With many of his stable stars from 2018 returning for another bite of the cherry, together with a host of potential Classic contenders, there is every chance another stellar season awaits trainer Charlie Appleby.
Having claimed a first Derby victory with Masar, before Line Of Duty added another Breeders’ Cup success to his CV, the Newmarket handler capped the year off by becoming the first British trainer to win the Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter.
Though both Masar and unbeaten Group One winner Quorto will be out of action through injury for the first part of the campaign, the 43-year-old hopes Line Of Duty can give him another taste of Classic glory when returning in the Qipco 2000 Guineas.
Appleby said: “The plan is to start off in the 2000 Guineas. He is a horse I am hoping we are working back from a potential Derby route with. He is an individual where I think the track will suit at Epsom.
“I think he has shown all the right signs, where stepping up in trip is going to suit him as well.
“I think he will run very well in the Guineas. If we are happy with the Guineas and we think stepping him up in trip will be his forte, we will freshen him up and have a crack at the Derby”
With Cross Counter demonstrating stamina is not an issue in the Melbourne Cup and then on his return in the Dubai Gold Cup, he looks set to be a force to be reckoned with in the staying division back home.
Appleby said: “We knew he was a class three-year-old going down there and the way he won the Melbourne Cup, hopefully he was better than average, and he backed that up in the Dubai Gold Cup.
“I think on the evidence of what we saw on Dubai World Cup night we are pretty confident we are going to go down the Gold Cup route and head to Royal Ascot.
“Hopefully he has cemented himself as being one of the serious stayers this season.”
Although Masar is unlikely to be sighted until Royal Ascot at the earliest, Appleby has his eyes on making sure his Epsom hero is fit and ready to take aim at his main target – the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
He said: “I mentioned the Hardwicke at Ascot as a potential comeback as that is the most obvious race for him and at the moment timing-wise it looks potentially achievable.
“If we missed Royal Ascot it wouldn’t be the be all and end all, as the Arc is my aim and that is what we are working back from.”
Injury may have cost Ghaiyyath the chance of pursuing Classic glory last year, but after making an impressive return to action in a Group Two at ParisLongchamp on Sunday he appears to be a horse heading right to the top.
He said: “I was delighted with his performance on Sunday and hopefully it is a stepping stone to further big-race success.
“He is a strong traveller, he shows that in the morning, and we were not really taken by surprise, but it is nice to see him do it on the racetrack.
“He is in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, but the most logical target is the Prix Ganay and that is his first main aim.”
Blue Point and Old Persian helped form part of a Group One treble for Appleby on Dubai World Cup night, with victories in the Al Quoz Sprint and Sheema Classic respectively, and both will be campaigned to add to those victories at the top table back in Europe.
Appleby said: “Blue Point is five now and, as I’ve said all year, I think he is the finished article and I think he will improve on his three starts in Dubai.
“More importantly from our point of view we are just dealing with a different horse at home, mentally and physically.
“The plan will be to give him a nice little break now and then work back from the King’s Stand Stakes, as that stiff five at Ascot is probably his best trip.”
On Old Persian, he added: “We saw something we hadn’t seen before on his first start in Dubai, in that we saw a serious gear change there, as they crawled that night and it turned into a sprint.
“They went a good, solid gallop in the Sheema and they quickened up off that pace. Hopefully that was the sign of a serious horse going into the European season.
“I think we might potentially drop him back to a mile and a quarter, which won’t be a problem, and look at the Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot and work back from a King George, which is the key race we are going to aim for.”
After enjoying a number of fruitful trips to Australia, Appleby feels that in Ghostwatch he could have a horse capable of doing the unthinkable in bringing the Melbourne Cup to England for the second year running.
He said: “He has wintered well, but I’ve not set a target yet. I’m hoping he might be a Melbourne Cup horse and we will work back from that.
“He won the Melrose and that gives him an automatic entry into the Ebor and that is a race to be taking into consideration.
“I just think his profile is going the right way where he can be competitive in a Melbourne Cup.”
Others to note:
“He has wintered in Dubai and is two from two. He will hopefully come back and run in the Newmarket Stakes over a mile and a quarter on Guineas weekend, a race we won last year with Key Victory.
“He is already a Listed winner, now he has got to jump through the next hoop and see how far we progress there before we see whether he is a Derby horse or not.”
“I wasn’t disappointed by his start in Dubai. He was fresh and will come forward for the run.
“He is coming back and we will look at the Jockey Club Stakes. He came out of the race well and he came forward for it, as it got the freshness out of him.
“He is a horse that will be competitive over a mile and a half and a mile and quarter.”
“He had a great season last year winning the Group One in Ireland, but unfortunately he met with a setback earlier this year.
“It is four weeks since it was announced he would miss the Guineas and we re-scanned the injury the other day and we are pleased with it.
“Come the end of this month we will be able to say if we are going to hit a summer target or have an autumn campaign.”
“He won a back-end maiden nicely at Nottingham. He will run back in a novice at the Craven meeting.
“I think he is a 10-furlong horse and he will get a mile and a half in time. He has hopefully got a page where stepping him up to those trips will be his game.”
“There are races in France there for her and potentially we have another crack at the Nassau. She hasn’t got any early options, she will be a July filly.
“I don’t think I will go back to America with her. I will hold my hands up there as she wasn’t the right filly to take.
“If we can put another Group One under her belt before she goes to the breeding sheds, that would be great. I think a mile and a quarter is her trip, so why take her out of her comfort zone.”