Is the strength of Charlie Appleby and Godolphin bad for flat racing?By Angelica Malin
You just need to look at the results from the major flat races over the last few of years to see that the esteemed Moulton Paddocks are leaving their DNA all over the world.
The strength of trainer Charlie Appleby and owners Godolphin has come on leaps and bounds since he was named the head handler at their Newmarket base in 2013, and they can barely be stopped almost a decade on — with their stars often leading the way in the horse racing odds.
Their incredible run of form perhaps stems back to 2018, when Appleby was named Champions Trainer at the 2018 Dubai World Cup thanks to two Group 1 successes from Jungle Cat and Hawkbill in the Quoz Sprint and the Dubai Sheema Classic respectively.
The trainer returned to British soil exuberant, going on to win his first British Classic in the form of the Epsom Derby — which was also a maiden victory in the sport’s most prestigious race for Godolphin — while Blue Point raised the bar again less than a fortnight later, landing Appleby his first Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot in the King’s Stands Stakes.
In November of the same year, the Briton ticked off more achievements around the globe — winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in America and the Melbourne Cup at Flemington in Australia, which resulted in him being named the International Trainer of the Year for the third successive time.
Fast forward to the current day and records continue to keep tumbling. After winning a second Derby last year and being crowned the 2021 British champion trainer for the first time, Appleby has started this season with a bang — landing the unprecedented feat of winning the English, French and Irish 2,000 Guineas with three different colts in a single season.
It is truly incredible what they are doing, and you can’t take anything away from Appleby or Godolphin for their fine work. But it must be said that it isn’t necessarily a positive for the sport as a whole.
We have already witnessed Willie Mullins’ sheer domination in jumps racing, which was more evident than ever with 10 Cheltenham winners this year, and it appears that this is just the beginning of the flat following suit.
It must be said that Aidan O’Brien has not allowed Appleby to run away with British and Irish flat racing entirely, nor have the likes of Henry de Bromhead and Nicky Henderson sat back and watched Mullins pull clear over obstacles, but the gulf in class has arguably never been bigger on both sides of the fence.
National Hunt horse owners are flocking to Ireland as the quality of racing on the other side of the Irish Sea is lengths ahead of Britain, and Mullins’ Closutton is, of course, going to be the number one target. But for Godolphin it is different, they are breeding an insane number of incredible horses and Appleby is training them into world-beaters.
Just look at the number of world class milers they boast as the prime example. Coroebus, Native Trail and Modern Games, the English, Irish and French 2,000 Guineas winners, Master Of The Seas and Modern News to name just five. Then there is the wealth of longer distance horses, like Derby winner Adayar and St Leger champion Hurricane Lane.
The issue is when sport becomes predictable — it becomes boring and with Moulton Paddocks becoming stronger and stronger with each passing year they are becoming harder to beat. But on the contrary, if the governing bodies were to limit the number of horses in a stable, then it lowers the quality of racing and nobody wants to see that happen either.
Nobody wants to see it get to the point where Godolphin win the majority of the world’s biggest races each year, not even their biggest fans. So yes, in a way their dominance is a bad thing for flat racing. But it seems there is very little that can be done to stop it, therefore sit back and buckle in for an Appleby era redolent of Mullins’ jump success.