Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 January 2020

Royal Ascot: Godolphin's Cross Counter aims for hat-trick of wins at Gold Cup

Dubai racing operation's horse will line up against quality field, including last year’s winner Stradivarius

Cross Counter, ridden by William Buick, won the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan Racecourse. Pawan Singh / The National 
Cross Counter, ridden by William Buick, won the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan Racecourse. Pawan Singh / The National 

When Day 3 of the Royal Ascot festival gets under way on Thursday, the spotlight will fall on the Gold Cup – and for good reason.

Last year’s winner Stradivarius takes on 10 very strong rivals, including Godolphin’s Cross Counter, who is bidding for a hat-trick of race wins. After finishing first in the Melbourne Cup last November, he clinched the US$1.5 million (Dh5.5m) Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup on Dubai World Cup Night in March.

Those successes were over two miles, and the four-year-old by Teofilio prepares to tackle the two-and-a-half-mile distance at Royal Ascot for the first time.

“The step up to two-and-a-half miles is going to be the question mark with Cross Counter," trainer Charlie Appleby was quoted as saying to Godolphin.com. "But we feel that he has shown us all the right signs that this trip is going to suit, and he is a class horse.

“This has been the target since he won the Dubai Gold Cup, and we would like to see whether he can become a proper European Cup horse,” Appleby added. “It looks a strong renewal – it’s the premier staying contest of the entire calendar – but we are confident that Cross Counter can be competitive.”

Stradivarius is the obvious favourite, and John Gosden’s star arrives at Ascot having won the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup in his reappearance on May 17. All in all, Stradivarius has won 10 of his 15 career starts and is undefeated in the last six, which include the Yorkshire Cup (twice), the Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup, the Lonsdale Cup and the British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot in October.

Another Dubai hopeful in the race is Dee Ex Bee, the 2018 Epsom Derby runner-up behind Godolphin’s Masar, in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai. The Mark Johnston-trained four-year-old is fresh from two Group 3 victories, both over two miles.

Meanwhile, Aidan O’Brien is triple-handed with Capri, Cypress Creek and Flag Of Honour, the choice of jockey Ryan Moore. Joseph O’Brien’s Master Of Reality and Willie Mullins Thomas Hobson are the other Irish raiders, while Pia Brandt’s Called To The Bar carries the hopes of France.

Richard Hannon’s Raymond Tusk and Magic Circle – trained by Ian Williams – complete the field.

Appleby saddles Expressionist in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes for two-year-olds and the Gosden-trained Fanny Logan in the silks of Dubai’s Sheikha Al Jalila Racing runs in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes.

“Expressionist was impressive on his first start and boasts important course and distance form,” Appleby said of the Night Of Thunder colt, a winner of his only start over the course and distance on May 11.

“He has strengthened since then, and I am looking forward to seeing him step up in class. He won on good to soft, but looks quite versatile in terms of ground.”

Updated: June 20, 2019 05:02 AM