Ascot Gold Cup Contenders: Cross Counter profile

Cross Counter became the first British-trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup for Charlie Appleby in 2018.
Cross Counter became the first British-trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup for Charlie Appleby in 2018.

Nick Seddon profiles the Ascot Gold Cup contender Cross Counter, who will be looking to add another illustrious race to his CV in the Royal Ascot showpiece, which takes centre stage on June 18.

Cross Counter

  • Trainer: Charlie Appleby
  • Age: 5
  • Owner: Godolphin
  • Races: 14
  • Wins: 6
  • Notable Race Wins: Melbourne Cup (2018), Dubai Gold Cup (2019)

Career Record

The crowning glory of Cross Counter's career so far is undoubtedly his historic victory in the 2018 Melbourne Cup, when he became the first British-trained winner of 'the race that stops the nation' for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin. That win rounded off his three-year-old campaign in style, and it was a season of rapid progression for the son of Teofilo, who progressed from winning two minor events at Wolverhampton at the turn of the year to quickly making his presence felt in Group company - winning the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on route to Flemington. 

Cross Counter followed up his Melbourne Cup win with victory in the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup over two miles at Meydan in March 2019, a performance which set him out as a serious challenger to the king of the staying division Stradivarius, who had won the inaugural £1 Million Stayers' Bonus in 2018. He bumped into Stradivarius twice last summer, first in the Ascot Gold Cup and then in the Goodwood Cup, and although he ran with credit on both occasions, he could only hit the frame behind the reigning champion. Cross Counter then warmed up for the Melbourne Cup by finishing fourth in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh, before producing a commendable effort to finish eighth under top weight in Victoria.

The Cup is once again the ultimate aim for the five-year-old this term, though in a year that's fraught with uncertainty as far as travel is concerned, and bearing in mind that he's been given time to freshen up since his most recent run in Saudi Arabia in February, it would be no surprise to see Cross Counter make a bold bid for the big staying races this summer. 

Stradivarius Gold Cup Profile

Positives

Course form: Cross Counter has run with credit on each of his three visits to Ascot, with two of those starts coming at the Royal meeting. He was a fine fourth in the King George V Stakes over a mile and a half on handicap debut back in 2018, and he handled two and a half miles well on his first attempt at the distance in this race last year. The Berkshire track certainly suits Cross Counter, and you can expect another bold bid from him later this month.

Stamina: Charlie Appleby's charge has tried this marathon trip just once, when fourth last year, though he wasn't beaten for stamina and ought to play a big part provided the leaders don't slip the field.

Versatility: Cross Counter is about as likeable a campaigner as you'll find, and he has contested Group contests in five different countries around the world to date. He's proven himself on a multitude of different conditions as far as the going is concerned, while his consistency is admirable - he's yet to run a bad race during his career. 

Negatives

Tactics: Cross Counter is at his best when given a patient ride, meaning that he tends to make his move during the closing stages of a race. While that can be a wise move in terms of conserving energy over such a marathon trip, he's vulnerable in steadily run contests as a consequence - where the tempo of the race can change unpredictably, and leave him being caught rather cold. 

Needs to improve: There's no doubt that Cross Counter is a proven Group 1 performer, as he showed when winning the Melbourne Cup. However, that contest is unique in the fact that it is a particularly high level handicap, and there's a niggling feeling that he's still got to prove himself off level weights in a bona fide top level contest. So far he's been found wanting ever so slightly by the very best in the division. 

How will Cross Counter fare in the 2020 Ascot Gold Cup?

Charlie Appleby reported Cross Counter to be in good order following his return from the Middle East earlier this year, and although another tilt at the Melbourne Cup will once again be his ultimate aim, he will likely be kept busy on these shores in the interim. Strictly as far as the form book is concerned, Cross Counter will need to find something to trouble the king of the ring Stradivarius, though he ran well on his first try over two and a half miles in this race last year, and it can certainly be argued that the run of the race didn't suit his hold-up style that day.

A strongly run Gold Cup would play into his hands, and Stradivarius' defeat in the Long Distance Cup here last autumn leaves the niggling feeling that his powers could be beginning to wane. Cross Counter is about as consistent a performer as you'll find, and although he may need a little bit of luck in-running if he is to take his form into the top-class bracket, he certainly can't be scoffed at, and he'll be waiting in the wings ready to strike should anybody falter. 

Verdict: Each-way angle

Tip

Ascot Gold Cup
Cross Counter silk

Cross Counter (EW)

Consistent type who's capable of top-class form on his day, as he showed when winning the Melbourne Cup. Was behind Stradivarius on two occasions last term, but didn't get things run to suit on either outing, and provided things fall a little more into place here, he could be able to turn the tables on his rival - on what's just his second try at this marathon trip.

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