Cross Counter Delivers Cup For Godolphin

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Cross Counter | Bronwen Healy

By Emma Berry

MELBOURNE, Australia–Though the heavens opened over Flemington, rain failed to stop play and the race that stops a nation delivered a result which has long eluded Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin.

In the interlude between torrential showers, the sun made a brief appearance to shine brightest on Charlie Appleby and his rising young star Cross Counter (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}), who had trailed the field the first time the runners passed the post but conjured a magical flying finish under Kerrin McEvoy to snare the G1 Lexus Melbourne Cup.

Once the field had turned for home, there looked a decent chance that the Cup would go to Britain for the first time, though the identity of the likely recipient changed swiftly. A Prince Of Arran (Ire) (Shirocco {Ger}), backing up just three days after his G3 Lexus S. win, swung off the bend in a canter as early leaders capitulated but he was quickly under threat from Marmelo (GB) (Duke Of Marmalade {Ire}), another to have been out the back for much of the race but who sneaked up the inside to deliver a menacing run under Hugh Bowman. The late flash of speed from younger legs carrying a lighter weight proved the undoing of Hughie Morrison’s challenger, but those advantages aside, it was still a dazzling victory from Cross Counter on just his eighth start. A wall of horses contrived to block his challenge but ultimately could not contain his withering final attempt once steered wide and clear by McEvoy.

The 3-year-old’s slashing win in the spring sunlight set the seal on a golden run for Godolphin which started with Masar (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) in the spring of another hemisphere and victory in another major race which had long seemed out of reach: the Derby. From Masar to Cross Counter, the sense of satisfaction will have been deepened by the fact that these are homebred sons of Darley stallions from families nurtured for several generations. In short, the stuff of dreams for every major breeding operation.

“This is huge,” said Appleby, shaking raindrops off him as he struggled to absorb Godolphin’s 30th Group 1 win of the season and a 12th for his own stable so soon after the most recent success of Line Of Duty (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) at the Breeders’ Cup.

“This is huge for everybody. For me, of course, this is the biggest thing along with the Derby. This year has just been one of those amazing years. I don’t want it to end, really. Unfortunately we all start back on zero on Jan. 1.”

He continued, “This is everybody’s dream. This is all down to Sheikh Mohammed. He’s the one that’s given us all the encouragement to take the chances in what we do internationally. We’ve campaigned over here the last three years now. We’ve been competitive but we’ve learnt more on each trip what will make us more competitive on the day.”

Cross Counter’s canny partner McEvoy joined elite company in becoming the ninth jockey to win the Melbourne Cup three or more times. The boy from Streaky Bay has come a long way since he first rode to Cup glory on Brew (NZ) in 2000 and the intervening years have included a stint as a retained Godolphin jockey in the UK as well as another Cup win aboard Almandin (Ger) two years ago.

“I’m so lucky to be able to ride light in these handicaps and to get support from these big stables and it’s a real honour to do it in Sheikh Mohammed’s colours. Charlie’s put a lot of faith in me, putting me on his horses out here, and it was great to be able to repay that today,” he said. “I was back a bit further than I wanted. I knew that I was full of running–I was on the back of Yucatan but he seemed to be empty. At the 400 [metre mark] I knew I had to go my own way, and I was full of running. At the furlong I thought ‘mate, is this happening again?'”

While Godolphin celebrated, Appleby’s fellow British trainers were left to rue what might have been, but took pride in their contribution to a memorable trifecta for the international visitors.

Hughie Morrison, grappling with the delight of a terrific run from Marmelo coupled with the agony of such a near miss, said, “Great ride, great horse, he came from almost last to first, almost got knocked over by the injured horse, but he came through beautifully and ran down the leader, and then we got run down by what would have been the St Leger winner, I suspect. It’s fantastic to be second in a Melbourne Cup, and second when you’ve nearly won, but I have to give Charlie his due. I always thought, as a 3-year-old, [Cross Counter] was the horse to worry about.”

