Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby entered the Dubai World Cup card loaded for bear, and his first two runners – favored Cross Counter and the upwardly mobile Ispolini – performed accordingly in the $1.5 million Dubai Gold Cup (G2).
Cross Counter had proven his stamina over the two metric mile-trip with a superb score in last November’s Melbourne Cup (G1), while Ispolini was venturing over an extra quarter-mile. Yet Ispolini had recency on his side with a trio of Carnival runs, most recently a new career high in the Nad al Sheba Trophy (G3).
Perhaps a tad fresh off the break, Cross Counter appeared eager as jockey William Buick reserved him just off the pace carved out by Red Galileo. Prince of Arran accompanied in second, Team Talk made an early effort to improve his position, but Ispolini was settled kindly, buried on the rail in the latter part of the field.
When Cross Counter ranged up on the outside on the final turn, Ispolini got a dream run through on the fence. His corner-cutting propelled him past the fading pace factors and into the lead. Cross Counter was lapped on him, and the stablemates had the stretch all to themselves. Ispolini was holding off the favorite much of the way, but the farther they went, the more Cross Counter’s stamina came into play, and he drew away by 1 1/4 lengths with ears pricked.
French invader Call the Wind stayed on dourly in third, and Hong Kong’s Gold Mount did his best work late in fourth. Former South African champion Marinaresco, who overraced in this first try at a marathon trip, was a creditable fifth. Next came California shipper Platinum Warrior, Sharpalo, Red Galileo, Prince of Arran, and the distanced Team Talk.
Cross Counter had smart form over 1 1/2 miles last season, landing the Gordon (G3) at Glorious Goodwood in course-record time and just missing to stablemate Old Persian in the Great Voltigeur (G2). That form would receive a fillip later on Saturday when Old Persian conquered the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). As a gelding, Cross Counter was ineligible for the St Leger (G1), so the son of Teofilo sallied forth to Flemington to give Godolphin a first Melbourne Cup. The Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot is now on the horizon for the exciting young stayer.
Quotes from Dubai Racing Club
Winning trainer Charlie Appleby: “It was his first opportunity to run since Melbourne and he answered all the questions. William was put in a bit of a pocket in the race but you’re actually never too worried when you’re working with the nice horses and good jockeys we have.
“I’m delighted with the result, it’s what tonight is all about and it’s good to get the first one out of the way. I just spoke to His Highness and we said we’d let the dust settle before come up with a plan but we could maybe go for the Gold Cup. But we’ll sit back and enjoy today before deciding where we go.”
Winning rider William Buick: “I was always going to choose Cross Counter over Ispolini and it is great has he come out and won on his return. Cross Counter is a special horse for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Godolphin. The pace was a bit stop-start and I was very happy with the way he traveled and he finished off well. It is a great effort when you consider he has been off since the Melbourne Cup..”
Brett Doyle, who picked up the mount aboard runner-up Ispolini: “He travelled strongly the whole way and gave me a great spin. The race turned into a sprint but I was happy with my position throughout and he stayed on well. This was his first run over 3200m and given how well he traveled and the pace he showed – he may be better back over 2800m.”
Jockey Aurelien Lemaitre on third-placer Call the Wind: “He ran very well. He was very relaxed. I was outpaced when they quickened. And then he stayed on. He is still a bit young in his head. He only ran the first time at the age of four. He will be better with age.”
Call the Wind’s trainer, Freddie Head: “They didn’t go very quick at the beginning and when they quickened he was a bit outpaced and couldn’t go with them. He finishes well though, but there is nothing to say. He is still young, he hasn’t raced a lot. He probably would have preferred a better pace. He is still learning. He certainly hasn’t lost anything in defeat.”
Jockey Ryan Moore on fourth Gold Mount: “He was beaten by three very good horses on his first try beyond 12 furlongs (2400m). I am very happy with the run.”
Bernard Fayd’Herbe, who rode Marinaresco in fifth: “He ran a great race, running against some of the best stayers in the world. It was probably a bit too far for him. We thought, because of his breeding, that he’d see out the trip, but 2000m-2400m is probably his wheelhouse. Still a very good effort.”
Shane Foley, rider of sixth Platinum Warrior: “I think the race was too far for him. It was a big step up in distance for him. It was just too much. He needs the blinkers but we couldn’t put them on him today going two miles (3200m). They would have helped him concentrate. I think turning back in distance and with the blinkers he’ll be perfect next time. I’m looking forward to riding him again when he gets back to the US and Santa Anita. He’s won there before and he’s a nice horse.”
Jockey Oisin Murphy on Prince of Arran’s subpar ninth: “He had a beautiful trip, but he just didn’t run up to his level unfortunately. There’s nothing obvious amiss with him, but he’s a much better horse than that.”