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Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Cross Counter out to state Melbourne Cup case in Great Voltigeur

Cross Counter (William Buick) wins the Gordon Stakes from Dee Ex BeeGoodwood 4.8.18 Pic: Edward Whitaker
1 of 1

3.00 York
Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes | G2 | 1m4f | 3yo | ITV1/RUK

Godolphin’s Cross Counter puts his Melbourne Cup credentials on the line when he faces eight rivals, including Group 1 winner Kew Gardens, in a competitive renewal of the traditional St Leger trial.

A 16-1 chance for the Melbourne Cup, Cross Counter lacks the right qualifications to run in the final domestic Classic of the season as he is a gelding.

However, the son of Teofilo could yet join his stablemate Hamada on the plane down under if he backs up his latest win in the Group 2 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood in a course record time.

Trainer Charlie Appleby, who also runs Group 2 winner Old Persian, said: “Cross Counter must have a great chance of winning the Voltigeur, though we respect plenty of others in a strong field. He showed his potential last start, and I feel he remains on an upward curve.”

Old Persian also lines up for Appleby in the Godolphin blue
Old Persian has to carry a 3lb penalty for winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, following which he ran in the Irish Derby just a week later finishing sixth to Latrobe.

“Put a line through his last run,” Appleby advised. “Backing up was quick enough, but the tactics were not what we expected either, and he wasn’t suited,” he added.

Can Kew Gardens defy penalty?

Penalised runners have struggled in this over the years and most of those had a 3lb extra burden but Kew Gardens has the added ask of having 5lb extra to carry after his Group 1 win in France last time.

The son of Galileo heads four runners from the Aidan O'Brien stable who have won this three times, most recently with the unpenalised Idaho two years ago.

That winner then went on to be unseated in the St Leger, a race that Kew Gardens is currently ante-post favourite for and looks certain to be thereabouts following his his defeat of Neufbosc and Dee Ex Bee in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp.

Kew Gardens: one of five declared for the St Leger by Aidan O'Brien
O'Brien also fields The Pentagon who is dropped in class after runs in the English (eighth) and Irish (fifth) Derbies. Likely pace angles Nelson and Zabriskie make up the Ballydoyle quartet.

He said: "Kew Gardens has done very well this season. His last run was in France and the plan was to head on to the King George after that but he just wasn't 100 per cent in the lead up to the race.

"We decided the best option was to give it a miss and give him a little break. He seems in good form since and this looked a nice race for him. I'm happy with him now.

"The Pentagon ran a lovely race in the Irish Derby and stayed on nicely there. We gave him a nice break after that and he is just ready to start back now. I would imagine he will come forward nicely for the run."

Easterby home win?

You have to go back to 2002 to find a fancied Tim Easterby runner in the Voltigeur which was none other than subsequent St Leger winner Bollin Eric. The local trainer is now on the same trail with Wells Farhh Go.

A son of Farhh, as his name suggests, the three-year-old served it up to the big Newmarket stables when running away with the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy on the opening day of the July festival last month.

Wells Farhh Go: Tim Easterby's Classic hope could land a blow for the home team

As he made all the running that day, Wells Farhh Go may well be prominent again back slightly in trip but Easterby wouldn't swap him.

He said: "Wells Farhh Go is a grand type who we've been targeting the St Leger with ever since last year. It was good to firm at Newmarket when he won and I expect him to like the surface at York which will be good rather than the fast we had in the middle of summer. Whatever happens he won't be stopping at the finish and the plan is to go to the St Leger along the proper route."


What the others say

John Gosden, trainer of Sevenna Star
We've freshened him up since he finished a respectable tenth in the Epsom Derby and he's been working nicely at home. It looks a tough heat and a shower or two would have helped his chances.

Peter Chapple-Hyam, trainer of M C Muldoon
He's been working well at home and will get the trip I just hope the ground isn't too quick for him.


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Cross Counter must have a great chance of winning the Voltigeur, though we respect plenty of others
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