Charlie Appleby

Charlie Appleby and Oceanographer after winning the Lexus Stakes at Flemington (Credit: Racing Photos)

Appleby begins road to the Lexus Melbourne Cup

By Tom Peacock, Goodwood

This weekend’s meeting at Goodwood promises to provide several important pointers towards Charlie Appleby’s 2018 Lexus Melbourne Cup campaign.

Godolphin’s trainer has been a man to follow during the last two Spring Racing Carnivals, with Qewy landing a Geelong Cup before finishing fourth in the main event, Oceanographer taking the 2016 Lexus Stakes and Francis Of Assisi the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

He has identified three likely types to be prepared towards the Cup and two are in action overnight on Saturday as they attempt to enhance their chances of making the final cut in the weights.

The lightly-raced Cross Counter, the winner of a 2400m handicap at Ascot last month, takes on three smart rivals in the Group Three Qatar Gordon Stakes (2400m). The race is generally considered a trial for the St Leger Stakes (2800m) at Doncaster in September but he would be ineligible for that event as he has already been gelded.

Earlier in the afternoon Walton Street, who took another valuable handicap prize over 2400m in Dubai at the start of the year and was third in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (2400m) at Royal Ascot, is among the favourites for the Qatar Summer Handicap (2800m).

“We’ve got a few boys going down in the first quarantine, which starts in two weeks’ time, and the second shipment goes a few weeks later,” Appleby explained.

“We’re in the process of looking at the second shipment now,  the likes of Cross Counter, Walton Street, and (three-time 2018 winner) Hamada, who’s going to run in the Geoffrey Freer (2700m), at Newbury in two weeks’ time. Those would be the three main protagonists, and Emotionless is heading straight for the Caulfield Cup.

“All three haven’t got any Group form, so they’ve got to do try something to get in. The Bendigo and the Geelong Cup are routes that we’ve used in the past and it depends on how those three horses do in their next races as to whether I use those races as a little route to get in."

Appleby has already had what he describes as a “stellar season” in Europe, which included a first victory in the Derby at Epsom (2400m) through Masar. He took top honours on the third day of Glorious Goodwood, a popular ‘garden party’ style carnival at this most picturesque track perched in the West Sussex countryside, when Classic-placed three-year-old filly Wild Illusion issued a dominant display in the Group One Qatar Nassau Stakes (2000m).

He elaborated on the earlier Victorian departees, too. They include two Dubai World Cup Carnival Group One heroes back from a spell in the shape of Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) winner Jungle Cat and Blair House, who collected the Jebel Hatta (1800m).

“Jungle Cat goes down for the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield and Folkswood goes for the Naturalism Stakes, which is a ‘win and you’re’ for the Caulfield Cup. Blair House goes down for the Underwood Stakes, another race over nine furlongs.”

Appleby looks for the right temperament in selecting those for long-haul travel and, along with frequent Melbourne visitor Saeed Bin Suroor, is excited about continuing his patron Sheikh Mohammed’s quest for an elusive victory in the Lexus Melbourne Cup itself after so many near-misses.

“I’m very fortunate to have the support of His Highness and the main thing is to keep the momentum going. It’s a big challenge for those horses, it’s a completely different routine from what we have in Europe, with the likes of the tie-ups in the hours before the race, and I’ve always been very keen to take geldings as they seem to cope with it all.

“They’re great races, we’ve had a lot of fun and been very lucky to pinch them a couple of times. I think a few others might be thinking of the same trick this year too!”