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Superb carnival concludes in style in Australia

Mike Hedge

Godolphin’s best Australian spring in the 14 years since His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has operated on a full-scale basis in the country concluded in Stakes-winning style on Saturday, 17 November.

Tally’s win in the G3 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown came at the end of three months of top-level racing that saw the blue silks carried to victory by 16 individual winners of 19 Stakes races – six of them at G1 level,  highlighted of course by the victory of Cross Counter in Australia’s greatest race, the G1 Melbourne Cup.

A large number of the winners came from the local stable of James Cummings, but the G1s were shared equally with Godolphin’s other retained trainers Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby.

The James Cummings stable recorded two victories at the highest level courtesy of Hartnell and Best Of Days, the same number as both Saeed bin Suroor (Benbatl and Best Solution) and Charlie Appleby (Cross Counter and Jungle Cat).

At the end of an outstanding year during which Godolphin victories included the Derby in the UK, The Dubai World Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in the US, the prominence of the royal blue colours in Sydney and Melbourne rounded off the year in perfect style.

Cummings began the spring with one of the training feats of the year when responsible for G1 Epsom Handicap winner, Hartnell, at Randwick in September.

The eight-year-old had struggled to find winning form in his previous preparation, but Cummings’ insistence that the one-time Royal Ascot two-mile winner was now a sprinter-miler was vindicated in stunning fashion.

Cummings’ other G1 winner, Best Of Days, took out the Kennedy Mile at Flemington, together with victory in the G3 Coongy Cup at Caulfield.

As well as the G1 double, Godolphin’s locally trained Stakes winners included imports Avilius and Home Of The Brave, with the latter landing the G2 Theo Marks Stakes at Randwick. Others were: Ranier, who like Avilius won twice at Black Type level, Osborne Bulls, Encryption, Resin, Trekking, Aramayo and Pohutukawa.

Cummings was quick to share the credit with his Sydney and Melbourne teams, “We’ve got great opportunities because we have great teams,” he said.

“We also thank Sheikh Mohammed who has the faith to send horses like this to us.”

Godolphin’s global ambitions were also at the forefront in Melbourne, with the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Benbatl winning the G1 Caulfield Stakes before finishing second to Winx in the G1 Cox Plate, while stablemate Best Solution took the G1 Caulfield Cup.

As well as taking out the big one with Cross Counter, Appleby’s grand sprinter Jungle Cat won the G1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes.