Mounting Yard | Melbourne Cup Carnival 2018

Charlie Appleby will return to the Lexus Melbourne Cup with defending champion Cross Counter and stablemate Ispolini

Cross Counter, Ispolini on track for Lexus Melbourne Cup

Cross Counter remains on course for the defence of his Lexus Melbourne Cup crown despite suffering a defeat in the Irish St Leger.


Sent off the 6-4 favourite for the all-aged Curragh Classic, Godolphin’s star British stayer plugged on into fourth behind 10-1 shot Search For A Song in a race run at a steady early pace.


The winner, trained by Dermot Weld, is not entered in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.


Aidan O’Brien’s Kew Gardens, handed top weight of 58kg for the Flemington thriller on November 5, flew home off the unsuitable gallop to finish second under Ryan Moore.


Stablemate Southern France, due to join Ciaron Maher and David Eustace when he arrives in Australia, finished third in the 2,800m contest.


The Lloyd Williams-owned trio of Master Of Reality, Latrobe and Twilight Payment, all trained by Melbourne Cup-winner Joseph O’Brien, controlled the early pace until Search For a Song made a telling mid-race move with 1,600m still to run. They eventually faded into fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.


It was an unsatisfactory race for such a prestigious prize but Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby was far from downbeat as he prepared to send Cross Counter into quarantine. He famously stormed down the outside to become the first British winner of the Lexus Melbourne Cup last spring and he has been allotted 57.5kg in this year’s race.


Charlie Appleby said: “Cross Counter put up a pleasing effort. It was a bit of a messy race but he produced another solid performance and we can look forward to seeing him try to defend his crown at Flemington.”


Search For A Song was an apt winner of the Irish St Leger on a day when more than $2 million was raised for Cancer Trials Ireland.


His trainer Weld had a long association with jockey Pat Smullen, currently battling pancreatic cancer, who was the driving force behind the fundraising efforts.


Smullen rode in five Melbourne Cups, all on horses trained by Weld. He finished second behind Makybe Diva on Vinnie Roe in 2004 having already won four Irish St Legers on the same horse.


Weld said: “It’s a very special win on a very special and emotional day. I’m very proud of our industry the way we are supporting Pat Smullen and cancer research.


“The Irish St Leger has been a very special race for me over the years and it’s the eighth time I’ve won it.


“Search For A Song is, potentially, a really high-class stayer. The world is her oyster next year and there is huge improvement in this filly. She loves fast ground and, hopefully, she will make into a lovely four-year-old.”


Search For A Song might not be in this year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup but, given Weld’s record in the race, there must be a chance she will turn up at Flemington in 2020.


He was successful with Vintage Crop in 1993 and the veteran Irish trainer has never been afraid to campaign his horses in all corners of the globe.


Appleby is another truly international trainer. He might have been out of luck in the Irish St Leger but he landed the German version of the Classic with his other Lexus Melbourne Cup hope Ispolini.


The five-year-old had finished second behind stablemate Cross Counter in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March. He had been off the track since finishing fourth behind top British stayer Stradivarius in the Yorkshire Cup in May.


James Doyle sent him to the front a furlong out in the Dortmund contest and the pair held off Djukon by a neck. Appleby was delighted with his Melbourne prep run.


He said: “Ispolini probably got to the front a bit too soon but he has stuck to his guns well. It was a pleasing performance and he has hopefully now booked his ticket to Australia for the Melbourne Cup.”