MELBOURNE CUP hero Cross Counter produced a powerful, sustained thrust to overhaul stablemate Ispolini and win the Dubai Gold Cup, over two miles, bolstering the impression he is a rising and serious force in the stayers’ division. This was Cross Counter’s first start since giving Godolphin a much coveted Melbourne Cup triumph in November, and the cosy success proved in convincing fashion that the long journey to Australia last year had in no way diminished his powers. Winning trainer Charlie Appleby said: “It was a tough ask to go to Australia as a 3yo and win the Melbourne Cup but he did it for us. “You just never know how much he took out of himself and this was our first opportunity to run him since then.
He has answered all the questions we needed to know and is hopefully an exciting stayer moving forward.” The verdict appeared in some doubt when stablemate Ispolini, a winner by more than ten lengths on his previous start, struck the front after securing a dream run up the inside for Brett Doyle, but favourite Cross Counter dug deep under William Buick and was decisively on top at the line. Appleby added: “Brett Doyle gave Ispolini a lovely ride and gave himself every chance of winning, but he has lost nothing in defeat to Cross Counter, who has a very bright future in front of him.” Buick had the chance to ride Ispolini but said he was never going to miss out on partnering Cross Counter, who has now firmly established himself as a globetrotting giant and earned much kudos through his international exploits.
The jockey said: “I was always going to choose Cross Counter over Ispolini and it is great he has come out and won on his return. Cross Counter is a special horse for HH Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin. It is a great effort when you consider he has been off since the Melbourne Cup.” In a race in which the market principals dominated, Call The Wind, the third choice in the betting, finished in third place and his trainer, Freddy Head said: “They didn’t go very quick at the beginning and when they quickened he was a bit outpaced and couldn’t go with them. “He finished well though which was very pleasing to see. “He is still young, he hasn’t raced a lot. He probably would have preferred a better pace. He is still learning.”
Appleby nominated the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot as a potential target for Cross Counter, setting up the prospect of a mouthwatering clash with Stradivarius, the undoubted king of the stayers’ division having landed the £1 million bonus last year. Cross Counter will scoop the pot this year if winning the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup as the Dubai Gold Cup was one of eight qualifying legs.