GODOLPHIN are likely to bank on Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter completing their hat-trick of Group One successes in the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic on 30 March. The race is one of the highlights of the Dubai World Cup card and has been won in the past by top international runners such as St Nicholas Abbey, Cirrus De Aigles and Gentildonna. The last two renewals, however, have been clinched by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s royal blue silks, who believe they have a genuine contender in their first ever Melbourne Cup champion. The John Gosden-trained Jack Hobbs won the race in 2017, with Hawkbill claiming the 2018 edition for trainer Charlie Appleby, who hinted Cross Counter could target the race.
Appleby said: “His preparation is going well. He is slightly more versatile than some. “We have him in the Dubai Sheema Classic and obviously we have him in the Dubai Gold Cup, so we’ll see where we are at. “We’ll just sit on the fence for a couple more weeks whilst his preparation is going ahead and just see how the field is likely to shape up, really.” Prior to his Melbourne Cup success, the 4yo gelded son of Teofilo raced successfully in England over distances from 1700m to 2400m, winning four of his seven starts. He was fourth in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot when carrying top weight, but returned a month later to record the first win of his 3yo campaign over 2400m. His first big race success was achieved in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood where he beat Epsom Derby second Dee Ex Bee by over four lengths.
His final run before travelling to Melbourne was in the 2400m Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, where he was second by a head to stablemate Old Persian, who had also won the Group 2 Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Like last year, the Dubai Sheema Classic is already boasting of a classy field, including a strong Japanese presence The 2410m event is the goal of champion Rey De Oro, who was fourth in 2018, and his friendly rival Suave Richard. Owner Kazuhiro Sasaki and trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, the team behind Vivlos, are considering 2017 Group 1 Japan Cup victor Cheval Grand for the trip as well, according to Japanese press. Local horses will get their chance for a course and distance prep on Super Saturday in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold, a race won by Hawkbill last year. Dubai Sheema Classic probables: Cross Counter, Rey De Oro, Suave Richard, Cheval Grand, Loxley, Spotify, Prince Of Arran and Wissahickon.