DUBAI: The Kentucky Derby (Group 1) has taken on a new meaning for Godolphin following Cross Counter’s stunning victory in the A$7.3 million (Dh19.3 million) Melbourne Cup (G1) at Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday.
Ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, the Godolphin-bred and Charlie Appleby-trained son of Teofilo, produced a late burst to win the gruelling 3,200 metre contest by a length from Marmello (Hugh Bowman), with Prince of Araan (Michael Walker), two-and-a-half lengths back in third.
Cross Country, one of the lesser fancied contenders in the 24-strong field, was also ending Godolphin’s long wait for a first victory in the ‘race that stops a nation.’
$7.3mis the total prize money of the Melbourne Cup
When His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, created Godolphin in 1992, one of the stable’s primary objectives was to win the world’s major contests — the Epsom Derby, Kentucky Derby, Prix de l’Arc d’Triomphe and Melbourne Cup, races that stood at the sport’s summit.
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.
Now, and following Masar’s iconic victory in the Epsom Derby (G1) earlier this year, only the Kentucky Derby stands as the final frontier.
A win that former Grand National-winning jockey and pioneering UAE racing administrator Pat Buckley foresees.
“It was a great race and indeed for Godolphin to win there [Australia] was simply fantastic,” he said.
“I would say that a Kentucky Derby success will also be soon, because every objective that Shaikh Mohammad had, he has managed to achieve.”
Winning the world’s best races has epitomised the Godolphin philosophy of pushing global boundaries and striving for perfection since its inception in 1992.
And it was this planning, passion and perfection that led to Cross Counter pulling off a major coup in a race that is a tactical nightmare to trainers and jockeys.
But McEvoy, who has the rich experience of two wins spread across 16 years (Brew in 2000 and Almandi 2016), was the perfect choice to partner the young British raider.
It’s such a huge thrill to win this for Shaikh Mohammad, to repay the faith that he showed in me.
And the Aussie with a great heart, who was a former retained rider with Godolphin, was the first to salute the team driven by Shaikh Mohammad, one of the world’s most influential and successful racehorse owners and breeders.
“What a thrill — to do it for Shaikh Mohammad and Charlie Appleby. Obviously, Godolphin has been a huge supporter of mine. Well done to Charlie and this little horse.
“I was back a little bit further than I wanted, I knew I was full of running and at the furlong I thought, ‘Is this happening again?’. I’m just lucky I can ride light and he’s been unbelievably well prepared by Charlie Appleby.”
Appleby, who has enjoyed an unforgettable year with Masar also winning the Epsom Derby in June, said: “It’s a very special day for us all.
“For me it’s obviously very special to be here, but for the team, it’s just fantastic. I’ve spoken to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad and he’s over the moon about this result — it’s a challenge that’s been a long road. I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s a day I will never forget. It’s been a very memorable day.”
1998the year when Faithful Son ran in Godolphin colours
“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,” he added.
Godolphin had two other contenders in the race, the Saeed Bin Surour-trained Best Solution, who finished eighth while Avilius, trained in Australia by James Cummings, trailed in at the back of the field.
For UAE and for the world of racing, this win means a lot as Shaikh Mohammad puts a lot into it.
Muntahaa, representing former Melbourne Cup winning woner, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, finished ninth under former British champion jockey Jim Crowley.
Shaikh Hamdn won the Cup in 1994 with Jeune.
A$7.3m Melbourne Cup (G1) (At Flemington Racecourse)
First run: 1861
1. Cross Counter 8/1 (Charlie Appleby, trainer) Kerrin McEvoy, jockey
2. Marnelo 11/1 (Hughie Morrison) Hugh Bowman
3. A Prince Of Arran 20/1 (Charlie Fellowes) Michael Walker
4. Finche 25/1 (Chris Waller) Zac Purton
How other Dubai-owned runners finished: Best Solution (8th), Muntahaa (9th), Avilius (22nd)
Winning distances: 1length, 2L, 1.2L.
Winning time: 3m 21.17s