Dubai World Cup: Trainer Charlie Appleby smitten by Rebel's Romance

The ace handler believes that Rebel's Romance, which contests the $6m Dubai Sheema Classic, would be the horse of the night

By Joy Chakravarty

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Rebel's Romance. — AP
Rebel's Romance. — AP

Published: Thu 23 Mar 2023, 11:03 PM

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby revealed that unlike the popular-held belief that the Dubai World Cup would be a pressure-packed event for the ‘home team,’ the truth is that it is one week that is more relaxed than others.

Founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the emirate is home to Godolphin’s thoroughbred stable. It has a chequered racing history throughout the globe, and has been exceptionally strong in home conditions. They have produced 10 winners in the main Dubai World Cup since it was instituted in 1996.

And yet, Appleby, a six-time winner on the night, said: “It’s a big week for us — and this may sound daft — but it is a big week where it's more relaxed for us because His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has always sort of instilled in us that the Dubai World Cup is an international affair.

“So, I don’t think he’d like to see us dominating as we have done during the Carnival, and as much as we’d like to, the competition is too strong anyway! But most important is for everyone from the racing world to be here and for everyone to get some success and enjoy the evening.

“That’s all sort of converse to what lot of people would think — that the pressure is on us to get a World Cup for him. But he just enjoys the international flavour of the event.”

When pressed further, Appleby added: “It’s the honest truth. I have spent a lot of my time in Dubai and being here in different roles during the World Cup. Down the years, I’ve noticed it’s an event that has been built for everybody to be here and it’s built to be a spectacle. Not only just for the equine side of it, but it’s for people to come and enjoy the evening from all parts of the world.

“That’s what His Highness always sort of wanted to see. And so, it's been instilled into us from a very early age to make sure everybody’s having a good night. If we can go and have a winner, of course, it would make it even more special. But most importantly, we will applaud everybody who is here.

"It’s challenging to get these horses here from around the world. And so, once they are here, you got to take your hat off to them just for being here. If they can go and have a winner, that’s even better.”

Appleby does not have any runner in the main Dubai World Cup, but has Rebel’s Romance in the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, and Nation’s Pride and Master of the Seas in the $5 million Dubai Turf, sponsored by DP World. He also has Al Suhail in the $1.5 million Al Quoz Sprint. In the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup, he has Siskany and Global Storm.

Six-year-old Al Suhail is coming off back-to-back wins in Meydan, and will be a strong contender in the sprint.

“As we know with the sprinters, the older they get, the stronger they get. The most important thing with him is getting him into a good racing mind and that's where he is on the back of two nice wins here. He’s in great shape and he thinks he’s King Kong,” said Appleby.

The Melbourne Cup and Epsom Derby-winning trainer was certain his Rebel’s Romance would be the horse of the night, even though he did not participate in Super Saturday.

“With Rebel’s Romance, it was one of those decisions we made early so that we don't get sucked into running in Super Saturday. Did we really need it? I didn’t want to put pressure on the horse to go and run on Super Saturday and then come backwards for Dubai World Cup night,” explained Appleby.

“We came here 10 days ago and spun him around on the turf down. He looked great. You can't fault him, he looks a million dollars. People have posed the question what’s the most exciting horse on Saturday night, and it will be Rebel’s Romance. Five wins out of five on the turf. He’s done it on the big stage here in the UAE Derby. His last three have been Group 1 and he’s won all impressively.”


> He was born in Southampton but raised near Plymouth

> He was previously a keen jockey, riding in a number of point-to-points and amateur flat races

> Susan Piggott (wife of Lester) taught him the ropes in 1993

> He was appointed as a Godolphin trainer in July 2013, after 15 years working for Sheikh Mohammed as a travelling head lad, stable head lad and assistant trainer

> He saddled his first G1 winner in November 2013 when Outstrip landed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita, USA

> He has recorded more than 600 winners, with his first domestic UK G1 winner coming in October 2014, when Charming Thought won the Middle Park Stakes on Dubai Future Champions Day at Newmarket

> He won the prestigious International Trainer of the Year award for the third year running in 2018

> He has been British Flat racing Champion Trainer in 2021 and 2022.

> He divides his year between Marmoom stables in Dubai in the winter months and Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket, UK, the rest of the year


> $6m Dubai Sheema Classic: Rebel’s Romance

> $5m Dubai Turf: Nation’s Pride, Master of the Seas

> $1.5m Al Quoz Sprint: Al Suhail

> $1m Dubai Gold Cup: Siskany, Global Storm


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