Cross Counter completes Godolphin's Cup quest

6 min read
Twenty years after he set his sights on the Melbourne Cup, Godolphin's Sheikh Mohammed has finally won the great race.

Cross Counter (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}) and Charlie Appleby have completed Godolphin's 20-year quest to win the G1 Lexus Melbourne Cup, with the 4-year-old surging late to capture a dramatic edition of Australia's greatest race.

It continues an extraordinary year for Godolphin, who have won 30 Group 1 races around the world in 2018, while it marks the third Melbourne Cup win for jockey Kerrin McEvoy, who has had a long association with Godolphin.

Their concerted focus on the Australian spring riches has seen them net four Group 1 wins, including the G1 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, as well as a second place in the G1 Cox Plate.

All smiles as Cross Counter returns after winning the Melbourne Cup

"This is all for High Highness Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin." - Trainer, Charlie Appleby

Cross Counter came from a seemingly impossible position over the final 400m, storming home over the top of Marmelo (GB) (Duke of Marmalade {Ire}) to win by one length, with A Prince of Arran (GB) (Shirocco {Ger}) another two lengths back in third.

He becomes the first English-trained stayer to win the race in the 25 years since it became internationalised, but more importantly, the first for Godolphin since their first attempt to win it with Faithful Son (USA) (Zilzaal {USA}) in 1998.

After settling for second on three prior occasions, Sheikh Mohammad can now add the famous three-handled Cup to the multitude of racing trophies he has won around the world.

"This is all for High Highness Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin," Appleby said post-race.

"It's obviously been on the bucket list for some time as you know and I'm in the fortunate driving seat to be able to produce the horses and hopefully the right horses."

Appleby powers Godolphin's revival

While he plays down his influence, Appleby has been the force behind Godolphin's revival and this marks his 12th Group 1 winner for 2018.

Earlier this year, he masterminded Masar's (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) G1 English Derby win, the first in the Godolphin blue.

Masar winning the G1 English Derby

"A good few people have said to me, if you could top this off and win a Melbourne Cup, it’ll never be repeated," he said.

"A good few people have said to me, if you could top this off and win a Melbourne Cup, it’ll never be repeated." - Charlie Appleby

"Firstly, winning the Derby for Sheikh Mohammed, the first time in the Godolphin blue, from an Englishman's point of view, it was a career highlight and something I will never forget."

"Coming over here was a big thing on our bucket list. When I got the job, I said there are two things I’d like to do and that's win a Derby and win a Melbourne Cup. Gee it’s been some year to do it."

'A great engine'

Appleby paid tribute to the toughness of Cross Counter, who missed a week of work with a cut leg since arriving in Australia.

"We've had a couple of testing weeks as everybody knows, but that makes you stronger in life and he's risen to the occasion," he said.

"We were confident coming in that we had the right horse." - Charlie Appleby

"We were confident coming in that we had the right horse. Obviously there was a question mark over the setback he had a couple of weeks ago, but we were confident he was well over that. The ground was a big question mark to be fair."

Charlie Appleby paid tribute to the toughness of Cross Counter

"You know how tough it is to get to this race but this horse has shown all his durability and he has shown what a class horse he is today."

"He's got a great engine, like every great athlete. There's just been an upward curve on his profile. I felt he brought the right credentials into the race."

Appleby saved considerable praise for McEvoy, who rode Cross Counter with all the composure of someone who had won the race twice before.

"When you've got the master Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle, he takes a lot of confidence in the race. Down the back straight, I could see what he was trying to do, he got himself into a nice racing position and turning for home, he just needed to find the gaps. I knew if the horse had a clear run, he'd be doing his best work up that straight."

Charlie Appleby and Kerrin McEvoy embrace after Cross Counter's win in the Melbourne Cup

Repaying the faith

For McEvoy himself, it was a special success. He partnered Beekeeper (Rainbow Quest {USA}) in the 2002 Melbourne Cup, finishing third for Godolphin and soon after was offered a chance to ride for Sheikh Mohammed in Europe.

It was a life-changing opportunity for the kid from Streaky Bay, who has built himself into one of the world's great riders in the 16 years since.

"What a thrill to break through. To do it for Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Charlie Appleby, Godolphin have been huge supporters of mine and what a thrill to do it in the blue colours in a Melbourne Cup," he said.

Kerrin McEvoy and Charlie Appleby

"It's a huge thrill to win this race and repay the faith he showed in me." - Kerrin McEvoy

"They have been such a huge part of my career. It started on Beekeeper back here in 2002, I went overseas and worked with Frankie (Dettori), who took me under his wing and Saeed Bin Suroor and Simon Crisford, working with the A-graders and I learned so much."

"It's a huge thrill to win this race and repay the faith he showed in me."

Things could have been very different for McEvoy and Cross Counter when after just passing the winning post the first time, The Cliffsofmoher (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) broke down badly and came back through the field.

"We were lucky. It was terrible with that horse breaking down, we were lucky to get through without too much of an issue," he said.

From that point, with 22 horses in front of him, it was a matter of picking the right runs for the champion jockey, who only three weeks ago won the $13 million the Everest, Australia's richest race for the second successive year on Redzel (Snitzel).

Kerrin won his second The Everest only three weeks ago

"I was back a bit further than I wanted. But I knew I was full of running and I was on the back of Yucatan (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). He seemed to be empty at the 400m, and I had to go my own way. At the furlong, I thought is this happening again?"

McEvoy first won the race on Brew (Sir Tristram {Ire}) for Mike Moroney in 2000, just a week after his 20th birthday. It took 16 years to win his next one aboard Almandin (Ger) (Monsun {Ger}) for Robert Hickmott.

Now just two years' later he has moved within one win of equalling the all-time record of Melbourne Cup wins jointly held by Bobby Lewis and Harry White.