THESE days the flat seems to begin with Newmarket’s Craven Meeting, and two trainers dominated the blacktype races in April, with Charlie Appleby saddling the first and second in both the Feilden Stakes and the Craven itself. William Haggas complained that his horses were a bit behind, but that didn’t stop him landing a treble, the star of which was Nell Gwyn winner Sacred.

Bolger’s Flare

Both the 1000 and 2000 Guineas were expected to fall to Aidan O’Brien, but it was Jim Bolger whose name was in lights after the colts’ classic, as Poetic Flare edged out Master Of The Seas, with a Ballydoyle trio, including favourite Battleground, finishing in the ruck. It was a sign of things to come.

O’Brien also saw the 1000 Guineas winner Santa Barbara fail, but this time his second-string Mother Earth saved the day under Frankie Dettori, beating a game Saffron Beach from the Jane Chapple-Hyam yard.

Stradivarius made a winning comeback in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot, and stablemate Palace Pier impressed when beating Lady Bowthorpe in a Lockinge Stakes run in stinking conditions.

Weld swoops at Chester

HIGHLIGHT of Chester’s May meeting was the victory of Dermot Weld’s Falcon Eight in the Chester Cup, and viewers were left with a feeling that this win was the culmination of a long-term plan for the wily Master of Rosewell House.

At York, the big trials didn’t go with the market, but proved prophetic, with the Musidora won by a wide margin by Ryan Moore on Aidan O’Brien’s Snowfall, and the Dante Stakes went to Charlie Appleby’s Hurricane Lane. There was much talk about the beaten horses afterwards, but sometimes it’s best to focus on the obvious, and the winners proved themselves worthy through the summer.

Starman impresses

Also at York, Ed Walker’s Starman made a huge impression when winning the Duke of York Stakes, beating the likes of Oxted and Emaraaty Ana in a race which would prove strong form by the season’s end.

In slightly lesser company, the Tim Easterby-trained Winter Power impressed many observers with an all-the way win, showing scorching pace to do so.

Snowfall demolishes Oaks field

ON to Epsom, where the meeting started with a popular result as Pyledriver (William Muir/Chris Grassick) outbattled Al Aasy in the Coronation Cup before Snowfall wowed us all with an absolute demolition of her Oaks rivals, recording the widest margin in the entire history of the race as she powered home a full 16 lengths ahead of runner-up Mystery Angel. The popular notion that she had stolen the Musidora from more talented rivals was swiftly consigned to the dustbin.

Adayar shocks

An open Derby saw both a successful gamble and a shock result as Adayar, a 50/1 shot a couple of days before the race, justified a late plunge to win at 16/1 under Adam Kirby. The jockey was due to ride John Leeper, but was jocked off when Frankie Dettori became available, which allowed Kirby to take the ride on Adayar, a horse he had done a lot of work with. Adayar beat the maiden Mojo Star and stablemate Hurricane Lane to give his trainer a second Derby, adding to Masar’s victory in 2018.

Subjectivist steals the Royal Ascot show

ROYAL Ascot dazzled as always, but the rain fell at the wrong time, with firm ground on Gold Cup day stopping a clash between Stradivarius and Trueshan. It might have been a race for the ages, as Subjectivist took advantage of a bad day at the office for Frankie Dettori, with Joe Fanning’s mount winning by five lengths from Princess Zoe, thereby providing Mark Johnston a fourth win in the meeting’s feature contest after Double Trigger and Royal Rebel (twice).

Frustratingly for Alan King, it rained so heavily after the Gold Cup had been run, that Friday’s meeting had to survive an inspection.

Love battles

The King’s Stand Stakes was won by Roger Teal’s Oxted, to add to his July Cup win of 2020. Poetic Flare built on his Guineas win by slamming his St James’s Palace Stakes rivals, and Love made a belated return with a battling win from the front in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Alcohol Free coped well with Friday’s mud to win the Coronation Stakes, and the Diamond Jubilee proved a victory for perseverance as Dream Of Dreams, a fast-finishing second in the 2019 and 2020 renewals, finally got the win he deserved in beating Glen Shiel and Art Power.

The Hardwicke Stakes is a Group 1 in all but name, and was won by the popular Wonderful Tonight, giving owner Chris Wright a first winner at the royal meeting after 40 years of trying.

Reverse for Murphy

Most controversial moment at the meeting came when the stewards reversed the placings in the Commonwealth Cup after Oisin Murphy on first-past-the-post Dragon Symbol had carried Wes Ward’s Campanelle (Frankie Dettori) across the track before winning in a tight finish.

