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Simon Mapletoft on the AWC: Stable Tours – Mick Appleby

Second in the trainers’ championship to Mark Johnston and Charlie Appleby in the last two seasons, the Newark handler has assembled a typically strong team.

Fibresand specialist Mick Appleby is anticipating another productive winter that could see him dividing his time between the All-Weather Championships and the Dubai Carnival in Meydan. The Newark handler has ambitious plans for some of his stable stars including Pearl Nation, who will have a ‘prep’ run at Southwell in mid-December before flying out to the Middle East.

Pearl Nation has been given a summer break in the hope that he will prove just as effective on the new dirt track in Meydan as he is on the Fibresand at his local course. The six-year-old defeated subsequent Mile Champion Grey Mirage in the first of two seven-furlong wins at Southwell last winter, and proved himself on the Tapeta with a success at Wolverhampton in between. Pearl Nation found the All-Weather track at Jagersro in Sweden too fast when stepping into Group company in May but looks worth his lofty rating of 104.

Ayr Gold Cup runner-up Poyle Vinnie could also take his chance in Dubai in the New Year following a productive season on turf. Also rating 100-plus, the powerhouse sprinter also showed an aptitude for Fibresand last winter but will find opportunities limited unless he tries his luck elsewhere.

Runner-up in each of the previous two trainers’ championships, the former jockey also has one eye on Dubai with the much-improved Shipyard, a gelding by Pivotal whose style of racing may also be suited to the dirt – and Fibresand. The six-year-old supplemented his win in the consolation Great St Wilfrid by taking another hot handicap at Ascot and “looks the sort to go well on those surfaces. He could be on a good mark at home but will need to win again to get an invitation to the Carnival,” he adds.

An All-Weather campaign may also beckon for sprint mare Demora, who got back to winning ways when taking a valuable conditions race at Leicester in mid-October. “She has run some good races at Southwell earlier in her career but she doesn’t handle bends very well so the straight five on the Fibresand is her only option,” explains Appleby.

On the domestic front, Appleby is pinning his hopes on Maggie Pink in the Fillies & Mares division, and Villa Royale in the staying races. “Maggie was third in the final in the first year and seems to have taken her form to a new level, winning at Chester,” he says. “Villa Royale has had some time off due to a setback but has some good form on Polytrack and will be competitive in the two-mile races.”

Good Friday may not be an option for talented sprinter Apache Storm, who doesn’t seem to act around Lingfield, but, like many of Appleby’s inmates, she loves Southwell and has also run well at Chelmsford and Wolverhampton. The Essex venue has also brought the best out of bargain buy French Press, whose form in Ireland had regressed until Appleby conjured four consecutive victories out of the gelding. “He’s progressed from a mark of 49 to the mid-70s but is enjoying his racing so I can’t see why he won’t continue to pay his way,” adds the trainer.