Bobby Zen

NEWMARKET, UK — They came for a coronation and perhaps, when we look back at the end of the season, that’s what those packed into the stands and around Newmarket’s vast parade ring will have seen. The crown now just rests on a different head to the one we were expecting. 

Those who don’t appreciate the blustery open swathes of the Rowley Mile are quick to knock the course, but over that same strip last October there had been a truly stellar performance in the Dewhurst by City Of Troy (Justify), who duly hogged the top of the betting market all winter. His reappearance, up until the second he was visibly struggling at around halfway, undoubtedly added to the numbers through the gates and a vibrancy on course for the most anticipated running of the 2,000 Guineas since Frankel‘s year. The buzz abounded, though City Of Troy himself was apparently unfazed as he wandered quietly, first one in, round and round the pre-parade ring as gradually his rivals arrived to be saddled. 

There were days when the all-weather racing through the winter was for the lesser Flat runners and a diversion for those fans who don’t love the jumps, while the more exalted horses ‘wintered well’ in anticipation of the Classic trials. Fifteen years ago Ghanaati (Giant’s Causeway) poured scorn on the idea that Guineas winners must have had a prep run on turf, but her two prior wins, both at Kempton on the Polytrack, had come during her two-year-old season. 

Notable Speech (GB), who ripped through the field to give his sire Dubawi (Ire) a fourth winner of the 2,000 Guineas, had done all his winning before Saturday at Kempton too, but he hadn’t even been seen in public until January 27, then again a month later, before completing his all-weather hat-trick in early April. Primed to the minute with recent match practice under his belt, including a crucial racecourse gallop at Newmarket, he is a colt for whom the two-year-old races came too early. Now having very much filled his frame, the burly chestnut colt has not just caught up with his contemporaries but has left them wondering which way he went.

Once the horses had filed into the parade ring, Aisling Appleby, wife of the soon-to-be winning trainer, positioned herself just outside with their four children. The smallest, Sean, had to be propped up on the rail to see the runners filing past and loyally proclaimed that ‘Jockey William’ was his favourite rider. William Buick is indeed the reigning champion but he wasn’t on the favourite. Notable Speech, at 16/1, had not figured in many conversations coming into the race beyond the walls of Godolphin. While Sean wriggled and turned his attention towards a visit to the on-course sweet shop, Aisling said that she had been planning to bring the children racing on Sunday. “Bring them today,” her husband Charlie had insisted. The sweets would have to wait: there were family photos on the winner’s podium to be taken first. 

Who knows what private mental turmoil trainers endure when things aren’t going quite to plan, but Appleby’s breezy demeanour seems never to falter. He was champion trainer in Britain in 2021 and 2022 but there followed, by his standards, a more lacklustre season last year. As the sun finally deigned to shine on Newmarket Heath this, then, was just the kind of reboot he was seeking, following Group 1 success in Dubai with Rebel’s Romance (Ire) and two trial victories courtesy of Derby hopeful Arabian Crown (Fr) and Romantic Style (Ire).

“I’m very lucky to be in the position I am. I have no pressure,” he said as he was engulfed by the press before his second winner of the 2,000 Guineas had even returned to the enclosure. “We’re just asked to do the best we can and sometimes you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, but with the horses we’ve got now we’ve got a great chance of getting back to the top table.”

Of his colt, the sole locally-trained representative in the 11-strong field, he continued, “You don’t very often see Classic winners come off the all-weather. I recall back in August one of the lads sat on him and said he was a nice horse but then he went weak and he wasn’t ready to pull out and run. Thankfully he’s done what he was supposed to do through the course of the winter and we brought him out in the new year and he hasn’t looked back since.”

Recalling a recent gallop for Notable Speech under 60-year-old former jockey Paul Eddery, Appleby added, “He got off him and said, ‘He stays a mile and the favourite will have to be good to beat him.’ From that moment on, I’ve just been trying to keep a lid on it.”

He’s been sprung now, and Appleby will doubtless spend must of the rest of the season answering queries about his latest Classic winner, who brings his tally in Britain to five. 

He has a long way to go to catch the man who earlier in the afternoon had been inducted into the British Champions Series Hall of Fame. Aidan O’Brien had said in an interview last week in TDN that he stays up late on the good days and heads to bed early on the bad ones. This is one result he will want to forget, and he doubtless felt similar on this day last year after Auguste Rodin (Ire) posted a disappointing return in the Guineas. Twenty-eight days later that same horse won the Derby. 

Saturday belonged to Godolphin, Charlie Appleby and Jockey William, but don’t bet against there being plenty of late nights this season for the master of Ballydoyle. 

 

The post No Pressure for Appleby on a Notable Return to the Top appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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