Losing the race must have been tough for Murphy and Archie Watson, but the demotion looked justified, or as Ward said while waiting for the stewards to deliberate: “Back home, we’d be sipping champagne by now.”

Basilica glows

The Eclipse Stakes again offered a small field, but no lack of quality, for all the globe-trotters Mishriff and Addeybb couldn’t land a glove on dual classic hero St Mark’s Basilica, as Aidan O’Brien’s star three-year-old paid his only visit to Britain all season. It was nice to see you, champ.

Newmarket’s July Meeting saw Starman confirm the impression of York by winning a thrilling July Stakes from Dragon Symbol and Oxted.

A strong field assembled for the Falmouth Stakes, which was won by Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern, thereby avenging her dam Sky Lantern, who Hannon felt should have been awarded the race when beaten by Elusive Kate in 2013.

King George battle

Derby hero Adayar bolstered his reputation with success in the King George, where he beat Mishriff and Love comprehensively on firm ground to dispel any lingering doubts about his Epsom win. Below his best afterwards, he deserves to be remembered for his mid-summer exploits.

Goodwood failed to live up to its glorious billing, with torrential rain the weekend before racing, and again before the final day, which took place on heavy ground. Once again, the Stradivarius v Trueshan battle failed to materialise, and this time it was the Gosden beast who swerved the Goodwood Cup due to the ground, leaving Trueshan to achieve a bloodless win.

Alcohol Free made up for a luckless run in the Falmouth by beating the boys in the Sussex Stakes.

The Nassau Stakes was won Lady Bowthorpe, who defied stamina doubts to provide an emotional success for owner Emma Banks and veteran trainer William Jarvis.

Mishriff stars on the Knavesmire

YORK provided better ground, which helped the speedy Winter Power to show her rivals a clean pair of heels in the Nunthorpe, providing Tim Easterby a first win in the race, and one he treasured as a local. You can stick your Sprint Cup.

Snowfall added to her wins in the Oaks and Irish Oaks by adding the Yorkshire version at skinny odds, but the star on the Knavesmire was undoubtedly Mishriff, who raised his game to run out an authoritative six-length winner from King Edward VII Stakes scorer Alenquer. It was a performance worthy of the setting.

The sprinting merry-go-round continued as Kevin Ryan’s Emaraaty Ana built on his Nunthorpe second to land Haydock’s Sprint Cup, denying Starman.

At Doncaster, Hurricane Lane showed class in abundance to land the St Leger, turning around Derby form with Mojo Star, and adding to wins in the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris.

Juveniles Tenebrism and Native Trail impress

THE autumn is a time for the juveniles to reveal their classic capabilities, and Newmarket’s big races provided names to conjure with, including a fairly new one in Tenebrism, who took the Cheveley Park after a lengthy break for Aidan O’Brien.

Even more impressive was Native Trail in the Dewhurst, with Charlie Appleby’s star juvenile building on his National Stakes win to put himself at the head of the 2000 Guineas betting.

Saffron Beach completed a fine campaign by winning the Sun Chariot Stakes, with her only blip in a long campaign being a non-staying effort in desperate conditions in the Oaks.

John and Thady Gosden’s Inspiral added the Fillies’ Mile to her Park Hill laurels, and is a warm favourite for both the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks on the back of such impressive credentials.

Baaeed an exceptional miler

CHAMPIONS’ Day at Ascot saw the climax to the season, but soft ground again compromised some of the better performers. Creative Force, winner of the seven-furlong Jersey Stakes, took the Sprint, to add to a confused picture in the division.

Palace Pier was beaten again in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes , although this time he met a superstar in the shape of Baaeed, who couldn’t be trained for the classics, but went unbeaten through the season, looking a miler of exceptional talent.

Eshaada, well held in the Yorkshire Oaks, relished the ground to beat Love, et al., in the Fillies & Mares Stakes for Roger Varian, and the Champion Stakes went to Cedric Rossi’s Sealiway, although subsequent events have thrown something of a pall over that result.

Luxembourg sparkles

Finally, in a season where Aidan O’Brien’s colts did not sparkle on British soil, it was reassuring to see him end the campaign with a win in the Futurity courtesy of the exciting Luxembourg, who could be one to conjure with next season. It’s hard to keep a man like Aidan down for long.

Performance of the year: Mishriff jaw-dropping in the Juddmonte

THERE are formlines which suggest that others have his measure, given defeats in the Eclipse, King George and Champion Stakes, but on his day, Mishriff showed he was a match for any horse at a mile and a quarter with a jaw-dropping performance in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York.

The 50th running of the International saw Mishriff put early summer defeats behind him by slamming his rivals by six lengths and more, the winner was simply a class apart.

