Taking the fight to Coolmore has proven a tall order for Godolphin in recent seasons, but with a team described as his "strongest ever" Charlie Appleby feels 2018 could be different. With plenty of live Classic contenders and a host of established older horses returning for another campaign, it could be one to savour for the Newmarket handler.
There is little doubt the highlight of last season for Appleby was the victory of Wuheida in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and with the daughter of Dubawi staying in training, the defence of her crown is very much on the agenda.
Appleby said: "There are provisional plans to look at the Diana Stakes in Saratoga first, but basically her programme is working back from the Filly & Mare Turf again. My two most memorable moments in racing are from America. Outstrip being my first top-level winner and Wuheida last year. It had been so much hard to work to get her there, it was very satisfying to see her reward us. She has just got better with age and is now the proper finished model. We all hoped she would stay in training and thankfully Sheikh Mohammed decided to do just that."
Having ended last season with a victory in the Prix Marcel Boussac, there is every chance Wild Illusion could be the one to provide Appleby with his first British Classic.
Appleby said: "She won the Marcel Boussac very impressively. She is an imposing individual and is another that has done particularly well over the winter She will go for one of the Guineas. She won't be having a prep run and we will decide nearer the time which we head towards. The English Guineas is the one I would like to win, but the ground conditions will be taken into account as she won with ease in the ground on two occasions."
Appleby could have more than one string to his bow in the Investec Oaks at Epsom on June 1.
He said: "Magic Lily ran a very credible third in the Fillies' Mile and has been crying out for the step up in trip. She will be campaigned towards the Oaks and we will probably look at something like the Pretty Polly with her. Hadith won the Montrose on her last start and is another we will look at an Oaks trial with. I think she showed in the Montrose the further she was going the better."
While there is plenty to look forward to from his fillies, Appleby has among his three-year-old armoury a number of potentially smart colts, topped by Qipco 2000 Guineas entries Ghaiyyath and Key Victory.
Appleby said: "Ghaiyyath has got a pedigree to die for. He won his maiden very impressively and then followed that up with a good solid win in the Autumn Stakes. He had a hood on as a two-year-old as he was very generous, but he has started to settle well through the winter. Physically and mentally, he has done very well. If he is showing that generosity on the gallops we could look down the Guineas route, or if we feel the horse is doing what his pedigree suggests we will look at the Dante. Key Victory won his only start at Newmarket. He was green early on, but he galloped out strongly. He is a lazy horse at home and you would not get very excited watching him. But as you saw at Newmarket, he brings his A game out in the afternoon. We will look at something around the Craven meeting for him."
Appleby also had news of his World Cup night winners Jungle Cat (Al Quoz Sprint) and Hawkbill (Sheema Classic).
He said: "Hawkbill has been a consistent performer at the highest level for the last couple of years and he deserved to win that. It was full credit to my team as he turned up in great condition and William (Buick) gave him a masterclass of a ride. We are going to look at Hong Kong with Hawkbill and have a go at the Champions & Chater Cup in May. Jungle Cat has been a model of consistency and it is nice to see an old horse like him get that Group One tag. The plan with him is to give him a bit of a break and it was always on our mind to go to Australia with him. I know he has won his Group One over six, but I would still like to look down the seven-furlong route, as he was doing his best work in the last 200 yards of the Al Quoz. It was unfortunate that Blue Point was ruled out of the Al Quoz. He must have given his head a bang in the stable or stalls. He was back cantering the next day. The plan now is to head to Hong Kong for the Chairman's Sprint Prize on April 29, then come back for Royal Ascot."