UAE - Two trainers who share the same name, but significantly little else in terms of their careers, are inextricably drawn together as they chase glory in British racing’s ultimate horse race – the Epsom Derby (Group 1).
Charlie Appleby seeks out a third success in six years in the English Blue Riband with Military Order (William Buick) while his namesake, Charlie Johnston, saddles his first runner in the iconic contest with Dubai Mile (Daniel Muscutt).
Both horses represent Dubai connections. The former will race under the banner of the mighty Godolphin stable created by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in 1992, while Dubai Mile is owned by Dubai businessman and long-time Al Maktoum family associate, Ahmed Al Shaikh.
Together they face 14 rivals, including three runners from the formidable Irish stable of Aidan O’Brien in what looks a fascinating renewal of the historic race that every jockey, trainer and owner dreams of winning.
Charlie, who took over the reins from his record-breaking father, Mark Johnston last season summed up his emotions in one sentence when he said: “There’s still no greater race for a trainer to win.”
Appleby, who will concur with that statement having tasted sweet success at Surrey’s famous Downs with Masar in 2018 and Adayar in 2021, had a simple comment to make: “We are very much looking forward to the race.”
However, the Derby is not a simple race by any stretch of the imagination. It is the ultimate test for both horse and rider as the Epsom racecourse offers the sternest challenge for horses who at the age of three are still learning and maturing.
Unlike veteran jockey Frankie Dettori who will be riding in the 2,400 contest for one last time before his impending retirement at the end of the year.
The Italian great warmed up for his Derby swansong by winning a Group 1 double on Friday, when nailing both the afternoon’s feature races – the Coronation Cup with Emily Upjohn and the Epsom Oaks aboard Soul Sister.
Dettori partners Arrest, an impressive winner of the Chester Vase, a race that the legendary Shergar used en route to his ten-length victory in the Derby.
Aidan O'Brien has had the strongest recent record in the race winning three of the last six renewals, sends out a trio of challengers led by Auguste Rodin (Ryan Moore), who is expected to start at the big favourite.
In the last 21 running’s of the Derby seven favourites have won including Desert Crown, who triumphed in 2022.
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