A Godolphin record-breaker with Melbourne in his sights

J A McGrath

A week that started with a significant G1 victory for Benbatl in Germany concluded with another Godolphin triumph when Cross Counter won the G3 Gordon Stakes in course record time at Goodwood, UK, on Saturday.

The highlight of the five-day meeting was undoubtedly Wild Illusion’s superb win in the G1 Nassau Stakes, a victory that provided deserving reward for excellent runs in two English Classics plus a good performance at Royal Ascot.

Trainer Charlie Appleby announced on this website plans for Wild Illusion to take in both the G1 Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp ,France, and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs, USA, later in the year.

Overall, it was a satisfying seven days for Godolphin, with plenty more to look forward to as Europe’s hot summer continues and a busy autumn looms on the horizon.

Cross Counter remains a fascinating work in progress for Appleby. The son of Teofilo has won four of his six starts to date and has never been out of the frame.

He had been gelded following a period in which, according to the trainer, “he was a bit of a boy,” but now that he has knuckled down and is focusing on his racing he has improved rapidly.

Appleby has nominated the G1 Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, 6 November as the three-year-old’s long-range target, though fully aware that lack of racing experience will be a disadvantage against the seasoned stayers competing in the two-mile handicap.

“He has come out of the race well,” Appleby said. “I was particularly pleased the way he galloped to the line after making most of the running,” he added.

Recording 2min 31.39sec, Cross Counter beat Presenting’s previous record for the ‘about’ one and a half miles distance by 0.18 sec. Presenting set his record in 1995.

Second home in the Gordon, Dee Ex Bee, the G1 Derby runner-up, had been rated 8lb higher than Cross Counter going into Saturday’s race — yet he was beaten four and a half lengths at level weights.

Form analysts will have to decide for themselves whether Dee Ex Bee has run up to his best form in this intriguing four-runner contest.

Cross Counter is now a realistic candidate for Melbourne but much will depend on his handicap weight.

Entries close on Thursday, 30 August, with weights published on Tuesday, 11 September.