The Epsom Derby, Kentucky Derby, Prix de l’Arc de’Triomphe and the Melbourne Cup comprise the magical four races in thoroughbred racing.
So when His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, created the Maktoum’s private racing stable under the name of Godolphin, 1992, this group of four races symbolised Godolphin’s quest for global success.
On Tuesday, after torrential rains had lashed Flemington Racecourse, Shaikh Mohammad’s Godolphin stable scored a historic first victory in the Melbourne Cup with a lesser-known British-trained horse called Cross Counter.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, the man with the Midas touch, and ridden by two-time Melbourne Cup winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy, Cross Counter delivered the performance of a lifetime, to realise Shaikh Mohammad’s long-time dream, of winning one of the world’s most gruelling races.
Having already won the Epsom Derby just six months ago, with Masar, the Arc on three occasions with Lammtarra (1995), Sakhee (2001), Marienbard (2002), Cross Counter took Godolphin to within one victory of completing flat racing’s Grand Slam.
All that remains for Godolphin to win is the Kentucky Derby, America’s most famous race, which takes place in June every year.
This is all down to [His Highness] Shaikh Mohammad [Bin Rashid Al Maktoum]. He’s the one that’s given us all the encouragement to take the chances in what we do internationally. This is all for Shaikh Mohammad and the Royal family and Godolphin, and for me to say thank you for giving me this opportunity. I’m just in the very fortunate position to have a great team behind me.
But for the moment, Godolphin and its multi-cultural team of stable hands, can delight in what has been a fairy-tale victory at Flemington, and one accomplished almost 20 years since their first attempt to win the great Australia race.
And what an epic year it has been for the stable, one in which they have won an unprecedented 28 Group 1 races, the highest level in the sport, and major a race like the $10million Dubai World Cup back in March with Thunder Snow.
Cross Counter’s triumph also capped a stupendous year for his trainer Charlie Appleby and his team and for jockey, Kerrin McEvoy.
Appleby described the win as “everybody’s dream”.
“This is all down to Shaikh Mohammad, he’s the one that’s given us all the encouragement to take the chances in what we do internationally,” Appleby said on the Godolphin website.
“This is all for Shaikh Mohammad and the Royal family and Godolphin, and for me to say thank you for giving me this opportunity.
“I’m just in the very fortunate position to have a great team behind me.”
Cross Counter’s win has come 30 years after Shaikh Mohammad began his Melbourne Cup quest with a horse Authaal, who carried his trademark maroon and white colours in 1988.
Faithful Son became Godolphin’s first runner in the Cup since they made their debut in 1998.
Godolphin had three runners in this year’s race, with Cross Counter joined by fellow English trained Best Solution and Australia-based Avilius.
Best Solution, representing veteran Godolphin trainer, Emirati Saeed Bin Surour, finished eighth and Avilius, who was prepared by James Cummings, 22nd in a fiercely contested race.
Cross Counter, only three-years-old and still a relative baby in the rough and tumble world of horse racing, become only the 24th of his age to triumph in the 138-year-old contest.
Historically, horses aged four and five, have enjoyed the most success with 88 wins between them. He is also only the 20th colt to win the Cup.
Unravelling the Melbourne Cup
Cross Counter not only clinched the Melbourne Cup in emphatic fashion, he also expelled several myths about the 3,200-metre race, regarded by many as a mystery and the world’s toughest.
The odds were also stacked against the relatively inexperienced three-year-old.
1. Cross Counter had never previously run further than 2,400m.
2. He had an unfavourable draw in Gate 19, which meant he was on the far side to the more preferred rail.
3. Only two horses at No. 23 in the field of 24, had previously ever won the Cup.
4. He had travelled over 10,500 miles from his home in Newmarket, England to Melbourne only weeks earlier.
All you need to know about Melbourne Cup
What makes the Melbourne Cup so special.
■ The Melbourne Cup is run on the first Tuesday in November at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia. First run in 1861, it is billed as a race that stops a nation because almost every Australian stops whatever he or she is doing to watch the race.
■ The total prize fund for the race is more than A$7.3 million, with prizemoney being paid out to the first 10 finishers. The winner banks a cool A$4 million.
■ The Melbourne Cup is one of the longest races in the world, contested over 3200 metres (two miles). It takes an average time of just over three for the race.
■ The race attracts the best long-distance horses from around the world. However, for horses based in England it represents the most gruelling task of having to travel over 10,500 miles to Melbourne.
■ You need a horse with peak fitness, who can produce the ultimate effort in order to win the race, which invariable becomes a cavalry charge in the final stages.
■ While the task of getting Cross Counter to one of the world’s most gruelling races in peak fitness was performed to perfection, it was the horse who produced the ultimate winning effort.
Godolphin in the Melbourne Cup
■ Cross Counter, a horse trained in England by Charlie Appleby, become the first Godolphin winner of the Cup. He was the horse with the least experience in the field of 24 runners.
■ Cross Counter’s win came 30 years after His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, began his Melbourne Cup quest with Authaal, who carried his maroon and white colours in 1988 and 20 years after Faithful Son became Godolphin’s first runner in 1998.
■ Trainer Charlie Appleby, who has stables in Newmarket, England and Marmoum, in Dubai, has become the first English trainer to win the Melbourne Cup.
■ Godolphin, the Dubai-owned stable was launched in 1992, It has its headquarters in the centre of Dubai.