Charlie Appleby - Under Starters Orders

Features | 22nd September 2021

The 46‐year‐old has held numerous positions at Godolphin including travelling head lad, head lad and assistant trainer since joining the operation more than 20 years ago.

Now he is responsible for some of the world’s most choicely‐bred racehorses from his Moulton Paddocks base in Newmarket.

Name: Charlie Appleby

Born: 5 July 1975

Career highlights: Winning the Derby with Masar (2018) and Adayar (2021)

Interesting fact: When working for Susan Piggott, Charlie rode out alongside her legendary jockey ‐ husband Lester. There is no doubt Charlie Appleby is a true blue.

He has worked his way up from “one of the boys” at Sheikh Mohammed’s powerful Godolphin training operation to the prized position as his number one British trainer.

The faith Sheikh Mohammed placed in Appleby eight years ago has been repaid with a string of big‐ race victories, including some of the most coveted prizes in international racing.

Perhaps, the greatest of all came in 2018 when Masar ended the Dubai ruler’s 23‐year wait for a Derby victory in the famous all‐blue Goldolphin silks.


This year, Appleby repeated the feat when Adayar stormed home to land the Cazoo Epsom Classic before following up in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.

The winners’ enclosures of the world’s finest tracks must seem a long way from Appleby’s childhood growing up in rural England.

He was surrounded by ponies and Arab horses on his parents’ farm near Plymouth, deep in the west country, so it was no surprise he dreamed of becoming a jockey.

Before he had even become a teenager he worked for local trainers Angela Knight and Jackie Retter.

Like so many wannabe jockeys he later enrolled in a nine‐week course at the Newmarket‐based British Racing School before joining the nearby yard of trainer Susan Piggott.

Riding out with nine‐times Derby winner Lester Piggott must have been some thrill for the young Appleby but he later admitted the legendary jockey “didn’t say much”.

After riding as an enthusiastic amateur and point‐to‐point jockey, he soon realised his weight was never going to allow him realise his dreams of becoming a successful professional rider.

That’s when he turned his attention to training. His first step onto the ladder was taken when he became Piggott’s travelling head lad.

On her retirement Appleby switched to David Loder. It turned out to be his first association with Godolphin as Loder joined Sheikh Mohammed’s team as a private trainer in 1998.

Having worked under Loder, Saeed bin Suroor and Mahmood Al Zarooni, Appleby was handed the reins to Moulton Paddocks as trainer in 2013 at a time of turbulence for Godolphin.

Not only has he helped steady the ship but his horses are now regularly sailing into the winners’ enclosure on Flat racing’s biggest days.

His first top‐level success came when Outstrip won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf little more than three months after training his first winner.

The following season Charming Thought gave Appleby his first British Group 1 victory in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.

There were four more Group 1 prizes added in 2017, all of them abroad, but the real breakthrough came a year later.

Despite years of trying, Sheikh Mohammed’s attempts to win the Derby had been fruitless until Masar came along.

The son of Derby winner New Approach wasn’t particularly well fancied after finishing third in the 2000 Guineas but he was too good for Dee Ex Bee, Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior.

The quality field was put to the sword by Masar and William Buick to give Appleby his first Classic success.

A couple of weeks later Blue Point notched up the first of his two King’s Stand Stakes victories.

Godolphin, for so long forced to play a supporting role to Coolmore‐backed Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, was riding on the crest of a wave with Appleby in the captain’s chair.

With one of Sheikh Mohammed’s ambitions ticked off, Appleby set his sights on another.

The Melbourne Cup had never been won by a British trainer. That record was set straight when Cross Counter’s lightning late run claimed Australia’s greatest race to cap a superb year.

Champion two‐year‐old Pinatubo kept the ball rolling in 2019 before Ghaiyyath landed a memorable Group 1 hat‐trick last year.

His victories in the Coronation Cup, Eclipse and International Stakes made him the star of the summer in middle distance races.

With Adayar and Irish Derby hero Hurricane Lane leading a stellar crop of Godolphin three‐year‐olds this season, the future looks very bright.

Appleby now sits clear of O’Brien, Andrew Balding and John Gosden in the race to be champion Flat trainer.

With a powerful arsenal of top‐class horses in his stable, he must have a great chance of claiming the prestigious title for the first time.

That really would complete his rise through Flat racing’s ranks, proudly flying the blue flag as he goes.