By JA McGrath/Godolphin
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby on his top prospects for the season ahead, including stable star Pinatubo, hot favourite for the 2,000 Guineas.
The delayed start to the British Flat season has heightened interest in this year’s key Godolphin contenders, and with the first of the Classics provisionally scheduled for Saturday June 6 at Newmarket, their preparations are nearing completion.
The systems in place at Godolphin Stables and Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket have harvested an impressive number of winners for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed over the years, and there is optimism that level of success can be maintained in 2020.
Charlie Appleby says: “Of course, it has been a very unusual start to the year, with the world coming to terms with the devastating effects of Covid-19.
“During the crisis, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has given huge support, not just to Godolphin, but to communities in Dubai and Britain, and we are indebted to him for that backing.
“Everybody at Godolphin has continued to work incredibly hard over the past months. Despite the inevitable anxiety many have felt because of the pandemic, morale is good, and I would like to thank all at Moulton Paddocks for their dedication, which has helped all remain positive.
Pinatubo: ‘He has grown and strengthened’
“Let’s start with the headline horse at Moulton Paddocks, Pinatubo. At this time of the year, the question everybody is asking re the Guineas favourite is ‘Has he trained on?’.
“We are not going to have conclusive proof until the 2,000 Guineas on June 6, but my gut feeling is that Pinatubo has trained on. No buttons will be pressed until the big day but from what we are seeing at home, he has gone the right way.
“Mentally, I see no change in him. His demeanour is the same from two to three. He remains totally relaxed. Physically, though, I do see change. He has grown and strengthened over winter.
“You can also tell he is an experienced racehorse now. He goes about his business professionally, and nothing fazes him.”
Pinatubo’s latest work
“On Saturday, William Buick came to Moulton Paddocks to sit on Pinatubo for the first time since the Dewhurst last October, and he was very pleased with him. William said he gave him the same feel as when he rode him at two.
“We were pleased with his work. It was nice and simple and he went about it in his usual professional straightforward manner. We were delighted the way he finished off the gallop, over six furlongs.
“It was not a test. It was a piece of work to bring him on, and we now look forward to the final stages of his preparation for the Guineas.
“I am often asked why we didn’t take Pinatubo to Dubai during the winter. It was decided that he should stay at home in Newmarket in familiar surroundings. It was a decision taken by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and myself for the simple reasons of not wanting to change his training style or where he trains.
“Pinatubo had gone under the radar in all his homework before he first ran. He always did himself well. He’d get his work done, but he did nothing to suggest he would end the season as the highest-rated two-year-old in Europe.
“He never won a gallop. But he never finished last. He only always did enough. He worked adequately. He would never disappoint but he would never excite, either.
“There are plenty who win gallops in the morning and never turn up in the afternoon. He is the opposite.”
How will Pinatubo perform in the 2,000 Guineas?
“I think the mile is going to be his trip. I believe that because of his mental attitude. He is a relaxed character, and if he was later asked to step up in trip, I think he has the right mindset for it.
“As for his physical attributes, he won six races as a juvenile, and three of them were on three of Britain’s most challenging courses – Epsom, Goodwood and Newmarket. His athleticism is a key asset.
“He has pleased me in his work in preparation for the Guineas, and provided there are no hiccups, I think he will give a very good account of himself.”
What is your assessment of his Dewhurst win?
“My first impression on the day was that I was pleased he won. But I was also delighted that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed was there to see his champion as he had been following the colt closely right from the time he first saw him at Kildangan Stud in Ireland as a yearling.”
It was Pinatubo’s second G1 and he remained unbeaten after six starts. It was the perfect end to a great season, and the fact that he was the best two-year-old in 25 years on official ratings was the cherry on top.
“Reviewed now, I believe it was a win full of character. It came off the back of a fantastic nine-length win in the G1 National Stakes at the Curragh, and you could hardly expect him to repeat that on the Rowley Mile on soft ground, which he had never experienced before.