Marmelo’s jockey Hugh Bowman, who may have won four Cox Plates on Winx (Aus) but is yet to win the Cup, added, “I thought I had it. I went through at the right time, we had them all covered, but he’s just been beaten by the handicap.”

For Charlie Fellowes, whose A Prince Of Arran held on determinedly for third, the morning deluge had dampened his hopes along with the turf. “On that ground possibly he just got tired in the last furlong but he’s run a huge race,” he said. “There was a point there that I thought we might have the Melbourne Cup but Charlie Appleby has just done the most unbelievable job this year and huge congratulations to him and his team. It’s great that an English trainer has finally won this race. When the rain came this morning I was gutted, and for [A Prince Of Arran] to run a race like that on ground that we know is not his bag is an unbelievable credit to him.”

A tragic postscript to proceedings came by way of the injury to Thecliffsofmoher (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who broke his shoulder just before the post on the first circuit, severely hampering Avilius (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) as he faltered. The Aidan O’Brien-trained 4-year-old was subsequently euthanised and jockey Ryan Moore was unhurt.

It is 25 years since Vintage Crop (GB) became the first international winner of the Melbourne Cup and just as the race holds the country in its thrall at 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of November, it has increasing allure for those from many other nations. The stamina-laden runners of European pedigree have been the dominant force of recent years and this time 11 of the 24 hailed from overseas stables. Six of the first 10 are trained in Europe, with Cross Counter becoming the first British-trained name on a roll of honour which includes winners from Ireland, France, Germany and Japan.

It is a trend which will certainly continue. The Australians will of course be reluctant for the Melbourne Cup to become the race that eludes a nation, but it is nevertheless paid the greatest compliment by such worldwide interest.

Tuesday, Flemington, Australia
MELBOURNE CUP-G1, A$7,300,000, VRC, 11-6, Open Handicap, 3200mT, 3:21.17, Soft.
1–CROSS COUNTER (GB), 51.0, g, 3, by Teofilo (Ire)
1st Dam: Waitress (USA) (SP-Fr), by Kingmambo (USA)
2nd Dam: Do the Honours (IRE), by Highest Honor (FR)
3rd Dam: Persian Secret (FR), by Persian Heights (GB)
1ST GROUP 1 WIN. O-Godolphin Management Co Ltd;
B-Godolphin; T-Charlie Appleby; J-K Mc Evoy; A$4,250,000.
Lifetime Record: GSW-Eng, 8-5-2-0, A$4,543,242. Werk Nick
Rating: A+. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Marmelo (GB), 55.0, h, 5, Duke of Marmalade (IRE)–Capriolla
(GB), by In the Wings (GB). O-A Kheir, V Kheir, Fairy Story
Partnership, P Mehrten & J O’Neill; B-Deepwood Farm Stud;
T-H Morrison; J-J Bowman; A$1,000,000.
3–A Prince of Arran (GB), 53.0, g, 5, Shirocco (GER)–Storming
Sioux (GB), by Storming Home (GB). O-Saeed Bel Obaida;
B-Rabbah Bloodstock Limited (GB); T-Charlie Fellowes; J-M J
Walker; A$500,000.
Margins: 1.0 len, 3.0 len, 3.5 len.
Also Ran: Finche (GB), Rostropovich (IRE), Youngstar, Sir Charles Road, Best Solution (IRE), Muntahaa (IRE), Ventura Storm (IRE), Yucatan (IRE), Nakeeta (GB), Zacada (NZ), Chestnut Coat (JPN), Vengeur Masque (IRE), Magic Circle (IRE), Who Shot Thebarman (NZ), Sound Check (GER), Runaway, Ace High, Auvray (FR), Avilius (GB), Red Cardinal (IRE). DNF: The Cliffsofmoher (IRE).
Click for the Racing Post result. Click for the free Arion.co.nz catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO.

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