Cross Counter could be bound for the Lexus Melbourne Cup after putting up a ruthless display of controlled front-running in the Qatar Gordon Stakes.
Stepping up in class in the Group Three contest, the Charlie Appleby-trained runner was sent off a 7-4 chance in the hands of William Buick.
The gelded son of Teofilo always looked in control, coming home four and a half lengths clear of favourite Dee Ex Bee in a new course record for the near 12-furlong trip.
Appleby, who was at Newmarket, said: “He is a horse that had a lovely, progressive profile going into the race today. We were confident we would put a race up to Dee Ex Bee.
“On the back of that, our long-term agenda was to take him to Australia for the Melbourne Cup.
“We will get him back and see how he is, but that is where his next start is likely to be. He is a gelding so he can’t run in the St Leger.”
Mark Johnston was far from disheartened by the defeat for Dee Ex Bee, believing the fast ground had counted against his St Leger contender.
The trainer said: “He just doesn’t have the gears on fast ground and was on and off the bridle and never able to get into a rhythm, while not quick enough running down the hill into the straight.
“Given some cut in the ground, I think you would see a different horse and the St Leger is still on, that’s for sure.”
Sun Maiden, a rare runner in this from the distaff division, looked unhappy on the ground throughout and was virtually pulled up by Ryan Moore in the final quarter mile.