Appleby looks to the future as injury rules Derby hero Masar out for the season
Charlie Appleby has quickly come to terms with Derby winner Masar's enforced absence from the second half of the season and is already looking forward to his return in 2019 for a campaign that will hopefully see him fulfil his destiny 12 months later than intended in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Masar is believed to have knocked a leg in routine training on the eve of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. News that he would miss the rest of the season came on Sunday, following a second scan on Saturday. The injury is not serious but the timing is unfortunate.
The trainer, whose disappointment has been tempered by a good long-term prognosis and the continued excellent form of his string, with six winners at Newmarket's July meeting, said: "There's no good time for a setback, but when you're dealing with a horse of Masar's calibre and looking at the races we'd have been looking at, the timing is particularly bad.
"You need your preparation for those Group 1s to be faultless, and I was counting back from the calendar with every day that passed and thinking, 'That's another day lost, that's another day lost'.
"After the news that Masar would need at least another six to eight weeks rest I knew we could pretty much write those races off.
"The vet saw a change in the soft-tissue damage to Masar's off-fore, and after speaking to His Highness [Sheikh Mohammed] we decided to call a halt immediately. It's just a matter of time and rest. There's nothing to be done surgically."
He added: "It's frustrating, but we're confident the four-year-old career that His Highness wants us to concentrate upon is very realistic, and we're really looking forward to it.
"We'll give him all the time he needs and start his preparation in the new year for the season ahead. He wintered in Dubai last year and it's good to get that sun on their backs, so he'll probably go back there.
"We'e unlikely to be looking at a Sheema Classic though as we're focusing more on a European season."
March 10 – finishes tenth of 13 on dirt at Meydan
April 19 – wins Craven Stakes by nine lengths
May 5 – finishes creditable third in 2,000 Guineas
June 2 – wins Derby under William Buick
July 6 – withdrawn from Coral-Eclipse after sustaining an injury
July 15 – ruled out for season following scan
Despite Masar's injury, Appleby can reflect on a superb 2018 season, both at home and abroad, since the stable's Group 1 wins with Jungle Cat and Hawkbill on World Cup night.
He said: "I can't fault the way the season's going. It all started off at the Craven meeting, where we had six winners, and then we had five at the Guineas meeting and another six at the July meeting, so Newmarket is obviously a favoured venue for myself and the team.
"It's gone great, with the Derby the highlight, and it's great His Highness and the royal family have been able to be at these meetings and enjoy the fun and success we've managed to achieve."
The six July meeting winners included highly promising Dubawi colts Quorto, winner of the Group 2 Superlative Stakes, and Al Hilalee, who took a good maiden on Friday, plus a Melbourne Cup possible in Hamada. At Ascot on Saturday there was a valuable handicap success for another progressive type in Cross Counter.
Appleby said: "I see no reason to come back in trip with Quorto, who we want to step up to a mile in future. The way he races I think the right way to go is for the National Stakes [at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend].
"Al Hilalee has a very stout pedigree and hadn't done a lot of work. I was keen to get a run under his belt, and what we saw was a lot of raw natural ability because he'd not really been educated to win first time out.
"We should see a lot of improvement but we'll keep in the back of our minds that his is most definitely a three-year-old pedigree. It was a very pleasing debut and further down the line we might hope to look at something like the Racing Post Trophy, but he's got a long way to go.
"It was frustrating that Art Du Val had to be withdrawn at the start of the same race as he'd never put a foot wrong and had shown more. He'll have a stalls test at the end of the week."
Hamada is no bigger than 12-1 and is disputing favouritism for the Sky Bet Ebor at York after his seven-length handicap success, but he is not a certain runner.
Appleby said: "We'll take a good look at the Ebor, but he's potentially on a trip to Australia. He could do both, but we've got to keep an eye on what the handicapper does with a view to something like the Melbourne Cup and then make sure we proceed in a sensible manner."
He added: "Cross Counter looked progressive at Ascot. There are no immediate options but we're in the realms of getting into some black type. I was pleased with his Sandown second under a double penalty, and the winner [Elwazir] also won at Ascot on Saturday, so they look two smart colts."
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