By Simon Mapletoft
Year on year, the irrepressible Mick Appleby goes head to head with racing’s superpowers in his annual quest to be crowned the All-Weather Championships’ leading trainer – and he is as determined as ever to claim a remarkable fifth title come Good Friday.
The Oakham trainer may lack the star names and expensive pedigrees of his powerful rivals, but his strength in numbers and a knack for improving modest horses on the sand has seen him crowned top dog for the last three years.
In fact, in the seven seasons of the Championships the Yorkshireman has not only topped the charts four times, but has finished second in each of the other three campaigns – twice to the might of Mark Johnston and once to Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby.
He even edged out John Gosden by just one winner when reaching 50 for the season in 2018/19, but recorded a personal best last term with a tally of 54, even though the Championships ground to a halt three weeks early due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We don’t have a lot of highly rated horses or expensive youngsters, but we are pretty much full to capacity thanks to the support of our loyal owners and will be busy at the sales recruiting a few more for the All-Weather,” says Appleby.
“I do think it’s going to be hard this year, competing against the big trainers who will have a lot of young horses to run, but we do have strength in depth at our own level and I know that the majority of horses we send to the races are capable of winning.”
Appleby made his name at Southwell when he trained nearby at Newark and is the third most successful trainer there in the 30-year history of the Fibresand track with 185 winners. However, he has topped a century at Wolverhampton and enjoys considerable success at Chelmsford City, too.
This winter Appleby has renewed links with former stable jockey Andrew Mullen, who has been riding out from his Oakham base, and plans to give opportunities to Josie Gordon, who has been work riding on Wednesdays.
Her will also remain loyal to Ali Rawlinson and apprentice Theo Ladd, while champion jockey Ben Curtis will get the chance to build on his respectable 16 per cent strike rate for the stable.
A new face at Appleby’s yard is 7lb claimer Fred Larson, who has joined from Andrew Balding’s renowned academy. “Fred is very dedicated to the job and works hard on his fitness and technique. He will be a useful asset,” adds Appleby.
Here, the Champion Trainer reveals 12 horses to follow for Season 8.