Mick Appleby Stable Tour

    Simon Mapletoft visits leading All-Weather trainer Mick Appleby, who is planning to regain the title he won in 2016 with a powerful team of horses at his new purpose-built training establishment near Oakham.
  • Monday 23 October 2017
  • Stable Tours

It’s quite remarkable that Mick Appleby finished only two winners behind last season’s champion Mark Johnston after the move to a new yard cost him vital ground in the early race to become Top All-Weather trainer, writes Simon Mapletoft.

Appleby, a Southwell specialist who had topped the leaderboard from his previous base near Newark in 2015/16, had sent out only a handful of winners by the turn of the year but finished with a respectable total of 41 come Good Friday.

“We didn’t move in until early December so it took us until the New Year to really get going,” recalls the Barnsley-born handler, who somehow managed to move his entire string of around 85 horses in just one day.

“There was a convoy of horseboxes on the A1 that day, but it was important to make the move as quick and seamless as possible,” he adds. “We’d put a new gallop in which was similar in profile to our previous one and the horses settled in really well.”

No surprise there. Appleby’s former polo yard has already been transformed into what, when completed, will be a state-of-the-art, self-contained training centre on the fringes of rural Leicestershire. A 6f Polytrack-style gallop climbs a stiff six furlongs and new light, airy barns accommodate the majority of his 95-strong team.

“Around 50 of them will run on the All-Weather,” he adds. “I’m happy with the numbers but the plan is to improve on the quality, which we’ve done over the past year with horses like Big Country, who won the Rosebery Stakes at Kempton and finished second in the John Smith’s Cup at York.”

Former jump jockey Appleby may have strength in numbers, but is under no illusion about the size of the task ahead if he is to wrestle back the title he won two seasons ago. “It’s not going to be easy taking on the likes of Mark Johnston and Godolphin. Not only do they have a lot of horses to run but they have that quality as well.”

He is hoping that the appointment of Luke Morris as his number one jockey will give him that vital edge – and perhaps help him achieve that elusive first Good Friday winner. “Luke’s the best there is on the All-Weather so I’m delighted to have him on board. He’ll come in and ride work once a week which will give him a good feel for the horses.”

Morris will be understudied by stable mainstay Alistair Rawlinson, who rode out his claim in the summer but is optimistic he can improve upon the 16 winners he rode for his boss last winter.

Here, Appleby nominates 12 horses to follow.

Older Horses

Afonso De Sousa (USA)

Form Profile:

Talented but quirky, this seven-year-old was rated 110 at his peak with Aidan O’Brien and still plies his trade in decent handicaps on sand and turf. He resumes on a winning mark and stays 12f well.

Trainer Says:

Lingfield seems to be his favourite track on the All-Weather. He won there for us in February off 87, and is back down to that mark for the start of the season. He’s got his own idea about things, but is a decent horse on his day so I’m hoping he can build on those two good runs back in the winter.

Video Form
16 Dec 2017:
2 Dec 2017:
9 Sep 2017:
27 Aug 2017:
13 Aug 2017:

Hakam (USA)

Form Profile:

Connections paid £26,000 at Goffs Sales for this gelding in August 2016 and have won three races with him on the All-Weather – two at Chelmsford City and another at Kempton Park. Now rated 95, this former Charles Hills five-year-old has earned the right to contest the best sprint races off a mark of 95.

Trainer Says:

He’s in the sales but sending him there is a bit of a wild card. If he doesn’t make his reserve he’ll have an All-Weather campaign. He’s improved a stone since I got him and is open to more progress but does have a tendency to blow the start, which isn’t ideal in sprints. It’s not an easy quirk to iron out - it’s just him. But he’s a very good horse when things go his way.

Video Form
31 Jul 2018:
29 Jun 2018:
25 Jan 2018:
11 Jan 2018:
1 Jan 2018:

Jack Nevison

Form Profile:

This four-year-old put a string of disappointing efforts behind him when dominating a Chelmsford City handicap in September on only his fourth All-Weather outing. He only joined Appleby in the summer, having previously been with John O’Shea, and begins the new season both unexposed and open to improvement in this sphere.

Trainer Says:

He’ll win again now we’ve found the key to him. He wasn’t happy in behind horses so we decided to try and jump out and make it at Chelmsford and he stayed there. He keeps galloping, which is a good quality in an All-Weather horse, but picked up when the others came to him last time so we’ll stick to front-running now.

Video Form
13 Oct 2018:
24 Jul 2018:
6 Jul 2018:
24 Mar 2018:
26 Oct 2017:

Pearl Nation (USA)

Form Profile:

Now an eight-year-old, this talented gelding will resume on a lofty mark of 92 despite struggling to recapture his best form after sustaining an injury in Dubai last year. However, a different approach could see the son of Speightstown back in the winner’s enclosure soon.

Trainer Says:

He’s a Southwell specialist but those high calibre handicaps are few and far between, so I’m going to drop him into sellers and claimers. He’s not as good as he was and has had a tendon problem but even though he’s getting on a bit he still possesses enough ability to win those little races.

Video Form
30 Jan 2018:
18 Jan 2018:
3 Jan 2018:
19 Dec 2017:
1 Dec 2017:

Poyle Vinnie

Form Profile:

This popular chestnut has been a standing dish in big sprint handicaps on turf, making the frame in valuable contests at York and Goodwood this summer. However, his strike rate of three from 14 on the All-Weather bears closer inspection and he could easily build upon that in the New Year.

