By Dubai Racing Club
Dubai: Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby was in enviable form on Dubai World Cup night in 2019 when he landed a treble with Old Persian (Sheema Classic), Blue Point (Al Quoz Sprint) and Cross Counter (Dubai Gold Cup).
With 20 winners, Appleby is the leading trainer at this year’s Dubai Carnival and he heads to the the world’s richest raceday on Saturday week with a number of potent chances, probably headed by Ghaiyyath and Barney Roy, who run in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic and Dubai Turf respectively.
Both are $6 million events, and at 126, Ghaiyyath is the highest-rated horse training in Dubai this season and enters off perhaps the most impressive performance anywhere in the world this year when romping by 8½ lengths over stablemate Spotify in G3 company at Meydan five weeks ago. The runner-up subsequently finished third in the G1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday.
“The horses in Dubai are all doing well,” Appleby said. “Ghaiyyath obviously had a very impressive victory there in the Dubai Millennium. Spotify running a good, solid race and then back in the Jebel Hatta last time backed that form up and gave it a little substance, which is good to see.
“He’s definitely a different individual this time around,” Appleby went on. “He’s five now and I thought going into his last race he had a lot more substance about him. Mentally, he looked in a good place and subsequently came out not losing anywhere near the weight he has in the past.
“He never gives himself an easy race because of his running style, so as easy as he wins with these big margins, he doesn’t help himself. In the last race he lost 4kg and has obviously put that back on in a couple days.
“His preparation so far has been faultless and I’m confident he’s going to be there in as good or better condition; hopefully a bit better than we last saw him in his last start. He’s an exciting horse and always has been and we’re looking forward to it all going ahead.”
If he wins, it will give the Godolphin-Appleby-Buick team its third consecutive win in the race following the all-the-way win by Hawkbill in 2018 and thrilling stalk-and-pounce victory by Old Persian last year.
“Compared to Hawkbill and Old Persian, Hawkbill was a very talented three-year-old when winning the Eclipse and went into the Sheema with some solid form there,” Appleby explained. “Character-wise, Hawkbill was a bit strong, himself, but on his day, he was a very talented horse.
“With respect to Old Persian, out of the three of them, I would have put him as the ‘C’ on bare form and what they’ve achieved in their careers – and Ghaiyyath would be the ‘A’ of the three. He’s a Group winner at two, three and G1 winner at four and in very emphatic style. On bare form going into the Sheema, he’s the classiest of the three.”
Barney Roy has had an inspired renaissance this season, winning both the G2 Al Rashidiya and Jebel Hatta in sensational style under William Buick. The son of Excelebration flew past Magic Lily – herself a dual G2 winner at this carnival – in the latter, stamping himself as the chief threat to Japanese superstar Almond Eye as she defends her Dubai Turf crown.
“Barney Roy has come out of his race very well,” Appleby said. “He’s really in tip-top order, which is good. Magic Lily is doing very well out of the Jebel Hatta and will also go in there, all being well.”
Glorious Journey and Mubtasim will exchange friendly fire for the third consecutive race this year, having finished first and third in the G2 Al Fahidi Fort over 7f on January 23 at Meydan and then second and third last time out in Riyadh on February 29. Both are cutting back in trip to 6f for the Al Quoz Sprint.
“Both Mubtasim and Glorious Journey came back from Saudi well,” Appleby continued. “Both ran creditable races there. Mubtasim is what he is. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is a forward-going horse. Dropping back to the six will be on the sharp side for him, but he’s a very genuine horse on the back of that last start deserves to have a crack at it. If he could run into a pace, we’d be delighted.
“Glorious Journey ran well, considering the draw, which he was always going to struggle from in Saudi,” he continued. “He does his best work late on. He has run over this trip and ran creditably. He ran well in the July Cup and showed plenty enough boot to be able to lay up.
“If anything, in hindsight, we have changed his running style and know he’s better off being a hold-up horse and we’re looking forward to seeing him drop back to six again. With his A-game, he could be a player.”
Cross Counter and Ispolini will attempt to carry the Godolphin blue to a one-two finish for the second consecutive year in the Dubai Gold Cup. Unlike his stablemate, Cross Counter has had the benefit of a run this season when off the board in the rich Longines Turf Handicap in Riyadh, but must overcome his poor performance in a race for which he seemed ideally suited.
Ispolini is unraced since a vet’s scratch during the lead-up to the Melbourne Cup in November, a race that Cross Counter won in 2018 and finished a respectable eighth in 2019. A two-time Meydan winner, Ispolini was last seen racing when winning the German St Leger in September.
“Cross Counter has come back from Saudi well and definitely come forward for that run,” reported Appleby. “Ispolini will go in there first up. His homework has been very good. He’s a horse we know we can get fit first up, so we have two live contenders there. As we stand, William will ride Cross Counter and James (Doyle) will ride Ispolini.”
• Ghaiyyath’s rivals in the Sheema Classic will not include the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck and Fleeting after the trainer told the Racing Post his intended Meydan runners would not be travelling owing to coronavirus concerns.
Also ruled out are Kew Gardens (Dubai Gold Cup), multiple G1 winner Circus Maximus and globetrotting mare Magic Wand (both Dubai Turf).