Irish Leger on Cross Counter radar ahead of Melbourne defence

Godolphin stayer could head to the Curragh next

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Cross Counter could take in next month’s Comer Group International Irish St Leger en-route to defending his crown in the Melbourne Cup.

Charlie Appleby’s charge became the first British-trained winner of the Flemington showpiece last November and picked up where he left off with victory in the Dubai Gold Cup in March.

He has turned in two fine efforts in defeat since returning to Britain – finishing fourth in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last month before placing third in the Goodwood Cup, on both occasions proving no match for John Gosden’s brilliant stayer Stradivarius.

Appleby would love to get his charge back on the winning trail before he returns to Australia later in the year.

He said: “The plan is to take a look at the Irish St Leger for Cross Counter and then go on to Melbourne. It was a good, solid run at Goodwood in behind the best stayers in Britain and probably Europe.

“Stradivarius is an ultimate champion and is a very hard horse to topple. As I said to the team afterwards, he is not going to pitch up in the Irish St Leger, so let’s target a race like that where he won’t meet him again.

“The Irish St Leger has been used as a prep race for horses going to Melbourne before and it sits well in the calendar. He has come out of the Goodwood Cup well and that is the most important thing.”

Cross Counter could be joined on the trip across the Irish Sea by Pinatubo, who extended his unbeaten record to four in Tuesday’s Vintage Stakes.

Appleby has pencilled in the National Stakes on Irish St Leger day (September 15) as the likely next port of call for the 2000 Guineas favourite, but is not ruling out the possibility of giving him an extended break before running in the Dewhurst at Newmarket in October.

“He put a great performance in the Vintage and is now four from four. He has come out of the race well and we will make a decision where he goes over the next few weeks,” said Appleby.

“He is in the National Stakes and there is also the Dewhurst for him. These are the two logical races to look at it. If he does go for the National, he would not run between now and then. If he doesn’t go for that, he is likely to go straight to the Dewhurst .

“I’m sure there will be some good two-year-olds to come out, but he has got that experience and a decent level of ability already. He also has that great turn of foot, which is one of his ace cards.”

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