The traditional handicap race attracts a world-wide field of stayers with owners, trainers, jockeys and horses from around the world. This years renewal had connections with Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, UAE, France, UK and Ireland for a total global flavour.
The result was an historic victory for UAE’s Godolphin stables with trainer Charlie Appleby preparing Cross Counter (GB) to win Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum his first victory in the Melbourne Cup .
The win continues a dream year for the world-wide operation with Appleby delivering his task for Sheik Mohammed of the famed prize of the English Derby with Masar (IRE) in May at Epsom Downs and the Melbourne Cup after 30 years of trying at Flemington in November on the other side of the world.
The first years of the Melbourne Cup quest were under Darley’s maroon colours from 1998 and the last 20 years under the royal blue silks of Godolphin with the first runner in those colours Faithful Son.
Australian jockey Kerrin McEvoy rode Cross Counter for his third Melbourne Cup win after winning on Brew (NZ) in 2000 and Almandin (GER) in 2016.
It was fitting that two years after the Brew win McEvoy went to the UK as a retained rider for Godolphin spending time with Appleby as they travelled the UK campaigning the stable’s runners.
McEvoy rode for Godolphin back in Australia before becoming a freelance rider. Appleby was quick to use McEvoy with considerable success last spring in Victoria and the planning started months ago for this spring.
Appleby developed Cross Counter as a three-year-old in England this year and he arrived as a progressive four-year-old to southern time with the feather weight of 51kg.
Cross Counter under McEvoy’s guidance came with a run up Flemington’s long straight that took them past the field, including fourth place Finche (GB) (54kg) ridden by Hong Kong’s champion jockey Zac Purton, to win by 1L.
Marmelo (GB) (55kg) and Hugh Bowman were second and A Prince Of Arran (GB) (53kg) and Michael Walker third, the margin 2L. The time for the event was 3.21.17 on a Soft 6 track that has absorbed a thunderstorm on Tuesday morning.
“This is everybody’s dream. This is all down to Sheikh Mohammed. He is the one that has given us all the encouragement to take the chances in what we do internationally. We have campaigned over here the last three years now. We have been competitive but we have learnt more on each trip what will make us more competitive on the day," said Appleby.
“Coming into today, this horse ticked a lot of boxes. We are just delighted.
“This is all for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the royal family, and Godolphin. I am just in the very fortunate position to have a great team behind me,” he said.
“Oh, what a thrill. To do it for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Charlie Appleby who has been a huge supporter of mine. What a thrill to do it in the blue colours and win a Melbourne Cup. Well done to Charlie, well done to this little horse.,” said McEvoy.
“It has been a huge part of my career. It started back with Beekeeper back in 2002. I went overseas and worked with Frankie and he took me under his wing. Saeed bin Suroor, Simon Crisford, working with the A-grader I just learnt so much.
“It is a huge thrill to win this for Sheikh Mohammed. As I said in the press yesterday, (I can) repay the faith that he showed in me," he said.
For Purton the fourth place was pleasing for the son of Frankel having his first Australian start after arriving from the French stables of Andre Fabre to be trained in Australia by Sydney’s leading trainer Chris Waller.
“It was an excellent effort from Finche in the Cup. I think if the track had been firmer he might have gone a lot closer. Chris has done a great job with him," said Purton.
Purton was successful on the programme winning the black type Furphy Plate on Kaonic (NZ) for Waller, beating the two-time HKJC LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship winner Ryan Moore on stablemate Life Less Ordinary (IRE).
Such is the international travel of the world’s leading jockeys that the Cup was also quinellaed by past IJC winners with McEvoy heading home Hugh Bowman.
Cross Counter is by Teofilo out of the Kingmambo mare Waitress. Lightly raced as part of the deliberate campaign to enter the Cup with the light-weight the entire has won five of his eight starts and with two second places he has now earned stakes of $4,537,285.