Trainer Says:

Vinnie’s having a break. He’s out in the field enjoying himself, but we’ll get him ready for that good race at Southwell in January. He won that last year off a 2lb higher mark. Opportunities on the Fibresand will be limited after that but he does like Newcastle, as he proved last winter, so will probably head back for those better class 5f handicaps there.

Video Form
19 Sep 2018:
27 Aug 2018:
20 Jun 2018:
31 May 2018:
12 Apr 2018:

Three Year Olds


Form Profile:

A former John Gosden performer, this son of Dansili is out of an All-Weather winner who went on to take a Grade 2 at Belmont in 2011. Officially rated 85, the three-year-old still has the scope to progress into some of the more valuable races this winter, according to his trainer.

Trainer Says:

We gelded him after he ran badly at Kempton in September and I’m hoping that will be the making of him. He’s a nice horse with more ability than we’ve seen so far. He’s bred to stay well and it wouldn’t surprise me if he progressed to become a Good Friday horse.

Video Form
11 Jul 2018:
27 Apr 2018:
1 Apr 2018:
15 Mar 2018:
3 Mar 2018:

Epitaph (IRE)

Form Profile:

This three-year-old gelding has run some nice races in defeat since joining Appleby from Joseph O’Brien in July. His second on good to soft ground at Nottingham in mid-October offered definite hope for the winter ahead.

Trainer Says:

I was happy with his run at Nottingham. This horse has plenty of ability and we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s also been placed for me at Pontefract, Chester and Yarmouth and will be breaking his maiden tag soon. He’s rated 69 which makes him ideal for those 0-70 and 0-75 handicaps up to 1m4f.

Video Form
27 Mar 2018:
21 Mar 2018:
13 Mar 2018:
4 Mar 2018:
13 Feb 2018:

Navajo Star (IRE)

Form Profile:

This Mastercraftsman filly has begun to improve off a basement mark, winning back-to-back races at Chelmsford City and Newcastle in October. Stepping her up to 2m has been the key.

Trainer Says:

She’s looking a much better filly now she’s strengthened up and stepped up in trip. Top apprentice David Egan has won twice on her, giving her a very good ride to follow up at Newcastle. She’s still only rated in the 50s despite her sudden improvement and can keep on progressing as long as she gets a good galloping test.

Video Form
22 Sep 2018:
28 Aug 2018:
30 May 2018:
26 Apr 2018:
31 Mar 2018:

Shamrokh (IRE)

Form Profile:

Bought out of John Gosden’s powerful Clarehaven Stables in May, this lightly raced three-year-old son of top All-Weather sire Invincible Spirit is yet to add to the 1m Newcastle maiden he won back in January. He has plummeted over a stone in the handicap in several fruitless outings for Appleby, who believes he can do well this winter.

Trainer Says:

He’s a well-handicapped horse now. Unlike many of mine I don’t see him as a Southwell horse but tracks like Newcastle and Chelmsford will be ideal for him. We’ve been running him over 1m4f but he may drop back in distance.

Video Form
24 Apr 2018:
25 Mar 2018:
22 Feb 2018:
9 Feb 2018:
31 Jan 2018:

Subjectivity (USA)

Form Profile:

This Godolphin cast off is just the sort of horse that Appleby has excelled with on sand. Dirt bred by a Grade 1 winner, he was picked up for just £3,200 at Ascot Sales in July.

Trainer Says:

He goes very well at Southwell in his work at ran a pleasing debut there this month, just tiring after travelling prominently. He’ll probably be best over 1m in due course and could be the sort to win a few little handicaps on the Fibresand in the New Year for his owner Terry Pryke, who is a long-standing supporter of mine.

Video Form
15 Oct 2018:
27 Aug 2018:
4 Aug 2018:
22 Oct 2017:

Toy Theatre

  • 4-y-o; bay filly
  • Breeding: Lonhro - Puppet Queen (Kingmambo)
  • Trained by: M Appleby
  • Last Race: Thirsk, 8 Sep 2018 15:45
  • Result: 6/9, mid-division on outside, chased leaders over 2f out, soon ridden, kept on same pace, never on terms
  • View full form
Form Profile:

Another three-year-old filly, Toy Theatre scored her third success of the year when she won a 7f Newmarket handicap under newly crowned champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa in September. Two of her wins have come on the All-Weather.

Trainer Says:

She won at Wolverhampton then followed up two starts later at Chelmsford, again for Silvestre. Even though she’s gone back up the weights I think she’s still a well handicapped filly who has more to offer on the sand. She’s tough and likes some give in the ground, as she proved at Newmarket. We rode her prominently there so she might be well suited by Southwell, too.

Video Form
24 Aug 2018:
7 Jul 2018:
24 May 2018:
28 Apr 2018:
4 Jan 2018:

Two Year Olds

Railport Dolly

Form Profile:

This daughter of Rail Link is qualified for handicaps after three runs in novice and maiden company on turf. Though her dam showed little on the level and over jumps, this two-year-old filly has reportedly done enough in her homework to suggest she will win races.

Trainer Says:

She has the ability to do well on the All-Weather now she’s handicapped, possibly over 7f or 1m. I felt that handicapper was a bit harsh in giving her an opening mark of 69. Ideally I’d have liked to have started her off in 65-grade handicaps but she works well and is open to improvement.

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