Charlie Appleby was an unknown to many racing fans when he was chosen to succeed the disgraced Mahmood Al Zarooni as Godolphin’s trainer at Moulton Paddocks, on the outskirts of Newmarket, in 2013.
However, he had already been working for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Godolphin operation for 15 years and when presented with the chance to take centre-stage he grasped it with both hands.
He bagged his first Group 1 success when Outstrip won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita in his first year at the helm and has continued to flourish.
His proudest moment came when landing the 2018 Investec Derby with Masar just 24 hours after his Wild Illusion had finished runner-up in the Investec Oaks. It was a cherished first win of the premier Classic in the blue silks of Godolphin after many years of trying.
“The great thing about the team around me, especially His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, is that they are so supportive,” Appleby said. “I’m very lucky to have been given this position and all I wanted to do when I got it was to win the Derby for the team. Each year, I’ve watched it go by without having a winner but you’ve got to keep trying.”
Later that year, he saddled a third Breeders’ Cup winner (from just six runners) and days later became the first British-based trainer to saddle the Melbourne Cup winner when Cross Counter triumphed.
The following year he was responsible for Pinatubo, the outstanding two-year-old champion, and in 2020 he guided the career of Ghaiyyath, the world’s highest-rated horse after successive wins in the Coronation Cup, Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International.
Appleby has always worked with horses, initially with point-to-pointers in Devon and then working for jumps trainers Angela Knight and Jackie Retter.
He wanted to become a jockey, and rode a couple of winners in Arabian races, but although he completed a nine-week course at the British Racing School in Newmarket in 1991 it soon became apparent that his natural body weight was too heavy to allow a career in the saddle.
His first job in Newmarket was for Susan Piggott, whose husband, the legendary Lester Piggott, was an important influence. He became her Travelling Head Lad before moving across town to fill a similar post for David Loder in 1998.
That was the start of his association with Godolphin and, more than two decades later, it is a partnership that continues to flourish.