Brendan Duke: The weekend Charlie Appleby topped ‘good egg’ Aidan O’Brien

After a headline grabbing running of the Derby, our racing fanatic dives head first into all the important storylines as only he can…


A glorious Derby weekend in more ways than one. The sun shone, I went swimming in the sea for the first time in years.

At the risk of this becoming a lifestyle advice blog I can heartily recommend sea swimming.

Invigorating for the body and likely a tonic for the soul. We can only hope there wasn’t a spike in minor traffic accidents for the ladies of Dungarvan as I emerged from the surf Daniel Craig style.

Also, managed to find the winner of the big race. I salute any readers who followed my advice. You must have either the patience of Job or the timing of Les Dawson.

Get over to for all your flat racing bets

As usual the great race produced plenty of talking points. The meritocrats among us will have delighted in Charlie Appleby working his way up from the bottom to deliver a crowning achievement for Godolphin.

Irish racing fans are privileged that we have a sporting chance of seeing embryonic classic winners at virtually any flat meeting we attend.

However, competition is the quintessence of sport and it is to be hoped that the only organisation which can seriously rival Coolmore in terms of resources can use this Derby win as a springboard to a more consistent level of achievement.

Though the Derby was a rare disappointment for Aidan O’Brien, his influence on the result was tangible. Another privilege for Irish racing fans is that the chances of interacting with APOB are surprisingly high.

He goes racing regularly. At a guess, I imagine seeing the horses away from their routine comforts gives him some additional insight.

I have had a couple of very brief words with him. The first time was on the last day of the season at the Curragh.

This is about as low key a finish to the year as you can imagine. Held on a Tuesday it is made up of maidens and handicaps. Walking past the stands with my brother, I had my head bowed.

My mother assures me this will lead to back problems, though as I reminded her, the money to pay the chiropractor could be lying on the ground and my posture greatly increases the chances of spotting it.

Just as I looked up Aidan was passing. ‘Howya lads’ said he and continued on his merry way.

The other occasion was when walking in on Irish 1000 Guineas Sunday. Just as I got to the parade ring gate Aidan was coming in from walking the track.

Again I caught his eye. These situations demand someone say something. I mentioned the win of Gleneagles on unsuitable ground the previous day.

‘Well done yesterday, he’s a warrior’. ‘Thanks’ said Aidan, ‘he’s really tough’. He hadn’t walked 10 yards, but someone else stuck their hand out to shake his. There’s a sporting chance Aidan didn’t know him either but, bloody good egg that he is, stopped for a chat. Like he had all the time in the world, which I suspect he hasn’t.

Toughness seems to be the quality Aidan values most highly in a horse. He’s has stated that the progeny of Galileo would ‘run through brick walls for you’. Asked about the disappointing run of Air Force Blue in the 2000 Guineas his assessment was brutally succinct.

‘Maybe I trained him too hard. Maybe he’s just not tough enough’.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the campaigning of Masar suggests Appleby has paid attention to the master.

When talking about this horse as a two-year-old his trainer mentioned his scope and that we won’t see the best of him until next year. Traditionally these horses were wrapped in cotton wool, maybe seeing the track a couple of times at the backend of their juvenile campaigns.

‘The purest ore is extracted from the hottest furnace’ is a maxim apposite to Aidan. His horses learn and improve in the cauldron of racing. They’re battle hardened and resilient.

Appeby hasn’t missed this. Masar ran five times last year. He won only twice, but the defeats came at Royal Ascot and in foreign Group 1’s. This season started off on the Dubai dirt.

His performance there suggested that grandsons of Galileo enjoy that surface about as much as his sons do. No harm, another learning experience for horse and trainer.

Masar returned to Europe. A Craven win and a placed effort in the Guineas endorsed Appleby’s belief in potential for big progression. He arrived in Epsom a relative veteran of eight races. Every one stood to him as he produced a mature and measured performance.

His physical and mental toughness saw him well placed throughout the race and run out a ready winner. This fashion for running horses into peak performances is great news for us fans. Long may it continue.

A relatively low key weekend ahead of us. Not many obvious wagers to my eye. Muthmir is a frustrating sort and I’m inclined to see him as a vulnerable favourite in the Achilles Stakes at Haydock.

The race should set up very well for Judicial. A strongly run five furlongs on a quick track is very much his bag. He rates the best bet of the week and the 9/2 that Paddy offers seems a more than fair price. has the latest racing odds

What do you think?