Caspian Prince: an evergreen sprinter who is showing no signs of slowing down
It's a widely accepted view in life that you begin to slow down as you get older. If that’s true, then no-one has bothered to tell Caspian Prince.
Now 11 years old, the sprightly sprinter proved last month he is still as hungry as ever when winning the Gosforth Park Cup at Newcastle, storming home to strike by a length and a quarter for Mick Appleby.
Incredibly, that was Caspian Prince’s 20th success at a racecourse on his 101st start. To really put things into perspective, he was born just two months later than 2012 Guineas/Derby hero Camelot, and recorded that win more than seven years after Camelot’s final run. This is also his third decade on the planet.
Tom Marquand was in the saddle for that Newcastle success, which was his first ride in a race on Caspian Prince, but far from the first time he had sat on him.
In fact, there was a special sentimental aspect to the Gosforth win for Marquand, as Caspian Prince was the first big name he rode when he was a teenager with Tony Carroll more than five years ago.
Marquand says: "I started riding out at Tony’s when I was 14 because his was the most local Flat yard, and Caspian Prince was the stable’s standout superstar. I got to sit on him a few times and it was a privilege to ride him when I did because he was such a legend.
"I’d never actually ridden him in a race until Newcastle, which was about six years on, so that’s pretty cool. When I saw I was on him that day I smiled to myself and thought 'blimey, that’s a blast from the past'. It’s a really nice story that I eventually got to get on him and get a winner on him."
Winding the clock back further, Caspian Prince started his career in France before he joined Carroll in the autumn of 2013.
Initially he was seen as a middle-distance racehorse, running over as far as 1m3½f when he was a three-year-old. That is understandable, given that he is by 2007 Arc winner Dylan Thomas, which also highlights how bizarre it is that he has such blistering speed.
Appleby says: "He’s an amazing horse mainly because he’s not even bred to be a sprinter – he’s a bit of a freak really. But he’s absolutely lightning quick."
Eventually Caspian Prince wound up running over five furlongs and it was then that he joined Carroll for £20,000. Not bad for a horse who has so far won more than £800,000 in prize-money.
He hit the ground running upon his arrival in Britain, winning two of his first four starts on the all-weather, and a few months later blitzed the competition in a sprint at Epsom by two and a quarter lengths.
A month and a half later he once again scored at that track, winning the 2014 Epsom Dash under Adam Kirby. He led most of the way but looked to be in trouble as Addictive Dream took the lead entering the final furlong.
However, it was then that Caspian Prince really showed his heart and desire, battling back to regain the lead and score by a head.
"He was a horse of a lifetime," reflects Carroll. "He was always lovely in the yard and his attitude was fantastic. He always tried 110 per cent and he had such wonderful speed. Just an absolute joy to train."
That winter Carroll deployed Caspian Prince for his first of what would be many trips to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup Carnival.
He ended up running five times at the start of 2015 and added another achievement to his and Carroll’s CVs as he won a handicap out there by a length under Richard Hughes.
Carroll says: "His win in Dubai was a wonderful achievement and experience mostly because Caspian was still only starting out in his career in the grand scheme of things. It really was a brilliant moment."
That summer he returned to Epsom and attempted to defend his Dash crown but failed to fire that day, finishing way back in 17th. The next month he left Carroll’s yard and was taken on by Dean Ivory.
He would run 11 times for that trainer, landing the Symphony Group Stakes on his second start, a valuable handicap run at York’s Ebor meeting, and two months later finished a respectable seventh in the Prix de l’Abbaye on his return to France.
His big moment for Ivory replicated his high point for Carroll, as Caspian Prince won the Epsom Dash for a second time in June 2016, this time just holding on to beat Kimberella by a short head.
Despite being seven at this point, he was better than ever from an Racing Post Ratings standpoint, recording a figure of 113, his highest at the time.
What came next for Caspian Prince was a bit of a trainers’ merry-go-round.
He joined David Loughnane for two runs, went to Roger Fell for half a year before winding up at Tony Coyle’s yard.
A testament to his ability, however, is that despite running for all of these trainers, he did give them all at least one trip to the winner’s enclosure, including his first Listed success in the 2016 Mercury Stakes at Dundalk for Fell.
Now it was Coyle’s turn to try to keep that streak alive, and the trainer was successful in that bid as Caspian Prince won – you guessed it – the 2017 Epsom Dash.
This was his third success in the race in four years, with each victory coming for a different trainer. However, having gone off at 25-1, not many would have fancied him to have reached the hat-trick, including Coyle himself.
He admits: "I found out he was drawn in stall one and I thought that was it. He was in good order but I didn’t fancy him, we mostly ran him just because he had won it twice before. Then he went and won it again!
"It was a great buzz and I was delighted for Caspian. I can’t see it ever being done again. He’s one hell of a horse."
Having landed the aforementioned Listed success at Dundalk, Caspian Prince once again crossed the sea in search of the luck of the Irish, this time in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh. Much to Coyle’s delight, he did indeed find it.
Caspian Prince, as had been the case so many times before, simply refused to be beaten on that day. The opposing Marsha, who would win the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes the following month, took the lead inside the final furlong but Caspian Prince fought back harder than ever. He got himself in front in the final strides and landed his first Group success by a short head.
"We took him over to the Curragh and thought he’d be in the first three," explains Coyle. "We didn’t think he’d beat Marsha, but like the legend he is he proved us wrong again."
He adds: "He’s such a marvellous racehorse when you think about it, what he’s done with his life and his career. His best attributes are his toughness and that he was so easy to train."
Next on Caspian Prince’s trainer tour was a flying visit to Julia Brooke’s yard, who had him for one run in Doha, before he joined Appleby in March 2018, where he finally appears to have settled down.
His first success for Appleby came three months later when he beat Major Jumbo at Musselburgh, recording his highest winning RPR (117). That was simply outstanding for a Flat horse who was now nine years old, but it was exactly what everyone had come to expect from such a game performer.
Although much is made of his age, Caspian Prince continues to prove it is indeed just a number and his Gosforth Park win showed he is still as good as ever.
Appleby is more than happy with the horse’s work at home and is delighted as he reports he still has plenty more racecourse visits in him yet.
"We’ll keep racing him while he’s still enjoying it and he’ll tell us when he’s had enough," says Appleby. "I wouldn’t want to be running him for the sake of it and seeing him falling down the handicap, but he’s still as happy as ever and I think he’ll still have another season in him. As for what comes next, we’ll find another handicap for him somewhere in a couple of weeks."
With so many different trainers, riders and racecourse appearances, countless people have been affected by the career of Caspian Prince, and it highlights his versatility that he has remained at the top of his game for so long.
Although he failed to fire in the Coral Charge at Sandown this month, you would be foolish to write him off.
There have been plenty of chapters written in Caspian Prince’s career, but the book isn’t finished just yet.
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