“He toughed it out well and was galloping on strongly at the end of a long season. His debut run had been on Friday, May 10.”
Lowdown on the older horses
Ghaiyyath: physically stronger and goes for Coronation Cup
“His first target is the Coronation Cup at Newmarket on Friday June 5. This year, Ghaiyyath comes to his season in Europe physically stronger, with a winter behind him in Dubai, where he won the G3 Dubai Millennium Stakes at Meydan. Now a five-year-old, he is the finished article.
“He missed his intended Sheema Classic engagement when the Dubai World Cup meeting was cancelled and he was kept ticking over with routine conditioning work at Mahmoom. He travelled back to the UK in late April and he has been in full training since at Moulton Paddocks.”
Barney Roy: Prince Of Wales’s Stakes is the target
“He showed in Dubai that he is back to his best, and next month’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot is his next assignment.
“Barney Roy showed his class, winning twice at Meydan at the Carnival. His turn of foot can be devastating. He will also be on our international team later in the year.”
Old Persian: could go for Hardwicke
“He’s had the winter off. He was Ghaiyyath’s understudy and when he wasn’t required in Dubai, the decision was taken to freshen him up for a campaign in Europe, where there are plenty of nice races for him.
The Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot is a possible early target, and later maybe the Canadian International at Woodbine in October. He’s a nice horse to have in the stable. He’s part of the family. He, too, is earmarked for the international squad in the autumn.”
Cross Counter: logistics allowing, it’s the Melbourne Cup again
“He was fresh and well when he went to Riyadh for the Saudi Turf Handicap In February, and he did a bit more than we wanted, he was a bit gassy. He was fifth (beaten seven lengths). Obviously, the Gold Cup in Dubai was cancelled and he’s arrived back in UK in good order.
“An accomplished international campaigner, Cross Counter won the Melbourne Cup in 2018, he was eighth (beaten a length and a half) last year, and if it is logistically possible, the Cup will be his end-of-year mission once again.”
Three-year-olds (apart from Pinatubo)
“He has worked well at Moulton Paddocks, and we will look at running him in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, with a view to stepping him up in trip to run in the Derby.
“Al Suhail is a very interesting colt. He has a lot of natural pace, but his pedigree suggests he should stay the Derby trip (he is by Dubawi out an Oaks runner-up).
“I was pleased with his second to Military March in the G3 Autumn Stakes at Newmarket in October, as he went to the line well and they were seven lengths clear of the third.”
“The very soft ground caught him out when he finished second to King’s Command in a G3 at Saint-Cloud last October. His previous close second (to Threat) in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster was a pointer to his potential.
“He is a colt with plenty of natural pace, and while we are open minded about his optimum trip long term, the more immediate plan is to go down the sprinting route, starting with the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot next month.”
“He is a gelded half-brother to Zakouski (who has won three from four for Godolphin) and he has a lot of talent. He won well on very soft ground in France last start, so his programme is largely ground-dependent. For this reason, we will save him for an autumn campaign.”
“Most of our two-year-olds tend to need a little time to come to hand, and in a normal year, we would be looking to unveil some nice types at the Newmarket July Meeting.
“With a later start to the season, it will not make much difference. We may have runners in the Coventry and the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot but much depends on the next couple of weeks.”
Names to note
Magical Land 2yo c (Frankel – Mistrusting) “He looks an early type, who should be running very soon.”
Creative Force 2yo c (Dubawi – Choose Me) “Has a lot of natural speed and is another possible early comer.”
Royal Touch 2yo c (Dubawi – Gonbarda) “A striking-looking half-brother to Farhh. Progressing well.”
Noble Dynasty 2yo c (Dubawi – Alina) Half-brother to Barney Roy.
Unnamed 2yo f (Dubawi — Khawlah) Home-bred half-sister to Derby winner Masar.
Unnamed 2yo c (Galileo – Jacqueline Quest) Brother to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Line Of Duty.