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Memories of Kiwi as Counter earns a place in Cup history

J A McGrath

One of the most incredible performances seen in a G1 Melbourne Cup was produced by a hardy stayer called Kiwi, who came from a distant last to win the 1983 renewal with an unforgettable late finishing burst.

At Flemington on Tuesday, 6 November, we witnessed something similar when Cross Counter, ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, sailed past 22 rivals to snatch a first triumph in Australia’s biggest race for Godolphin.

McEvoy, who had won two previous Cups, aboard Brew (2000) and Almandin (2016), recalled: “Halfway up the straight, I was thinking to myself: ‘Mate, is this happening again?’ And it was.”

Cross Counter had produced a home stretch run that rivalled that of Kiwi, yet the young son of Teofilo was having only his eighth start.

He made his racecourse debut, winning a small race at Wolverhampton (UK), just 11 months before his famous victory in the ‘race that stops a nation.’

On only his third outing in public, Cross Counter carried 64kg (10st 1lb) into second place in a minor contest at Sandown Park (UK), giving a first hint of his true potential.

But it was his win in an Ascot (UK) three-year-old handicap in July that beamed his name up on the radar for Melbourne. There followed Goodwood and York performances that merely confirmed that strategy.

Trainer Charlie Appleby said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed had been involved in the planning of Cross Counter’s Cup campaign right from the start.

“His Highness could see a trend developing where young improving stayers from Europe would be ideally suited by the Melbourne Cup, and Cross Counter fitted that description perfectly.

“The plan was a good one, and despite heavy rain early in the day, it all went well. The horse is a very good stayer, with a mature mind for his age and experience,” the trainer added.

Cross Counter’s plans for 2019 will be formulated once he gets back to Dubai for his winter break. Whatever they may be, he goes into Melbourne Cup history as Godolphin’s first triumph in the race — and a winner as good as Kiwi.