Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby has assessed the chances of his three runners in this Saturday’s Cazoo Derby (in Memory of Lester Piggott) following the draw for the 243rd renewal of the race.
Appleby runs Nations Pride, Walk Of Stars and Nahanni in the premier Classic as he bids for a third success in the last five years, following the victories of Masar (2018) and Adayar (2021).
On his trio for the 2022 Cazoo Derby, the 46 year old trainer said: “Last year we assembled a team of legitimate Derby candidates and two of them, Adayar and Hurricane Lane, excelled afterwards.
“Going into this year’s race we have put these three horses in that we strongly felt were right for the race and hopefully one of them will prove good enough to win it.”
Nations Pride was added to the Cazoo Derby field as a supplementary entry on Monday at a cost of £75,000. The mount of William Buick, the son of Teofilo began 2022 with success in the Jumeirah Derby at Meydan in February and could not have been more impressive when returning to the UK, taking the 10-furlong Listed Betfair Newmarket Stakes at the QIPCO Guineas Festival at the end of April by seven lengths. He will run out of stall five.
Appleby said: “Being drawn in five is a nice draw. He is a horse with plenty of experience having already been out to Dubai. The first half of the race everyone will be jostling for a good position and he is a horse that has got natural pace. From that draw, William (Buick) can hopefully park him up where he feels it is right to be.
“We never went quick enough to really test those who came to the track the other week (at the Cazoo Derby Gallops Morning on May 23rd) and we decided he didn’t need to come as he had already won around Lingfield and at Newmarket so hopefully he will handle this track.
“People questioned how well he handled the dip at Newmarket but he came out of it (the dip) very well and he takes plenty of experience into the race.
“We still had him in the French Derby as well (at the time of Epsom gallop). We sat down and discussed it with everyone at home but we were happy with how the horse was so we decided to come here.
“We didn’t go to the Dante as I purposely felt he didn’t want another race before either the Derby or French Derby as he is the sort of horse that it helps when he has more time between his races.
“He had done so well at Newmarket that had we gone to the Dante we might be up against it coming here to get his condition right but as a result of not having another run his condition at home is very well.
“William made his mind up that if we decided to run this horse he would ride him. As I said on the gallops morning, in my mind he has chosen the right horse. It is a tough call for William in his position but I feel that William has chosen the right horse for him and James the right one for him, which gives me more confidence.
“We took this lad out to Dubai as we toyed whether he might be one for the UAE Derby but we felt we had other horses for that and decided to keep him for the turf. He only had the one run while he was out there and that was in the Jumeirah Derby which he won and aside from that he wintered well in Dubai.
“I was pleased with the way he put condition on from Dubai to his first run back at Newmarket, which he won in a pleasing manner.
“In doing that it put him in the mix for the Derby, even though he wasn’t in it at the time, as we initially thought he might be more a French Derby horse as we thought 10 furlongs might be his trip.
“We saw in that performance at Newmarket that they went a sensible gallop before he went through the gears and he was at his most impressive in the last furlong so this trip hopefully should be fine for him.”
Walk Of Stars is set to be partnered by James Doyle, who enjoyed a first Classic success earlier this season aboard the Appleby-trained Coroebus in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas.
A son of Dubawi, Walk Of Stars made a winning reappearance at Newbury in April over 10 furlongs before coming home runner-up to United Nations in the Listed Lingfield Derby Trial on May 7th, when he swerved in the closing stages to go down by three-quarters of a length.
Appleby said: “I’m really happy with Walk Of Stars and mentally he has come forward a lot in a short space of time. We saw his antics at Lingfield, and I’m not saying he gave it away as we respect the winner, but for any horse to still have the energy to dart around at the later stage of a race suggests he might not have put a great deal in.
“We took him down to Epsom for that gallops morning and we saw he had matured a bit more from the Lingfield run and subsequently from the trip to Epsom he has matured again mentally.
“This will be a different ball game going to Epsom on Derby Day with all the razzmatazz and the huge crowd, which it rightly deserves, but we are now going there with a horse that is mentally in a stronger position than he was early on.
“We’ve seen the engine at home and I think we have seen glimpses of it on the racetrack mixed up with a bit of rawness with his mental immaturity.
“Stall nine is a good enough draw for him as he doesn’t want to be down the inside where all the jostling for positions will be going on.
“James knows this horse well enough having ridden him in his work during the spring and at Newbury so he knows the characteristics of the horse. He will know whether he needs to nurse him into it or be slightly more aggressive and from this draw that will help him make that decision.
“He was a typical backend two year old in that he got beaten first time out, won his next start and then we put him away for the winter. He is a big, scopey horse with a lovely pedigree and we decided to go to Newbury and tread the path we have done before and he duly obliged.
“We then put him in the Lingfield Derby Trial and though he was beaten he didn’t disappoint us as we know others have been beaten in that and subsequently won The Derby.
“On pedigree, the trip will not be an issue and we know he will be staying on strongly come the end of the race.”
Nahanni brings course winning form to the table, having earned his Derby entry by winning the Listed Cazoo Blue Riband Trial over 10 furlongs at the Spring Meeting at Epsom Downs on 19th April. The Frankel colt will be partnered by Adam Kirby, who was successful 12 months ago aboard Adayar.
Appleby said: “Nahanni is a horse going in there with no pressure on him at all as a 20-1 chance. Adam Kirby knows his way around this course and distance blindfolded and the horse ticks a lot of boxes, having won the Blue Riband here over a mile and a quarter. He was doing all of his best work in the last half a mile that day and he is a willing horse with a willing rider on.
“We took the blinkers off him last time as he slightly over travelled in his races and we have kept the cheekpieces he had on last time out and on his first two starts as you have got to travel around Epsom with all the undulations.
“He is a horse that, from his draw in stall six, can help Adam get into a good position from the start. If he is slow away he might not quite have the revs of the others and that would leave him with a big task.
“He is a different ride to say the likes of Walk Of Stars where James can either go forward or sit cool – he is a horse that needs to be a bit more aggressive with early on to get in a good pitch. “Some people questioned what he achieved in the Blue Riband but I was very pleased as I knew dropping back from the mile and a half and Leicester the time before was a big ask. At the end of the day he could be more of a St Leger horse.”