Cross Counter Must Build Off Melbourne Cup Momentum
10 December, 2018
Cross Counter built off his strong season in England to take the Melbourne Cup with a fine performance at Flemington Racecourse. Charlie Appleby’s charge was impressive on the circuit in his first two-mile event, becoming the first British-trained horse to win Australia's biggest race. He proved his credentials for further honours in the 2019 flat season in the UK and England.
The triumph offers him the chance to return to Melbourne in the next campaign where he could join an elite group of horses to have won the meet at Flemington on two occasions. However, there are challenges ahead to maintain his momentum, starting with the Dubai Gold Cup. A victory at the event would send out a statement for the rest of the field ahead of the season that he is ready to make a huge impact, although Cross Counter already impressed last term.
He made his bow in the 2018 campaign at the Novice Stakes at Sandown Park where he was considered a slight outsider for the crown. The bay gelding enjoyed a strong run as he challenged for the win late in the contest, although Elwazir managed to fend him off down the stretch to secure the win by a comfortable margin.
Appleby and Godolphin had no qualms putting their charge forward for the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot. He faced a talented field in the event, including a son of Frankel – Baghdad. William Buick in the saddle ensured that the three-year-old made a good start to the race and put pressure on the leading group. However, when it came time to make the surge towards the line, Cross Counter lacked the speed of the first three horses, finishing in fourth place, slightly off the pace.
He returned to action at Ascot in his next outing at the Woodford Reserve Handicap and was considered the favourite for the race. Cross Counter duly delivered on expectations, taking control of the race in the final furlong to record a two-furlong victory ahead of Berkshire Royal. Due to the quality of his display, the three-year-old had momentum entering Glorious Goodwood. Appleby’s charge faced off against Dee Ex Bee in the Qatar Gordon Stakes. Buick was restored to the saddle and helped established a lead 10 furlongs out. Cross Counter was flawless from then on, easing to a dominant win by four-and-a-half lengths, earning his first major crown.
The bay gelding had the opportunity to end his campaign on a high note at the Great Voltigeur Stakes. However, on this occasion control of the race evaded him and Buick was forced to usher his charge into a surge down the stretch in a desperate attempt to overhaul his stable-mate Old Persian. His rival just had enough pace to see out the win by a head, leaving Appleby with a one-two finish, although not in the order expected before the meet.
Cross Counter dropped down in weight for the Melbourne Cup for his first attempt at a two-mile event. Kerrin McEvoy took the reins and helped the three-year-old deliver an outstanding performance to snatch the title, beating his nearest rival by a length. Appleby’s charge has made an excellent start to his career and 2018 proved to a breakout season, but he has to maintain his momentum to become a truly elite competitor.