Should You Godolphin at the Dubai Future Champions Festival?

The Dubai Future Champions Festival has become an annual event and takes place at Newmarket each year. It is a celebration of the best 2yo horses in Britain and is a fitting appetiser for the following week’s Champions Festival at Ascot. Although these horses are unquestionably the future, punters are also interested in how these magnificent talents perform on the day.

When it comes to 2yos, the famous Godolphin stable is usually one to follow. It celebrated its 5,000th winner in August 2018 and focuses on major races. In Dubai and the UK, it hires Charlie Appleby and Saeed Bin Suroor to oversee its successful, and expensive, line of horses. Appleby has been with Godolphin since July 2013 after spending 15 years working for Sheikh Mohammad. Bin Suroor has been training Godolphin horses since 1994.

Together, they have won an astonishing number of Class 1 races. Bin Suroor alone has sent over 12 British Classics winners from the stable along with an incredible eight Dubai World Cup winners. You would expect both trainers to have a lengthy list of entries in this year’s Future Champions Festival (although you will be surprised) so let’s see if their horses are worth backing. In this article, all data is from the beginning of 2016 unless stated. 

Charlie Appleby 

As Appleby has grown accustomed to his role as Godolphin trainer, he has begun to send out winner after winner. He has become a reliable source of income for many punters, and since the beginning of 2016, his stats in UK Flat races are rather impressive:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
802 191 23.82% 15.69%

After 9% profit in 2016 and 32% in 2017, Appleby isn’t having the best 2018 so far with a slight loss of under 1%. Of course, the Futures Festival is all about 2yo horses so how is Appleby faring in that regard?

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
282 79 28.01% -0.65%

Although the strike rate is higher, the ROI drops to a loss. The Godolphin connection probably means Appleby’s horses become overbacked and may not offer value. 

This is outlined by the fact that over 40% of his 2yo horses have started as favourite and 45% of them win for a profit of almost 10%. 

How does he perform in October? Here’s a quick look at his stats when training 2yo horses since 2015:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
55 13 23.64% -22.06%

Although his strike rate is decent, the ROI is awful! 

However, his overall record at the Newmarket Rowley course since 2016 with 2yo horses is very good:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
44 13 29.55% 27.83%

Or is it? The profit is based on an incredible 2017 where he won 55% of his races. Returns have been poor otherwise.  

At the time of writing, Appleby has potentially seven entries over the two days although we expect things to change when the fields are finalised for the races. He has two entries on Friday that may cause punters to sit up and take notice. 

D’Bai is currently the 5/1 third favourite for the Group 2 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes. This is a 3yo+ race, and Appleby’s overall record at the Rowley Mile course is good. The horse has been solid all season, and with William Buick on board, we can’t write off D’Bai. The bad news is that he is up against Limato who has found form once again after a poor start to the season.

In the Bet365 Fillies’ Mile, Appleby has 16/1 shot Beyond Reason, a dual winner at Deauville who was found wanting at the Curragh in a Group 1 race last time out. While we can’t eliminate Beyond Reason from contention, she will find it hard to overcome the likes of Pretty Pollyanna. 

Saeed Bin Suroor

Bin Suroor’s reputation precedes him, but his record in UK flat races since the beginning of 2016 leaves a lot to be desired. 

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
606 115 18.98% -14.91%

His overall strike rate is over 4% lower than Appleby’s and backing all his horses would result in a significant loss. Although his strike rate is almost 21% this year so far, you’re still looking at a 14% loss. At the time of writing, he is on a very bad run with just 3 winners from 30 as at October 8. 

Does he perform any better in 2yo races?

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
125 25 20% -6.11%

Things improve, but you’re still looking at a loss. Unlike Appleby, Bin Suroor has a much lower percentage of clear favourites, just under 30%, although backing them all would have yielded a profit of over 8%. 

Does he specialize in races at this time of year? Here is his record in October races with 2yo horses since 2015:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
44 10 22.73% 3.26%

 Although it looks good on paper, it is important to note that he only had four races in October 2017 and won none of them. 

Bin Suroor doesn’t have many October entries at the Newmarket Rowley Mile course in recent years; just 20 since 2015 with five winners. He only had two entries at the Rowley course last October with zero winners. 

Interestingly, he only has one possible entry in the festival, Royal Meeting in the Group 3 Masar Godolphin Stakes. It would be odd if the longest-serving Godolphin trainer didn’t have more of a presence in this festival, but it was the same story last year. 

Final Thoughts

It will be interesting to see if Godolphin can dominate the Dubai Future Champions festival. The stable is famed for producing world-class 2yos, and it seems certain to produce a few winners. The question is: Will Appleby or Bin Suroor excel? In the last five years, Appleby’s 26% overall win rate at the Newmarket Rowley course is the third highest of any trainer, and the top two have seven and six runners in that time, compared to Appleby’s 210.

Bin Suroor’s 18% strike rate puts him down the field but, like Appleby, he has generally been profitable at this course. However, his recent Flat record has been poor, and it doesn’t seem as if he will have a lot of entries in this year’s Dubai Future Champions Day. 

As a result, it seems as if Charlie Appleby will be the man charged with flying the Godolphin flag at Newmarket this weekend. Will D’Bai defeat Limato? Does Appleby have any longer priced fancies up his sleeve? On the plus side, Appleby performs well at the Newmarket Rowley course so check out 3yo+ races. On the downside, he doesn’t do well at Newmarket in October with 2yo horses. Aside from 4 wins in 9 in October 2017, Appleby is 0/14 at the course which means it is hard to recommend his 2yo horses at the festival. 

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.

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