The Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy described his success in the Godolphin silks as “the cherry on top of my riding career” after steering Cross Counter to victory in the "race that stops a nation" on Tuesday.
It was the first time Godolphin had won the race in 30 years of trying and was also the Dubai racing operation's 30th Group 1 prize for 2018.
On an emotion-filled day, McEvoy, who collected his third Melbourne Cup victory, paid tribute to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, head of Godolphin.
“Looking back, the year 2002 was a very significant one in my riding career,” said the Australian jockey. “It was the year I was first approached to ride for Godolphin, and I remember it like it was yesterday; the horse was Beekeeper, a good stayer trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
“I rode him in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup and retained the ride at Flemington, where he ran a very good third behind Media Puzzle and Mr Prudent in the Melbourne Cup.
“It was the start of a long association with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and his Godolphin stable that has continued to this day, I’m pleased to say.
“It would be great to get that cup win on the board for Godolphin. Personally, it would be great to repay Sheikh Mohammed and his family for the faith they have shown in me over the years. I am very grateful for having had those opportunities.”
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The Charlie Appleby-trained Cross Counter Counter was the least experienced horse in the 24-runner field over the 3,200-metre trip.
The colt won his first two starts, a maiden and novice at Wolverhampton, and then a handicap at Ascot and a Group 3 prize at Goodwood - all in the UK - in eight career starts.
By winning the A$7.3million (Dh19m) Group 1 race at the Flemington Racecourse Cross Counter became the first British-trained horse to win Australia’s most coveted prize.
“Cross Counter is a horse with a good attitude,” McEvoy said. “That was the feel he gave me when I rode him in a gallop at Werribee. He is willing. He travelled in behind a lead horse, and it was nice sharp work.
“He was very responsive. When I asked him, he was up and rolling. That’s exactly what you want in a Melbourne Cup, you need to travel. You need to be able to move forward when you want to.”
McEvoy has ridden two winners in the Melbourne Cup - Brew (2000) and Almandin (2016) - and said that helped him build confidence in the race.
“Godolphin have given me many good opportunities,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to win an English Classic in the stable colours, Rule Of Law (2004) in the St Leger at Doncaster, and to land Group 1 races on two of their best horses, Dubawi and Shamardal.
“It means a lot to put on the Royal Blue colours at any time, but more so in Australia’s biggest race, the Melbourne Cup. And to win it for Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin was like putting the cherry on top of my riding career.”