Dubai: James Doyle partners Godolphin’s Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter for the first time as the pair bid to win the Group 1 Gold Cup, Britain’s most prestigious long-distance contest, which is the highlight of Ladies Day at Royal Ascot on Thursday.
The Charlie Appleby-trained four-year-old made history when he became the first UK-based horse to win Australia’s most famous flat race at Flemington Racecourse last November.
The lightly raced son of Teofilo was last seen winning the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan.
Cross Counter faces several strong rivals and perhaps none more than the mighty Stradivarius, who swept all the major staying races in the UK last season including the Yorkshire Cup, Goodwood Cup, Lonsdale Cup and this contest to land a £1 million (Dh4.6 million) bonus through the inaugural Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million.
Assessing Cross Counter’s chances of ending Stradivarius’ six-race winning streak, Appleby said on the Godolphin website: “The step up to two-and-a-half miles is going to be the question mark with Cross Counter, 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.
“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.”
Godolphin are also represented by Dee Ex Bee, last year’s Epsom Derby runner-up who has produced eye-catching victories both at Ascot and at Sandown.
Elsewhere on the card, the Appleby-trained Expressionist goes for victory at Ascot in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes.
Appleby said: “Expressionist was impressive on his first start and boasts important course and distance form. He has strengthened since then and I am looking forward to seeing him step up in class. He won on good to soft on his debut, but looks quite versatile in terms of ground.”
Dark Vision (Mark Johnston), Velorum (Charlie Appleby) and Dubai Legacy (Saeed Bin Surour) all line up in the Britannia Handicap for three-year-olds over the straight mile, which has attracted a maximum field of 30.