The other Appleby and Godolphin's 2-year-old success

9 min read
The Godolphin 2-year-olds are flying this season, a whole new crop of "babies" have just entered Crown Lodge at Warwick Farm and helping the keep the operation running smoothly is a popular English import with a well-known name.

Production line is probably an apt description of the system producing what seems like every second juvenile success story this season, but without a human quality the machine wouldn't have the magic and that's where Godolphin's Victoria "Dizzy" Appleby fits in.

Mornings at Warwick Farm are a blur of horses heading in all directions, and more than a hundred of them are coming out of Crown Lodge carrying the riders decked out Sheikh Mohammed’s distinctive blue livery.

When you witness the scale of this pre-dawn wave of horseflesh it's not hard to draw a military comparison, especially given the discipline and precision with which the operation runs, and "the Blue Army" is another, oft-used soldiery-related term that comes to mind.

While Godolphin Australia managing director Vin Cox and head trainer James Cummings have seamlessly shifted into general-like roles in the last two years, sitting at the centre of it all at trackwork, among the burly blokes of the Warwick Farm trainer's stand is the slightly built and always effervescent Appleby.

Maybe her role could be described as field lieutenant, and while it would fit the army analogy, Crown Lodge's assistant trainer Appleby prefers a more artistic metaphor for what she does to help keep Godolphin's talented 2-year-olds humming in tune.

"The way I like to describe it is that James writes the music, I am the conductor and the work riders and the strappers are the symphony orchestra that makes the music," she says.

Dizzy Appleby with Guelph

2-year-old talents

When TDN AusNZ caught up with Appleby it was the Sunday after yet more 2-year-old success, with Tenley (Medaglia D'oro {USA}) scoring in Sydney and Microphone (Exceed And Excel) winning the L. Talindert Stakes.

Appleby had just returned from Port Botany where she and staff were swimming the current G1 Golden Slipper favourite Tassort (Brazen Beau), due to return next weekend in the G2 Silver Slipper, and L. Magic Millions 2YO Classic winner Exhilarates (Snitzel).

Last weekend after Bivouac (Exceed And Excel) reappeared on the scene to win the L. Lonhro Plate, colleague Darren Beadman, when asked where the speedy colt ranked in the Godolphin pecking order, quipped "he might make the top ten."

Tassort after a recent barrier trial

It was a comment made tongue-in-cheek but it did speak to the embarrassment of riches Godolphin has in its juvenile ranks ahead of the autumn features. Throw in G3 Widden Stakes winner Amercement (Lonhro) and pre-New Year's Day winners Kiamichi (Sidestep), Athiri (Lonhro), Pin Sec (Lonhro), and the Boys in Blue have the makings of a golden era.

"It's an exciting time," said Appleby, who knows a thing or two about 2-year-old golden eras, having come through the ranks at what was then known as Darley, shortly after the sale to Sheikh Mohammed and under the guidance of trainer Peter Snowden.

She was there in 2011 when the breeding powerhouse swept through five 2-year-old majors when future stallions Sepoy (Elusive Quality {USA)) won the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes and G1 Golden Slipper double, Helmet (Exceed And Excel) scored in the G1 Sires' Produce Stakes and Benfica (Lonhro) capped a remarkable season with a win in the G1 T.J. Smith in Brisbane.

At that time Appleby was a trackwork rider and travelling foreperson, working hands-on with horses like Pinwheel (Lonhro), Guelph (Exceed And Excel) and Applegate (Exceed And Excel). After time spent working under bloodstock and racing manager Jason Walsh, Appleby got the call-up to help run Crown Lodge.

"I learnt a lot more about the breeding and bloodstock operations, just learning how tirelessly those people in the breeding and nominations teams work." - Dizzy Appleby

Now Appleby sits at the nerve centre of the system producing those 2-year-old winners, but even though Appleby is now at the coalface, she is grateful for the time in the engine room with Walsh.

"I learnt a lot more about the breeding and bloodstock operations, just learning how tirelessly those people in the breeding and nominations teams work," she said. "I think sometimes in the racing stable you isolate and focus on one thing. Sometimes you lose track of just how big the operation is and how many people it takes to gain the success that we do."

Crown Lodge still the base

While the cutting edge 126-acre, 84 box Osborne Park facility at Agnes Banks is where Godolphin's older horses have been trained since its establishment in 2010, Crown Lodge at Warwick Farm – built by the Inghams in 1985 and with a system fine-tuned during the John Hawkes heyday – is where the newcomers are still nurtured.

