Charlie Appleby’s excellent record in Australia is well acknowledged.
Appleby’s first Australian starter was Scottish in the 2016 Caulfield Cup (2400m), finishing an unlucky second behind Jameka.
The master trainer has prepared eight winners from a further 19 starters since, all in stakes races.
Five of those eight victories came when his horses were racing for the first time since stepping off the plane, therefore altering the previously held ‘watch and see’ mindset of local punters towards overseas visitors.
So it’s fitting that another pioneer among Appleby’s stable, Jungle Cat, travels down under. The son of Iffraaj provided Appleby with his first triumph on Dubai World Cup night when winning this year’s Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) at Meydan.
Jungle Cat started his career with trainer Mark Johnston, racing seven times during his two-year-old season. He won his maiden over six furlongs at Goodwood at just his second start before being Group 2-placed on four occasions!
Godolphin then purchased Jungle Cat, transferring him to Appleby. His three-year-old season was unmemorable, suffering three defeats although managing to place in the listed Carnarvon Stakes (1200m) at Newbury.
That paved the way for the first of three consecutive season-opening trips to Dubai, always returning home with at least one victory in his luggage.
Whilst competitive in Europe, Jungle Cat flourishes in the UAE as five of his past six victories have been registered there.
His first win came minus any headgear while winkers were carried in his 2017 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint victory.
And Jungle Cat comes to Australia in career-best form as he went undefeated from three starts between February and March in Dubai, wearing blinkers each time.
There’s a few things to note about Jungle Cat ahead of his local debut in the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on September 22.
He doesn’t appreciate rain-affected ground.
The bulk of his racing has been done on straight tracks. It was only until his 24th start at Chester, a notoriously tight-turning track that runs left-handed, when Jungle Cat was first confronted by a bend.
Jungle Cat has won twice over 1400 metres but is best suited over 1200 metres.
That said, Jungle Cat raced keen outside the lead yet still won when resuming in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort (1400m) when galloping left-handed at Meydan on February 1.
He was then allowed more than a month between runs before defending his Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint title and then winning the Group 1 Al Qouz Sprint (1200m).
Therefore, it would be foolish to completely rule out Jungle Cat first-up in the Sir Rupert Clarke. In that race Jungle Cat is likely to be joined by fellow mid-career Godolphin acquisition Home of the Brave, now trained by James Cummings, who has beaten him three times over 1400 metres.
Punters probably should be mindful that Group 1 sprints, such as the Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley and particularly the Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) down Flemington’s straight, are likely to be races where Jungle Cat will be suited.
Jungle Cat (Ire)
7yo Bay Horse
Iffraaj (GB) – Mike’s Wildcat (USA)
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
Record: 30: 7-9-3
Prizemoney: £1,113,189 ($1,974,704)
Winning Distances: 1200 (5), 1400 (2)
Racing Pattern: On-pace/prominent
Left-handed: 3: 1-1-0
Right-handed: 1: 0-0-0
Straight tracks: 26: 6-8-3
Stakes races: 22: 2-7-2
Wet tracks: 7: 0-2-1
Synthetic tracks: 0:0-0-0
1-9 Meydan 01Feb18 1400m – Replay
£111k Al Fahidi Fort-G2, Good
James Doyle (6) 57kg, $11, 0.8L, 1:22.4.
1-16 Meydan 10Mar18 1200m – Replay
£89k Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint 3YO+ SW&P, Good
William Buick (8) 59.5kg, $4.50, 2.3L, 1:08.24.
1-13 Meydan 31Mar18 1200m – Replay
£444k Al Quoz Sprint-G1, Good
James Doyle (10) 57kg, $3.80, 0.5L, 1:09.37.
~ Also published in Winning Post newspaper.