Godolphin's Cross Counter 'primed' for Melbourne Cup defence

Four-year-old ended the stable's 30-year wait to land Australia's greatest race and is aiming to become the fifth horse in history to defend the title

Cross Counter during early morning trackwork ahead of the Melbourne Cup. AFP
Cross Counter during early morning trackwork ahead of the Melbourne Cup. AFP

Chris Connett, assistant trainer to Charlie Appleby at Godolphin, is confident Cross Counter is ready to retain the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday.

Cross Counter ended Godolphin’s 30-year wait to land Australia’s greatest race with a thrilling last-to-first performance 12 months ago. The four-year-old returns this year aiming to become just the fifth horse to successfully retain the Cup in the race’s 158-year history.

Since his Melbourne Cup victory, Cross Counter has won the Group Two Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night in March before two fourth-place finishes and a third in his last three starts, all in Group One races.

“He’s awesome, he’s travelled down beautifully. He’s really bright, really keen, I can’t wait for Tuesday,” Connett told the Godolphin website. “His work’s been really solid and the horses he’s been working with are nice horses. We couldn’t be happier with the way he’s progressed.”

History may be against Cross Counter, but Connett believes the horse is actually in better shape than last year when he suffered an injury scare in the lead-up.

“There’s slightly more pressure on him being the defending champ, but in another way, there’s less pressure because he’s not had a week standing in the box like he did last year after he had a little mishap,” he said. “All the signs are there that he’s just about primed for the day.”

Cross Counter will have to carry 6.5-kilogram more weight than he did last year, with William Buick in the saddle in place of Australian jockey Kerrin McEvoy.

Connett believes the horse will race closer to the early pace compared to last year when he came from the back of the field having been drawn in Gate 19. On Tuesday, Cross Counter will start from Gate 5, which should give Buick more options from the start of the race.

“I don’t think he has to be dropped all the way out like he was last year when there wasn’t much option but to go back from his wide gate,” Connett said.

“It would probably be harder to carry that extra weight and do what he did, but William will make his mind up when they jump, perhaps keep him more handy.”

Standing in Cross Counter’s way will be 23 rivals, including the four horses who placed third, fourth, fifth and sixth – Prince Of Arran, Finche, Rostropovich and Youngstar.

Meanwhile, Japanese raider Mer De Glance is viewed as a genuine contender after his success in the Group One Caulfield Cup – widely regarded as one of the most reliable guides to the Melbourne Cup.

Trained by Hisashi Shimizu and ridden by Damian Lane, Mer De Glance enjoys a draw close to the inside rail in Gate 2.

However, Vow And Declare, who finished runner-up at the Caulfield Cup, will need to overcome a wide draw from 21.

Aidan O’Brien has three horses entered, headed by Magic Wand, Hunting Horn and Il Paradiso, while his son Joseph saddles four: Master Of Reality, Downdraft, Latrobe and Twilight Payment.

Published: November 4, 2019 12:56 PM


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