Dubai: Cross Counter, the 2018 Melbourne Cup hero, leads a trio of Dubai-owned horses in Thursday’s Gold Cup (Group 1), the feature race on third day at Royal Ascot.
Fourth in this race last year, Cross Counter reunites with jockey James Doyle for only the third time in 15 starts having predominantly been partnered by Doyle’s teammate at Godolphin, William Buick.
Trained by Charlie Appleby at Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket, Cross Counter is joined by stable companion Moonlight Spirit (Buick) in the gruelling two miles and two furlongs contest which represents a serious test of the mettle of both horse and rider.
Cross Counter will be making his second start of the year - having finished a respectable fifth in a 3000 metre race at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in February.
The Godolphin duo face six rivals including 2018 champion stayer Stradivarius and the in-form Nayef Road, who is owned by Dubai businessman Mohammed Obaida.
Godolphin are looking for a sixth Gold Cup victory and first since Colour Vision landed the spoils in 2012.
Assessing the chances of Cross Counter and Moonlight Spirit, trainer Charlie Appleby told the Godolphin website: “Cross Counter has already had an unusual season. We prepared him for the Dubai Gold Cup in March, only for the meeting to be called off because of the pandemic.
“His run when fifth in a handicap in Saudi in February was good as he was fresh and a bit keen early. He hasn’t had a race since.
“Last year, he had also only had one race before Ascot and he was able to run a very respectable fourth to Stradivarius and wasn’t beaten too far,” the trainer said.
Regarding Moonlight Spirit Appleby said: “We have always regarded Moonlight Spirit as a prospective Cup horse. He has wintered well and is ready to go, though it is a challenge going straight into a Gold Cup. Having said that, he will not be out of place, and I think will run very well,” the trainer added.
Meanwhile, Stradivarius is looking for a hat-trick of wins in the Gold Cup - having won the last two runnings of the great race for the John Gosden-Frankie Dettori partnership.
At Royal Ascot (Thursday, June 18)
Gold Cup (Group 1) Distance: 2m 4f
4/9 Stradivarius, 11/2 Technician, 15/2 Cross Counter, 11/1 Nayef Road, 14/1 Moonlight Spirit, 25/1 Prince Of Arran, 33/1 Withhold, 50/1 Mekong.