainer Chris Waller that he will not succumb to any clamour to send the seven-year-old to Royal Ascot.
Instead, a home programme is being mapped out again for the record-breaking four-time Cox Plate winner to add to her 29 consecutive victories and 22 Group One successes.
Waller said: “She has nothing left to prove to us or her many followers, and we are under no illusion that she is getting a little older.
“However, she is in excellent condition both physically and mentally – and had she not pleased us in any area of her wellbeing or mental state, she would have been retired immediately.
“We will not commit to any races as yet, but it would be logical to follow the path we have previously – commencing in the Apollo Stakes at Royal Randwick in February – and if she did manage to get through a four-race preparation it would most likely culminate in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick.”
Waller spelled out that there can be no guarantee of any specific schedule.
He added: “I must stress to everyone that it shouldn’t be assumed she will be there – it will be a race-by-race assessment as it has always been, especially over the past two seasons when deciding whether to go towards a third Cox Plate, a second Queen Elizabeth or even a fourth Cox Plate as it was in her last start.”
“There will be many questions from different sectors relating to racing in other jurisdictions – which, in itself, could include numerous options.
“However, we have and will continue to keep things simple with Winx – and I believe that has been a big part of her longevity as well as something we are very proud of.”
Charlie Appleby hopes King’s Stand Stakes hero Blue Point can right the record by making amends in next year’s Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan.
The four-year-old was withdrawn from the Group One prize back in March – won in his absence by then stablemate Jungle Cat – because blood was found in his nostrils before he was loaded into the stalls.
After finishing third in the Nunthorpe on his final start in Britain this year, the son of Shamardal will spearhead the team set to represent the Newmarket trainer in Dubai.
Appleby said: “He has been out there and done it before, but unfortunately it didn’t happen for him in this year’s Al Quoz because the horse had the problem at the starting stalls.
“It was disappointing at the time. But that is racing, and two minutes later we were applauding Jungle Cat back into the winner’s enclosure.
“He did well after that incident, winning at Royal Ascot, and we know that five and six-furlong races are his gig. He will be aimed at sprint races out there, and we will work back from the Al Quoz again.”
King Edward VII Stakes and Great Voltigeur winner Old Persian will be among those joining Blue Point as well as dual French Group Two scorer Brundtland and Loxley, who triumphed at the same level when claiming the Grand Prix de Deauville in August.
Appleby added: “Loxley will be going out there to have a look at the Jebel Hatta, then possibly a tilt at something like the Dubai Turf, while Old Persian is a potential candidate for the City Of Gold.
“Brundtland is out there as well, and we will work back from the Dubai Gold Cup with him. We’ve still got to finalise all the handicappers, but it will be a nice team going there that should be competitive.”