Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter is on course to clash with Stradivarius in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
The Charlie Appleby-trained four-year-old beat Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo in a famous finish to the ‘race that stops a nation’ last November, and followed up in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March.
Appleby supervised his Teofilo gelding in work on Saturday morning, and said: “I was pleased with that. His preparation has gone well, and the plan is to head to the Ascot Gold Cup.
“It’s going to be a step up in trip, but on the evidence of what we saw on his last start there is no reason why it shouldn’t suit – and potentially see a bit more improvement to come.”
The victory at Meydan means Cross Counter is eligible to bid for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million – a bonus claimed last year by Stradivarius.
After winning one of eight qualifying races, the huge pot can be secured if a horse lands the Gold Cup at Ascot, the Goodwood Cup and finally the Lonsdale Cup at York.
Appleby said: “If he sees it (trip) out, then the focus will be those Cup races – at Goodwood, then on to York. If he doesn’t, then we could potentially look at having another crack at the Melbourne Cup.
“They all had a break after World Cup Night, and we have been building him up since he arrived back in the UK. I’m confident going straight to Ascot with him, because we saw what he can do off a long lay-off in Dubai in the Gold Cup there on his first start back.
“We felt we left him a little bit short that night, and his class prevailed in the end. He is taking on proper staying horses now, but the step up in trip should seek out a bit more improvement.”