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Godolphin trio primed for G1 Melbourne Cup

Mike Hedge

Three horses, three trainers and three stables will embody Godolphin’s ideals and goals when they run for Australia’s most coveted racing prize, the G1 Melbourne Cup at Flemington on Tuesday, 6 November.

Avilius, Best Solution and Cross Counter will be bidding for Godolphin’s first victory in the A$7 million race.

And in the 30 years since Sheikh Mohammed first tried to win it, they make up one of the strongest Cup challenges his horses have made.

The Godolphin ethic is to challenge global boundaries and to translate one man’s passion into team success.

In the horses who line up on Tuesday, their trainers, James Cummings, Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby - an Australian, an Emirati and an Englishman - and their respective stables, that ambition can be realised.

While Sheikh Mohammed and his trainers provide the means for success, it is the horses who must now deliver it.

And the signs are positive that they can.

Avilius, formerly trained for Godolphin in France by Andre Fabre, won his first four starts in Australia before running fourth to Winx in his Cup tune-up in the G1 WS Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.

Cummings views the performance as an ideal trial for Tuesday’s main event. 

“The pressure they put on in a Cox Plate is like no other,” Cummings said.

“We went into the race thinking of it as a preparation for the Melbourne Cup and we’ve come out of it thinking his form is perfect.”

If anyone should know about perfection in a Melbourne Cup preparation it is Cummings, the grandson of Australia’s legendary trainer Bart Cummings who trained 12 winners of the race.

“I know he’s ready for two miles now and he’s going to Flemington rather than Moonee Valley where he wasn’t completely comfortable,” Cummings jnr said.

“To take form with Winx and Benbatl into the Cup leaves me with a lot of confidence that he’s going to be perfect on the day.”

Of all the trainers represented in the 2018 Melbourne Cup, few have had more runners in the race than Saeed bin Suroor, who has trained four placegetters and whose contender Best Solution established his credentials with victory in last month’s G1 Caulfield Cup.

“He is the right horse for the Melbourne Cup, he is very fit and he has held his form since he won the Caulfield Cup,” Saeed said.

“Best Solution is a good horse and he can give Sheikh Mohammed a great chance in the race.”

Best Solution has won his past four races, including two G1s in Germany before his Caulfield victory.

Cross Counter has the most modest record of the three, but he also occupies a corresponding position in the handicap with only 51kg on his back.

A three-year-old to northern hemisphere time, he is treated as a four-year-old in Australia, which isn’t seen as a barrier by Appleby.

“He’s a horse who is on an upward path, he’s in form and apart from one incident, he’s been come along nicely in Melbourne,” Appleby said.

The “incident” was cut on a hind leg which healed well and barely interfered with Cross Counter’s preparation for a race which would be a highlight in what is a supremely successful career for Appleby.

“We’ve had plenty of success in Australia and it’s been a great year at home and abroad for Sheikh Mohammed and our team,” he said.

“But to win the Melbourne Cup would be a fantastic feat for the entire organisation.”