One can never be sure where the next equine star is going to come from, but it’s fair to say the storming late run conjured up by Cross Counter to win the 2018 Melbourne Cup has projected the Godolphin-owned three-year-old firmly into the eye of horse racing fans all around the world.
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
Jockeys: Kerrin McEvoy, William Buick, Adam Kirby
Sire: Teofilo (IRE)
Dam: Waitress (USA) out of Kingmambo (USA)
Cross Counter didn’t make his racecourse appearance until the 9 December 2017, when he appeared over one mile 192 yards on the all-weather at Wolverhampton in division two of the 32Red.com EBF Novice Stakes. He was sent off the joint second-favourite that day behind another Godolphin-trained horse, but beat the favourite by 2¼ lengths. The form amounted to little though, with the second, third, and fourth horses that day managing just one win since.
As Cross Counter had seen a racecourse just once as a two-year-old, connections wasted little time getting his three-year-old career underway as he returned to Wolverhampton to win the 32Red Casino Novice Stakes by 8-lengths at odds of 4/9 on 22 January 2018.
However, when he was next seen on the 7 June, he was not an instant hit on turf at the first time of asking. Running over just short of 10 furlongs at Sandown, he was outpaced by Elwazir, though he was trying to concede a stone to the winner.
Two weeks later, connections pitched him into the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he was sent-off the fourth favourite and duly finished fourth at 8/1.
Having been raised 3lb for his run at Royal Ascot, connections then pitched him into his first handicap back at Ascot in the Woodford Reserve Handicap, which he duly won by 2-lengths, despite conceding plenty of weight all-round.
Having been raised to a mark of 108 after that win, his trainer decided it was time to try him in group three company in the Qatar Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in August, where he came up against the 2018 Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee. However, the market suggested he had taken a significant step forward since his Ascot win and he won hard held by four lengths.
Three weeks later, he was made favourite for the Group 2 Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, but he failed to catch another Godolphin horse in Old Persian, having been held up in the early stages. However, he did have the subsequent St Leger winner Kew gardens back in third that day.
Connections then hatched their plan to take him to the Melbourne Cup without any sort of prep run, which was a bold move considering no three-year-old had won the Melbourne Cup since 1941. As the field turned into the home straight, Cross Counter looked another of the classic generation that was likely to be added to the list of beaten fancies, but his Australian jockey Kerrin McEvoy came with a storming late run down the outside to beat fellow English raiders Marmelo and Prince of Arran at odds of 7/1.
Possible Future Targets
It may be hard for connections to refuse the chance to return to Australia next season to have a go at winning a second Melbourne Cup. However, Cross Counter is sure to have a lot more weight on his back next year. Therefore, having looked a stayer of some potential in the second-half of the season, it could be that Cross Counter tries his hand at two-miles in England next year, with the Ascot Gold Cup over 2½ miles a possible mid-season target, as he’s already won at Ascot. Of course, connections may also be tempted to retire him to stud. However, as he’s actually been racing for less than a year, hopefully, connections will be tempted to see just how good he could be next year with the possibility of plenty of improvement to come for a horse that has had just eight career starts.