Michael “Mick” Appleby – not to be confused with Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby – was conditional jockey to John “Mad Manners” and head lad to Roger Curtis and Andrews Balding before launching his training career in 2010. Appleby is a Southwell specialist, having been crowned champion trainer at the Nottinghamshire track from Danethorpe Stables, near Newark-on-Trent in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and again in 2017 from Langham Racing Stables, near Oakham, Rutland. At the last count, Appleby had saddled 103 winners from 653 runners at Southwell over the last five years and earned just shy of £645,000 in total prize money.
After training just three winners in his first season, Appleby improved his total to 15 in 2011, 40 in 2012 – the year in which he saddled Art Scholar to win the Betfred November Handicap at Doncaster – and 61 in 2013. In 2014, he won the William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh with Demora and his first Group race, the Betfred TV Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle, with Danzeno. Collectively, those two victories alone contributed over £96,000 to his seasonal total of £694,000, which took him beyond £500,000 in a season for the first time.
After several successful years at Danethorpe Stables, which he rented, Appleby bought a 75-acre site in Oakham in rural Leicestershire and invested a six-figure sum in transforming the former polo yard into a state-of-the art training complex. He moved his string to his new premises in early 2017 but, despite losing out on a few winners as a result, still had his second best season ever, with 91 winners and over £740,000 in total prize money. Danzeno, once again, made a significant contribution, winning the totescoop6 Heritage Handicap at Ascot, worth £62,250 to the winner.
In early 2018, Arena Racing Company (ARC), which owns Southwell, canvassed industry professionals for their opinions on the possibility of replacing the existing Fibresand surface. Tapeta, the synthetic surface developed by Michael Dickinson, was apparently the first choice of ARC, but Appleby said, “They should make it a dirt course. You could run Group 1 races on it and you could also use it for preparing horses for the big dirt races abroad. I hope they consider it, but if it isn’t going to be dirt then I hope they put Fibresand back.” He added, “It seems odd to me that they’re putting up floodlights at Southwell and considering racing on Tapeta there. That’s what they have at Wolverhampton.”