EPSOM, UK—Trainer Charlie Appleby admitted today that he cannot say for sure which of his three likely Cazoo Derby runners holds the best chance in the Premier Classic at Epsom Downs next month (Saturday 4th June), but revealed Nations Pride “ticks the most boxes”.
The Godolphin trainer was at Epsom Downs today for The Cazoo Derby Gallops Morning, where Cazoo Derby entries Nahanni and Walk of Stars worked on course along with DahlBury Coronation Cup contender Manobo.
Nations Pride is not currently entered in the Cazoo Derby but is expected to be a supplementary entry on May 30th. For the Cazoo Oaks, With The Moonlight is the stable’s likely representative.
Two of the last four Derby winners have been saddled by Appleby, namely Masar (2018) and Adayar (2021), and the trainer would love to add a third next month.
He said: “It is the one race everybody wants to win. No disrespect to the French and Irish Derby as trying to win one of those is hard work, but the English Derby is the ultimate for any owner, trainer, breeder or jockey. More importantly for the lads in the yard, it is what keeps them warm through the winter.”
“With respect to the two horses entered in the Derby, Nahanni as you know is a horse that has had cheekpieces on and he had blinkers on his penultimate start. He is a definitely a different animal when he turns up at the races as at home he would have a job to warm up in a gallop.
“Nahanni is a horse that has done fantastically well. Physically he has turned himself inside out the last four weeks. He ticks the boxes in that he has been here and done it at a trip that was two furlongs too short at the end of the day.
“If you stop the video at Leicester two down you would have said we have a race on our hands. Within a furlong he has put nine lengths between himself and what have been subsequent winners behind him. He is a horse that once he goes past the two pole, that is when you will be seeing the best of Nahanni. Whether that is good enough to win, I don’t know.
“Adam (Kirby, jockey) was very pleased with him today. He has track experience. Adam just led the gallop and he was very pleased with him. He moved well.
“As respect to Walk The Stars, he has got all the ability in the world and we have always felt he has got the engine to do something exciting. He was disappointing at Lingfield but any horse that can still have the energy to mess around and jink around after a mile and three around there at the level with Aidan’s horse, you just know that he is not putting in 100 per cent.
“So he is still very much a work in progress and that was the reason for bringing him here today to get some more experience under his belt ahead of the big day.
“The paddock procedure was all very straightforward and when he came on to the track he still showed a bit of life there. But we took the hood off there whereas on a raceday he will have the hood on down to post.
“If you were going to pick one on how they moved up there and the way everything was done, Walk Of Stars is the horse that has got the engine, but I’m taking anything away from Nahanni. The one thing this horse will do is stay for fun and he has got track experience, so I think he ticks a couple of nice boxes coming into the Derby.
“Nations Pride won the Newmarket Stakes and we said then is he a Derby horse. He is in the French Derby, which we have Modern Games pencilled in to go there. He will work on Wednesday, Nations Pride, and a decision will be made whether we supplement him on Monday. We are hoping we are. There is only one Derby, we all know that, but you only want to go there if you think you can win it.
“Walk The Stars, like Adayar, was beaten at Lingfield, and you can put that into a frame if you like, but as an individual you could say Walk The Stars is very much an Adayar as well. He is a big scopey horse.
“The one thing William (Buick) did say was how well that he handled Lingfield and Patrick Hills, who rode him today, said exactly the same in that for a big horse it is surprising how agile and how he switches his leads so smoothly. I think he does that as he has got a huge engine and he finds everything very easy. He has got a picture that you could toy with saying has an Adayar profile coming into the Derby.
“Walk The Stars showed immaturity from start to finish at Lingfield. He has got character about himself and he is a big boy. Some of those individuals you can put a bit more work into at home and they accept it in the right manner. As I say it is like having a schoolchild – you give them extra lap around the playing field and they will come back in and respect you a bit more but the one thing with this horse is you can give him that and he comes back for more.
“Nations Pride has a great profile that could turn up on Derby Day. He has had five runs under his belt and he was very impressive on his last start. He is a very neat horse and well balanced horse and out of the three he probably ticks the most boxes. The question mark is slightly pedigree-wise has he not got an abundance of stamina there, whereas the other two lads they do. If I was to say which horse I would like to ride, let’s get past Wednesday’s gallop and see the wellbeing of Nations Pride. But as we stand at the minute Nations Pride at the moment would be the horse.
“William (Buick) sits on them on all. Guidance-wise I like to allow them to make the choice first. I like them to ride what they are happy to ride. If I said you’re not riding that William, you are riding Joe Bloggs there is negativity already there. If he gets on the horse he thinks he has the best chance of winning, he is going to go out thinking he is on the best horse.
“Wednesday’s work will be the defining point but if you take them on face values of what they have achieved to date Nations Pride is the highest rated out of the three of them and he has done very little wrong.
Appleby also explained why his Cazoo Oaks contender had stayed at home rather than travelled to Epsom Downs.
He said: “With The Moonlight worked very well on Saturday at home and I didn’t want to challenge her today. She is a big scopey filly and she handled the dip very well at Newmarket. She has got a bit of experience under her belt and it was never on the radar to come here.
“I think she has got a great chance. If you are one of these people who wants to dive into the pedigree books she would be a question mark if she would stay a mile and a half as Sand Vixen was a very quick mare but with a Frankel on the top line you would not know how far she would get and she was not stopping over the 10 furlongs at Newmarket.”
DAHLBURY CORONATION CUP
Appleby admitted he was “delighted” with the third of his three horses using Epsom Downs today.
He explained: “Manobo has come for a day out and he is in the Coronation Cup. He went down there with a hood on. We kept that on as it was more of a nice exercise for him as he hasn’t been seen since Dubai. He moved well, but it was only a canter so most horses should be able to come down there at the speed he was doing. I was delighted with him.
“He was lit up and keen and over travelling in Dubai. Prior to the Super Saturday when he won the Nad Al Sheba so impressively I had toyed with running him in the City Of Gold over a mile and a half with potentially him stepping up to being a Sheema Classic horse but a lot of that was being built around what Yibir was doing at the same time back in the UK.
“But he filled that slot for the Sheema Classic, so we stepped Manobo up in trip for the Gold Cup. He doesn’t stay a grinding two miles for sure. Dropping back to a mile and a half is not a concern for me. He is an exciting horse.”
The Jockey Club UK Press Release
Photo: The Jockey Club