Appleby hoping Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes can provide next Magic moment as 34 horses entered in Group 1 showpiece
Charlie Appleby, who landed the first big handicap of the 2019 Flat Turf season in Britain by winning the Lincoln, has set his sights on capturing the season’s first older horse Group 1 prize with emerging miler Mythical Magic.
The Godolphin colt, who made his breakthrough at pattern level with an impressive win in the Group 2 Zabeel Mile in Dubai in February, is the trainer’s only entry in the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, run at Newbury on Saturday 18 May.
He is one of 34 horses engaged in the £350,000 prize, the fourth race of the Qipco British Champions Series, which has attracted Group 1 winners Accidental Agent, Romanised, Suedois, Without Parole, Billesdon Brook, Laurens, Magical and One Master.
Godolphin horses have won eight runnings of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, beginning with Cape Cross in 1998, and four of the last six renewals, but Appleby has yet to train the winner of the race himself.
Mythical Magic was a highly regarded two-year-old who last raced in Britain when finishing third in the 2017 Horris Hill Stakes, now run as the Worthington’s Stakes, at Newbury.
He ran twice during the Dubai Carnival, finishing second to stablemate D’bai over 7f, before easing to a three lengths triumph in the Zabeel Mile from another Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes entry Century Dream.
Appleby said: “The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes is a race we have had our eye on for a while now for Mythical Magic. He was second to D’bai in the Al Fahidi Fort and then he won the Zabeel Mile well, beating Century Dream and two others of ours, First Contact and Wootton. We stopped him after that with a view to returning to the UK to run him in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.
He added: “He is an Iffraaj horse that I always thought a lot of as a two-year-old. He has just been a big unit who took time to mature. Luckily we have been able to give him time and now is his chance to repay us. I feel he fits the bill well for a race like the Lockinge.”
Appleby said impressive Lincoln winner Auxerre was not ready for a challenge like the Lockinge, which 2018 Lincoln winner Addeybb took on last year and is entered again.
“I would rather build Auxerre’s confidence at a lower level and build him up gradually,” he said. “It’s a big step from a handicap off 100. Realistically he needs to find another 14lb plus to be in the Lockinge.”
Last year Aidan O’Brien saddled Rhododendron to become the first filly for 11 years to win the Lockinge and this year’s prize has drawn a stellar group of females, headed by Magical and Laurens.
Laurens, trained by Karl Burke, had Magical back in fourth when she captured the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, one of four Group 1 triumphs last year, after which Magical moved up in trip to win the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares, and finish second behind Enable in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
As well as Magical, O’Brien has entered Amedeo Modigliani, Le Brivido and I Can Fly.
The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes will also be the target of Accidental Agent, who finished sixth in the race last year before going on the land the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.
“That will be the starting point,” said trainer Eve Johnson Houghton. “He had a little setback at the end of last year and it’s taken him time to get over it. He will probably need his first run but he has done well physically and he loves a straight mile.”