Appleby must defy history in bid to give Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin a third Epsom Derby victory

Big-race winning handler saddles Ancient Wisdom who starts from the luckless 11th Gate which has not produced a winner in 214 years


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Ancient Wisdom, ridden by William Buick, wins the Kameko Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster. — Godolphin
Ancient Wisdom, ridden by William Buick, wins the Kameko Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster. — Godolphin

Published: Thu 30 May 2024, 9:11 PM

Last updated: Thu 30 May 2024, 11:46 PM

As a two-time English Derby (Group 1) winner, Charlie Appleby can be regarded as a trainer who knows what it takes to win the 2,400-metre contest, widely acknowledged as one of flat-racing's toughest tests for both horses and riders.

In 2018 Appleby gave Godolphin, the global racing stable created and owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, a historic first Derby success in the team's Royal Blue silks when Masar conquered the famous Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey.

Three years later Adayar would repeat the feat when recording an imperious four-and-a-half-length victory in the prestigious Blue Riband.

On Saturday, Appleby sends out the progressive Ancient Wisdom (William Buick) with the hope of a coveted second Classics of the 2024 British racing season after Notable Speech landed the 2,000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket on May 4.

It has to be stated that Appleby, currently in his 11th year as head trainer at Godolphin's UK headquarters at Moulton Paddocks, in Newmarket, is still maturing as a trainer. He appears to bring a lot more confidence to his role which has seen his stock rise in recent years leading to him winning back-top-back Trainer's Championships during the British flat.

This confidence was evident in his appraisal of Native Wisdom's chances of winning Saturday's 215th Epsom Derby where he must defy history to earn Godolphin a significant share of the .£500,000 winner's purse.

In over two centuries that the race has been run no horse has won from three of the maximum 20 stalls, 2,11 and 18, which are often referred to as the gates of hell.

Ancient Wisdom will break from the 11th post which ironically is on the outside of the lucky No 10 post which has produced 10 winners.

Addressing the challenge, a bullish Appleby told the Godolphin website: "There hasn’t been a Derby winner from stall 11, but there has been a few from either side, so I think we are in the right area. I feel we have the right horse to be competitive on the day."

A son of superstar stallion Dubawi, Ancient Wisdom is bidding to become only the second Derby winner to have lost the Al Basti Equiworld Dante Stakes (G2), one of the hottest trials for the Epsom Classic.

On that occasion, he went down by six lengths to Economics in the York trial.

A five-length winner on his debut, Ancient Wisdom impressed during his juvenile campaign in 2023, which he capped with a stoic victory on an unfavourable ground in the high-class Futurity Trophy (G1) at Doncaster in October.

The Dubawi colt would return this season to ace Newmarket’s Emirates Autumn Stakes (G3) before finishing third to this month's Irish 2,000 Guineas (G1) winner Rosallion in the Listed Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot.

“Ancient Wisdom has definitely come forward since the Dante and we know that stepping up to a mile and a half is going to suit, while we are hoping that ground conditions will be on our side as well," said Appleby.

The Godolphin home-bred faces 15 rivals led by last year's Dewhurst (G1), scorer City Of Trophy, and his stable companion, Los Angeles, winner of the Derby Trial at Leopardstown, Ireland, earlier this month. Both gallopers are trained by Irish virtuoso, Aidan O'Brien, the most successful trainer in the Epsom Classic with nine wins.

The Epsom Derby festival kicks off on Friday, with a mouth-watering seven-race card featuring two Group 1 contests, the Coronation Cup and the Oaks, both over 2,400 metres.


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