Gosden’s headache

Given he’s owned by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal, it has been important that Mishriff has graced the country’s new King Abdulaziz racecourse in each of the last two seasons, but preparing him for a crack at the Saudi Derby in 2020 and the richly endowed Saudi Cup this year gave Gosden senior a real headache.

Peaking in February is not the way to ensure a profitable summer campaign, and as a result, the senior trainer blames himself for producing Mishriff short of fitness for the Eclipse in early July, and his performances since that disappointment have confirmed him to be even better than he looked a three-year-old.

Mishriff was beaten by a superior Derby winner in Adayar when conceding weight in the King George, but he found the stiff mile and a half stretching his stamina there, and the evidence points to him being an even more potent force at 10 furlongs.

He comfortably held Love at Ascot, and increased his margin of superiority at York, while Alenquer’s excellent run in second can hardly be seen as letting the form down, given he’d beaten Adayar, Yibir and Lone Eagle in the Sandown Classic Trial before landing the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot.

It’s a shame that Ascot in October again proved a race too far for Mishriff, as it means that his season is bookended by disappointments. That suggests an unreliable nature, but that would be a harsh judgment on a horse who looks not only brilliant, but also tremendously genuine at his best.

Moment of the year: Lady Bowthorpe brings redemption for Shoemark

SUCCESS aboard Lady Bowthorpe in Goodwood’s Nassau Stakes was a big occasion for jockey Kieran Shoemark and trainer William Jarvis, as well as for owner Emma Banks. Lady Bowthorpe was stepping up in trip after a series of excellent efforts at around a mile, and she relished the extra yardage as she broke her own duck at the highest level.

Lady Bowthorpe sat fourth for much of the contest, and Shoemark brought her wide of the leaders with strong run in the straight, which she maintained to beat Zeyaadah by a length and a half.

Shoemark’s first

This was a first Group 1 success for Kieran Shoemark, and the rider was understandably emotional: “Lady Bowthorpe is such a special mare. I just feel lucky to be a part of her. She took a hold of me cantering down and I knew she was in good form

“Lady Bowthorpe bumped into an absolute champion in Palace Pier in the Lockinge. She was unlucky in the Falmouth, but it’s all worthwhile now. It’s a massive team effort. She’s a credit to her owner, who is an incredible woman who fills me with absolute confidence.”

Alluding to previous issues with alcohol addiction: Shoemark continued: “My career is back on track now. I’m really enjoying the racing and to be involved in these huge days is what it’s all about.

Successful trainer William Jarvis has been on the Newmarket scene since the 1970s, and he’s had his share of top-class horses in his pomp.

That said, he has found life tougher in recent times, particularly with the passing of his main patron, Lord Howard de Walden, and it has been 27 years since Grand Lodge captured the St James’s Palace Stakes in 1994 in those familiar apricot silks.

“I’ve never lost faith in myself as a trainer,” he said. “Quite a lot of other people may well have done, which is why we’ve only got 28 or 29 horses in the yard. However, I’ve got a lovely bunch of staff working for me and they’ve never lost faith in the way that we operate, and they give me everything.

“We are a family unit and there is a lot of loyalty involved, including with Kieran who I am delighted for.

“I am thrilled for Kieran. He is a delightful young man who has impeccable manners. He obviously went through a bad place but he came out through the other end. He is a delight to work with.”

For a trainer and jockey fighting back against a generic belief that in racing, when you’re down, you’re out, it was wonderful to see this win, but more so to hear the affirmation that went with. Shoemark was clearly in a dark place for some time, and has worked hard towards his own redemption story.

Most to look forward to in 2022: Appleby has the horsepower for war

THERE is little doubt that the man with most reason to look forward to 2022 is Charlie Appleby. The Moulton Paddocks trainer can welcome back Derby winner Adayar and Irish Derby hero Hurricane Lane next year, and the likes of Yibir really flourished in the second half of the year and could be just as good.

Add to that the fact that he trains the first and second favourites for the 2000 Guineas, with Coroebus almost as exciting as Dewhurst winner Native Trail, and it’s not hard to see why Appleby is smiling. But then, Charlie always seems to have a smile on his face, and the way he handled hugely stressful situations with horses having to be withdrawn at the gate in the Breeders’ Cup is testament to his even-tempered nature.

He’s also refreshingly open in his interviews, and comes across a man who is dealing with what must be one of the most high-pressure jobs in the business as if completing a relatively easy jigsaw.

As he heads to winter quarters in Dubai, Appleby can reflect on a hugely satisfactory season, and with the anticipation of an even better year ahead.