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It’s a breeze as ‘special’ Ghaiyyath peaks for epic Irish Champion

J A McGrath

Godolphin champion Ghaiyyath satisfied trainer Charlie Appleby that he remains in peak condition with an effortless routine gallop, which now sees him a confirmed runner in Saturday’s G1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

The five-year-old, who is the world’s best on official ratings, “went through the gears” at Moulton Paddocks early Wednesday morning, accompanied by his usual lead horse.

“It was a routine piece of work to check his well-being, and he has come through it without a worry,” Appleby reported.

“It was not strong work, more a breeze, which is normal procedure three days before a race. He’s telling us that he’s ready now for another big race.

“We are really looking forward to the weekend. He travels to Ireland at the peak of his career, unbeaten in four starts this year, three of them G1s, two of which were officially rated the best performances globally in 2020.

“He’s now a five-year-old, and by any standards, he is lightly-raced. He has run only 12 times, winning nine and placing twice. This is his fourth season in training, and I believe what we are now seeing is an outstanding racehorse at the top of his game.

“He’s going to Leopardstown in as good a condition as we have ever had him. I’m as pleased with him as I was before the G1 Juddmonte International at York, where I thought he was very professional in the manner he went about everything.

“He showed his maturity. With every race this year, I think he has got better. From Newmarket, where he broke the course record for one and a half miles, galloping from end to end, to Sandown, where he beat Enable....to York, where his brilliance shone through,” Appleby said. 

“This is a wonderful Godolphin story. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has followed the progress of Ghaiyyath very closely from the time he was purchased as a foal five years ago and it is pleasing to see a descendant of Godolphin greats Dubai Millennium and Dubawi also making his mark at the highest level,” he added.

BUICK THE ESSENTIAL PARTNER

For a few anxious weeks, it appeared a new jockey would be required for Ghaiyyath if he were to travel to Ireland. Government regulations demanded a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors but special consideration has been granted for ‘elite sportsmen,’ which covers visiting jockeys riding in G1s.

For Appleby, it was important that William Buick partner Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion Stakes.

“William knows him so well, they are a great combination. He’s ridden him in all bar two of his runs, and he loves the horse. Like all of us, William has always held him in the highest regard.

“Last year, after Ghaiyyath won the G1 in Germany (Grosser Preis Von Baden) by 14 lengths, it is well-documented that William said: ‘He’s a monster.’

“When you publicly make such a statement, there is clearly huge confidence attached, which I think is very evident in the way he rides the horse. It is also fact that the confidence horse and rider have in each other has grown with every run this year,” the trainer pointed out.

Godolphin will be seeking a sixth win in the Irish Champion Stakes when Ghaiyyath runs on Saturday, and the first since Grandera carried the royal blue silks to victory in 2002.

The Irish Champion Stakes also marks one of the great chapters in Godolphin history, in which the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Fantastic Light defeated Galileo in the epic 2001 running. It is recalled as a tactical masterpiece.

Ghaiyyath will be attempting to further enhance his reputation when he takes on the best Irish contenders this weekend. But Appleby believes the son of Dubawi has already earned a special place in the stable’s history.

“Where does he rank? I have always said that the two horses I have trained, who were consistently exciting both in the mornings and the afternoons were Blue Point and Ghaiyyath.

“Ghaiyyath is already the highest-rated I have had the privilege to train, and he will always be regarded as one of Godolphin’s great horses. He is special,” Appleby added.

BARNEY HEADS TO GERMANY

Barney Roy, an original entry for the Irish Champion Stakes, has been diverted to Germany to contest Sunday’s G1 Grosser Preis Von Baden at Iffezheim racecourse, Baden Baden.