Dubai Future Champions’ Day at Newmarket is all about tomorrow’s champions and Charlie Appleby has the future very much in mind.
The trainer took charge of Godolphin’s Moulton Paddocks operation last year after 16 years working for the team and is just coming to the end of his first full season at the helm as he bids to get Sheikh Mohammed’s racing operation back on top.
Speaking on Friday on the estate’s spectacular private gallops, Appleby said Godolphin was on a mission to reclaim its place as racing’s leading global power.
“Ten years ago we were at the top of the table and everyone was frightened of us,” he said. “That’s where we will hopefully be again in the next year or two, taking on Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien and Sir Michael Stoute and John Gosden.
“We will be in the Classics and, more importantly, we will be in the Classics competitively.”
With 180 of the choicest bred thoroughbreds in his care — around 70 per cent of which are two-year-olds — that might not seem ambitious, but it looks a slightly taller order when you consider Appleby has yet to win a Group Two race this year, let alone a Group One.
And Appleby has not been oblivious to the whisperings Godolphin is now more of a Championship side than Premier League.
“I don’t sit here at Moulton Paddocks in a bubble,” he said. “I know what people are saying on the outside and we know it here at Moulton Paddocks.
“The general public knows we’ve got 180 horses here and if we can’t produce good horses it’s not for the lack of facilities and hopefully not from the lack of us trying our hardest here.”
But he insisted: “I don’t feel under any pressure. We know what our ultimate goal is, which is to produce Group One horses and stallions.
“With the two-year-olds this year I could have stepped some of them up.
“But for a two-year old the ultimate goal is the Classics and not all Classic winners are Group One-winning two-year-olds, as we saw this year.
“Taghrooda (the Oaks winner) broke her maiden at two, Australia (the Derby winner) was a Group Three winner. That was it and they were put away.
“I am hopeful and confident we will be competitive in the Classics next year and my personal target is a Derby winner in the Godolphin blue colours.”
Appleby is well aware of how important it is to have knowledge and experience in his team and there have been additions to the backroom staff — ‘old, wise heads’ as he calls them and people he believes can provide him with the vital feedback from the gallops every good trainer is reliant upon.
They include Derby winning ex-jockey Willie Ryan and Shane Fetherstone-Haugh, work rider of the legendary Frankel.
“Every yard has its core of main riders who bring something to the table and there’s some great experience there,” said Appleby. “If Shane tells me one day that one of the horses he has ridden feels as good as Frankel then I will start to get excited.”
And this year all but a handful of horses will remain in Newmarket rather than winter in Dubai, a change to previous regimes.
“The plan is to run through the winter, give the backward two-year-olds some education and then see where we are with them in the spring,” said Appleby.
One two-year-old who could be in action on the Rowley Mile tomorrow is Charming Thought, who Appleby planned to supplement for the Group One Middle Park Stakes.
Today the 1,300-acre Moulton Paddocks estate is a state-of the art racehorse training centre with specially-laid gallops — one which mimics Newmarket’s iconic Warren Hill — and modern conveniences including a Seawalker, equine swimming pool and spa.
Once it was owned by Solly Joel, an Eastender who made a fortune from South African diamonds.
Today’s incumbent, Appleby, is confident he too can uncover plenty of thoroughbred gems in the seasons to come and help Godolphin to sparkle again.