Godolphin‘s Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter is on course to clash with Stradivarius in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
The Charlie Appleby-trained four-year-old beat Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo in a famous finish to the ‘race that stops a nation’ last November, and followed up in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March.
Appleby supervised his Teofilo gelding in work on Saturday morning, and said: “I was pleased with that. His preparation has gone well, and the plan is to head to the Ascot Gold Cup.
“It’s going to be a step up in trip, but on the evidence of what we saw on his last start there is no reason why it shouldn’t suit – and potentially see a bit more improvement to come.”
The victory at Meydan means Cross Counter is eligible to bid for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million – a bonus claimed last year by Stradivarius.
After winning one of eight qualifying races, the huge pot can be secured if a horse lands the Gold Cup at Ascot, the Goodwood Cup and finally the Lonsdale Cup at York.
Appleby said: “If he sees it (trip) out, then the focus will be those Cup races – at Goodwood, then on to York. If he doesn’t, then we could potentially look at having another crack at the Melbourne Cup.
“They all had a break after World Cup Night, and we have been building him up since he arrived back in the UK. I’m confident going straight to Ascot with him, because we saw what he can do off a long lay-off in Dubai in the Gold Cup there on his first start back.
“We felt we left him a little bit short that night, and his class prevailed in the end. He is taking on proper staying horses now, but the step up in trip should seek out a bit more improvement.”
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Dual Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow has been pleasing trainer Saeed bin Suroor ahead of the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday.
The five-year-old entire has won over £12 million in prize-money in his career and is a regular visitor to America, bouncing back from an unhappy experience in the 2017 Kentucky Derby to go close when third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year.
“He travelled well to New York so all is good so far,” said Bin Suroor.
“He did his last piece of work on Friday on the Limekilns (in Newmarket) under Kieren Fallon and he was very happy with him – he looks good and is ready to go.
“The trip is a little short for him, it’s only a mile and he’s better over 10 furlongs, but it is hard to find races for him and he has to run.
“After this we’ll keep his options open, but there is a race at Saratoga for him then maybe the Jockey Club in New York before ending the season in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.”
He added: “He has a chance, I’m happy with him, he’s in good form. He always handles the travelling really good and Christophe Soumillon is going over to ride him again.
“American racing suits him, but the trip is a little short this week. The jockey knows him well, though, and will jump and kick so he can hopefully get a nice position early.”
Among the opposition to Thunder Snow in the ‘Met Mile’ is the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie, who was favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic only to finish 12th of the 14 starters.
He has bounced back to score at Grade One level and was last seen winning the Alysheba Stakes over an extended mile at Churchill Downs.
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A sparkling piece of work by Trekking ahead of Saturday’s G1 Stradbroke Handicap has the colt in ideal order for an Eagle Farm feature in which he is one of four realistic Godolphin chances.
Trainer James Cummings will saddle the quartet that is completed by Encryption, Home Of The Brave, and Viridine and says he will have trouble placing any one of his runners one ahead of the others.
Trekking comes to the penultimate G1 race of the Australian season off a close third in the Kingsford-Smith Cup over 1,300m at the same track two weeks ago and a strong gallop at Eagle Farm on Tuesday.
“I thought he let down beautifully in his gallop and we got just what we wanted out of it,” Cummings said.
“He was only just building his confidence on the going here at his last start, so I thought it was really important for Trekking this morning to work again on that different grass they have at Eagle Farm so he could get a feel for it.”
For Encryption (Craig Williams), the Stradbroke will be his final start before beginning a stud career for which his pedigree is a glowing recommendation – but a G1 victory would add greatly to his stallion credentials.
“He’s in good shape, he’s fit, he’s got that run in the Kingsford-Smith Cup under his belt and I think he’ll be a lot better horse this week,” Cummings said.
The trainer also believes the handicap conditions will suit Encryption, a son of Lonhro from the exceptional race mare Guelph.
“The biggest run of his life was under handicap conditions in the Oakleigh Plate earlier this autumn, so he looks well suited,” he said.