The Godolphin string heading out for morning trackwork

It is a process that needs eyes and ears on the ground while Appleby's main responsibility is her equine "babies".

"It helped that I had that knowledge on how it was run, it was such a slick operation and we wanted to get everybody back in to the way of how things could be run efficiently.

"It's about camaraderie and getting everybody working as a team. " - Dizzy Appleby

When it comes to the system, Appleby is of the opinion "If it ain't broke don't fix it," and her main concern are the 70 or so staff that care for the horses.

"It's about camaraderie and getting everybody working as a team. There are a lot of staff that I used to work alongside as a trackwork rider, and they know I have done the hard yards, I still muck in when needed, I am not somebody that has just being brought out of management to fill a role, I have actually been there and done that. I have mucked out boxes, taken horses to the races and trials, have done the early mornings and late nights getting horses off the floats."

"I am not a shouter and I get on very well with staff. They know I am the boss but they know they can come and talk to me, they can suggest ideas to me where we can improve. If you have happy staff you are going to have happy horses."

"If you have happy staff you are going to have happy horses." - Dizzy Appleby

Godolphin's Australian boss Vin Cox said "the results speak for themselves" when it comes to the way Cummings, Beadman and Appleby have been able to combine their skillsets at Crown Lodge.

Dizzy Appleby during her days as a strapper

"It helps that Dizzy has been with Godolphin more than ten years," Cox said. "Having a lot of experience through the Snowden era, and with 2-year-olds, has been a key part of what we do there. Obviously with James' guidance, and her experience, they have got the 2-year-olds humming.

"She is a very good team player, and she works hard at that, and when the team is working well, the horses are working well. One follows the other. That combination of James, Dizzy and the team, the results are speaking for themselves. She lives and breathes the horses, but more importantly she lives and breathes the staff, and that's the key element to her leadership. "

Generation next

If the results are any indication, the horses are clearly happy right now, and it isn't just the 2-year-olds. As well as the juveniles on the track, this week saw the first batch of the 2019-20 crop come through the stables for the first time.

In the coming months, around one hundred will come through in batches of 10 for a week-long familiarisation course in stable life; the tie-up stalls, the wash bays, coming in and out of stables and walking to the track.

"Every week we get a new batch that come in and do their education, we rotate them," Appleby said. "They come in for a week, they go out for a spell. They come in for a month of training, go out and think about life. Then we can think about which ones are forward and which ones need more time."

Family ties

Of course there is that name – Appleby – that rings a bell with any racing follower, and yes, Dizzy is the younger sister of Godolphin's rising training star trainer Charlie, based in England.

Dizzy's big brother had an amazing 2018 flat season that was capped with a sparkling spring Down Under, winning the G1 Rupert Clarke Stakes with Jungle Cat (Ire) (Iffraaj {GB}) and giving Godolphin its first G1 Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}).

Dizzy and brother Charlie Appleby

The siblings from Devon grew up racing ponies and have since crossed over many times during their time in racing; they first worked together in the yard of legendary former jockey Lester Piggot and his wife Susan at Newmarket, with Appleby riding as an apprentice. These were the days when women weren't as recognised for their skills in the saddle and after a stint riding on the Yorkshire circuit, she soon re-joined her brother at Godolphin's French operation, then followed trainer David Loder when he went on his own.

Then came "the complete culture shock" of a shift to Australia from England , a shock that Appleby has clearly overcome.

A woman leader

Appleby is keenly aware that she has worked into a leadership role in an industry still falling behind others when it comes to gender parity, not that those hard heads in the Warwick Farm training ranks aren't supportive.

"It's not all about physical strength in racing and I think women can bring a different perspective to leadership roles." - Dizzy Appleby

"They've known and watched me come through the ranks here at Warwick Farm," she said. "I have my regular spot now alongside the guys. But there are other women moving through the ranks in the company. At home Marie Murphy is Charlie's assistant trainer at Newmarket, and Sophie Chretien looks after the team in Dubai. "

Dizzy with Darren Beadman

"It's not all about physical strength in racing and I think women can bring a different perspective to leadership roles. To some extent I see my role as a mothering role, looking after staff and recognising when they might need some personal attention."

As the autumn racing gets serious, and more babies come into the Crown Lodge crèche, Appleby's leadership is sure to grow along with that 2-year-old winners list.

"It's about fulfilling the vision of what Sheikh Mohammed is looking for, and that is excellence," Appleby said. "The aim is to produce racehorses that can go on to be Darley broodmares and stallions, and it is those horses that can create the future lines."