Leading horse racing trainer Mick Appleby feels there is little left for him to achieve in the sport after achieving the American Dream in his first crack.
Winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Spring in California with Big Evs earlier this month added another huge tick to the extraordinary list of achievements for the 53-year-old, who is originally from Brampton.
Appleby has risen through the sport from humble beginnings as a 16-year-old stableboy and trainee jockey.
He now has around 100 horses under his watch at his stables in the Rutland countryside. The former polo stables has been transformed and now boasts top-class facilities for the training of elite horses.
“I left home at 16 for Stow-on-the-Wold to work at a small place under a Mrs Pilkington,” said Mick, who attended Brampton Ellis and Wath Comprehensive schools.
“It was with John Manners where I had a few winners as a jockey. I wasn’t a really good jockey. I was always more interested in the training side of the sport.
“You have got to know your horses.”
Mick’s early career was a nomadic one and it seems as though he hopped around the country soaking up as much knowledge as he could.
He also worked alongside Bob Hartop and latterly as head lad for Roger Curtis, who he feels taught him a lot. His only time out of the sport was a small hiatus period working at his father’s bar in Ibiza.
He added: “Racing has changed a lot over the years. It’s a lot more commercial nowadays.
“It’s hard to make a living with any walk of life nowadays with the expense. Racing has lost a lot of owners down to the expense.
“The way I see it is racing is a way of life, rather than a job. It’s not as glamourous as it looks on TV. I have been all over the world from Dubai to South Korea, Sweden, Germany and Denmark.
“The time in Ibiza was a completely different lifestyle. Then I got the chance to be a private trainer for an Australian guy in Cirencester.
“My first stint at training was in 2008 (as head lad at Andrew Balding’s Kingsclere Stables) with a small string of horses. I had a 150-1 winner with Cotswold Village and a 50-1 winner at Epsom.
“I have had my own yard for seven years. It’s gone from strength to strength.
“The difference now is that we have a better quality of horses.”
Impressive wins continued to mount up including in the November Handicap at Doncaster with Art Scholar.
In a competitive industry with money flooding in from all quarters, particularly the Middle East, making an impact is difficult without carving out your own niche.
Appleby’s seems to have been through spotting horses that have been discarded or written off and then improving them.
“We buy the horses at sales and look at their past form and trainers.
“Then it’s a case of how we can get the best out of them.”
Big Evs, owned by Paul Teasdale, and trained by Appleby has raked in a whopping £600,000 in season earnings this year alone having won at Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the St Leger Festival in Doncaster.
Appleby has described Big Evs as ‘a horse of a lifetime’.
“We were expecting Big Evs to run a big race and going into the race I thought he had an outstanding chance.
“It was a dream to be there – my first time in America – and to win made it even greater. Winning that is a lot of trainers’ dream.”