Cross Counter goes for Gold on day three of Royal Ascot
Cross Counter goes for an unprecedented Cup double as he lines up in Europe’s premier staying contest, the G1 Gold Cup, on day three of Royal Ascot, Thursday, 20 June.
The Charlie Appleby-trained four-year-old has already created history, becoming the first UK-based horse to win the G1 Melbourne Cup when storming home to gain a famous length victory in the two-mile handicap at Flemington, Australia, in November.
He stretches out to two and a half miles for the first time after quickening for a comfortable victory from stable companion Ispolini in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup over half a mile shorter on Dubai World Cup night, Saturday, 30 March at Meydan, UAE.
The son of Teofilo has performed well on two previous visits to Ascot, finishing fourth in the 12-furlong King George V Handicap at the Royal Meeting last year and readily winning a handicap over the same distance in July.
James Doyle partners Cross Counter for the first time and the Godolphin stayer features among a field of 11 that also includes defending Champion Stradivarius and Dee Ex Bee, who was runner-up to Godolphin’s Masar in the 2018 G1 Derby and has twice won at G3 level this season.
Charlie Appleby said: “The step up to two and a half miles is going to be the question mark with Cross Counter, but we feel that he has shown us all the right signs that this trip is going to suit, and he is a class horse.
“This has been the target since he won the Dubai Gold Cup and we would like to see whether he can become a proper European Cup horse.
“It looks a strong renewal – it’s the premier staying contest of the entire calendar – but we are confident that Cross Counter can be competitive.”
Expressionist (Charlie Appleby/James Doyle, drawn six) goes for a second successive five-furlong victory at Ascot in the G2 Norfolk Stakes.
The two-year-old Night Of Thunder colt was pushed out for a cosy debut success at the course on Saturday, 11 May. His 14 rivals include recent Tipperary scorer Sunday Sovereign and Ventura Rebel, who is unbeaten in two starts.
Charlie Appleby reported: “Expressionist was impressive on his first start and boasts important course and distance form.
“He has strengthened since then and I am looking forward to seeing him step up in class.
“He won on good to soft on his debut, but looks quite versatile in terms of ground.”
Dark Vision (Mark Johnston/Jamie Spencer, drawn one), Velorum (Charlie Appleby/James Doyle, drawn seven) and Dubai Legacy (Saeed bin Suroor/Pat Cosgrave, drawn 10) all line up in the Britannia Handicap for three-year-olds over the straight mile, which has attracted a maximum field of 30.
Top-weight Dark Vision (9st 7lb), an impressive winner of the G2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in July last year, makes his handicap debut after coming home fourth in the mile Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown Park on Thursday, 23 May.
Mark Johnston commented: “This is new territory for Dark Vision as it is his first time in a handicap.
“It will be very interesting to see how he gets on. He is the best horse in the race as he has top-weight, but there are 30 runners and it is one of the hottest handicaps.
“You need a lot of luck in the Britannia anyway and Dark Vision maybe more so because of his style of running, starting slowly and coming with a late run.”
Velorum (8st 12lb) is going for a hat-trick after novice race wins over a mile at Newmarket and Yarmouth in May, while Dubai Legacy (9st) has run well over seven furlongs on both his starts this year, most recently when third in a valuable Goodwood handicap on Saturday, 25 May.
Charlie Appleby said: “Velorum has won twice on good to firm, but we feel that he will appreciate cut in the ground. He looks a well-handicapped horse off 96 in what we know is a very competitive race.”
Saeed bin Suroor added: “This looks a nice race for Dubai Legacy. He came back from Goodwood in good form and I am looking forward to seeing how he runs over a mile.”
Progressive three-year-old colt Great Example (Saeed bin Suroor/David Egan) steps up to a mile and a half for the first time in the King George V Handicap following a comprehensive eight-length victory in a 10-furlong novice race at Ripon on Sunday, 19 May. The son of Cape Cross races off 8st 7lb and takes on 18 others.
Saeed bin Suroor said: “Great Example won nicely last time out and we feel that he has a chance in a race like this.
“I have been pleased with him in the mornings and he should be fine over a mile and a half.”