Cross Counter is striving to achieve what no international horse has before but connections are bullish about the stayer’s prospects of becoming a dual Melbourne Cup winner.
The Charlie Appleby-trained Cross Counter stormed to victory last year at Flemington as a northern hemisphere three-year-old and the Godolphin-owned gelding is back 12 months later to try to join a select list to have won the race more than once.
Only five horses in the Cup’s 158-year history have achieved the feat including Makybe Diva with her three-consecutive between 2003-2005.
“It would be phenomenal,” Appleby’s travelling foreman Chris Connett said.
“I think the last was Makybe Diva and she was an absolute superstar. If we can get in and around that kind of stardom it would be an amazing feat.
“It’s a hard race to win but we think we’ve got the best horse in the race, so we’ll take our chance.
“He’s a bigger, stronger horse than last year.
“Last year he was a tall, angular type but he’s a more furnished horse this year.”
Cross Counter will have to be better.
He carried 51kg in 2018 but returns as topweight on Tuesday, rising to 57.5kg.
“The weight is a big chunk up from last year but we look at the race and the weights are quite compressed,” Connett said.
“The horse has really thrived since he’s been down here in Australia this year and you’ve got to look at it with the top weight we’re classed as the best horse in the race.”
Cross Counter is among 11 northern hemisphere-trained runners in the 24 horse field with champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien starting three runners – Hunting Horn, Magic Wand, Il Paradiso – as he bids to claim his first Melbourne Cup.
O’Brien’s son Joseph is after his second Cup following Rekindling’s success two years ago and the young Irish trainer has four runners – Master Of Reality, Latrobe, Twilight Payment and Downdraft who clinched his spot by winning Saturday’s Hotham Stakes.
Frankie Dettori flies in to ride Master Of Reality, as the superstar jockey tries to win the Melbourne Cup he craves at his 17th attempt.
English trainer Charlie Fellowes is back for a second attempt with popular horse Prince Of Arran who was third last year and secured his spot in this year’s Cup when he won the Geelong Cup 10 days ago.
He believes Prince Of Arran has had a better preparation for the race this time.
“He seems to be peaking at the right time and he looks a picture,” Fellowes said.
Raymond Tusk is another of the European challenge but it is Caulfield Cup-winning Japanese horse Mer De Glace who is the $6.50 favourite to give Japan, and Australian jockey Damian Lane, a clean sweep of Melbourne’s three feature races, with Lys Gracieux winning the Cox Plate.
Mer De Glace steps up to 3200m for the first time after his brilliant win at Caulfield over 2400m.
“I’m really hoping he can get over the distance. I’m believing in the jockey and the horse,” trainer Hisashi Shimizu said.