NOTHING LIGHTWEIGHT ABOUT NEW-LOOK CHAMPION APPLEBY’S TITLE DEFENCE
Champion trainer Mick Appleby may be much lighter and leaner than he was this time last year – he could be a contender for a slimming award - but his prospects of winning a fourth title in seven seasons carry as much weight as ever.
Former jump jockey Appleby is well on his way to shedding a whopping four stone to ride in a charity race at Newbury in November.
His accomplishment doesn’t come as a surprise, as the steely determination that has seen him trim down from 15 stones in a few short months has served him well since his training career took off in 2012.
Appleby has been top dog three times in six seasons of the All-Weather Championships and finished second in the others to two of racing’s super powers, Mark Johnston and Charlie Appleby.
With a team of over 70 horses to go to war with this winter, the Oakham-based trainer is fully focussed on retaining his title but acknowledges how tough it might be.
“It gets harder every year but I’m as keen as ever to win it again,” says Appleby, who beat John Gosden by just one in a nail-biting Good Friday finale with a tally of 50 last season.
“The bigger yards have more strength in numbers and more quality. By contrast I have horses that are rated much lower but they are fit and well and – thanks to my team - keep on producing at their own level week in, week out.”
In a championship decided on the number of winners rather than prize money, those lower level successes are just as vital as the high-profile ones.
He is leading trainer at Southwell with well over 150 winners and has also topped a century at Wolverhampton, but sparring with racing’s big hitters in the more valuable races is a challenge he never shies away from.
Appleby might have won a couple of Listed races last winter with Big Country had it not been for his classy nemesis Wissahickon; Supersta failed by only a nose to win the valuable Lincoln Trial handicap in 2016 and old favourite Bancnuanaheireann – his mount in the charity race – landed a £50,000 handicap at Chelmsford City in 2015.
Big Country will be conspicuous by his absence this winter, however. He was being prepared for the Horses in Training Sales while fellow stable star Danzeno will be put away in readiness for another campaign in the big sprint handicaps on turf.
Riding plans will remain as familiar as the horses that keep him in the All-Weather limelight. Former champion Luke Morris and stable jockey Ali Rawlinson will ride the majority, along with his apprentice Theodore Ladd, who reduced his claim to 3lb with a polished success on sales-bound Saaheq at Southwell in mid-October.
Here, Appleby nominates Simon Mapletoft 12 horses that he hopes will help him on the way to another title.