The annual jockey merry-go-round that has become a tradition with Australia’s iconic Melbourne Cup is in full swing. Godolphin have surprised by booking James Doyle for Cross Counter in the A$8m handicap on Tuesday, November 5, instead of Kerrin McEvoy, who rode the gelding to a stunning victory at Flemington last year.
Also, in the aftermath of the Caulfield Cup, the Hayes, Hayes & Dabernig training partnership have snapped up Glen Boss — Makybe Diva’s rider for her Melbourne Cup treble in 2003-5 — to partner former Ballydoyle inmate Constantinople, who finished a luckless fourth for Luke Nolen in Saturday’s incident-packed feature.
Doyle, who has never ridden in the Melbourne Cup, was aboard another key Godolphin contender, Ispolini, when that gelding won the German St Leger at Dortmund on September 15. Ispolini now becomes the Cup mount of William Buick, who will fly in from the Breeders’ Cup meeting in California less than three days earlier.
McEvoy, a triple Melbourne Cup-winning jockey, has been linked with Finche, who carries the Prince Khalid Abdulla colours of his sire, Frankel. The gelding finished a solid fifth for Michael Walker from a wide draw in the Caulfield Cup in Melbourne — McEvoy was riding (Redzel, 8th) in The Everest in Sydney.
These are just the preliminary switches as the countdown to the big two-miler enters its final two weeks. There are certain to be more. The media scrutiny of would-be runners will intensify in the build up, so too will discussions on who is going to win.
Trainer Charlie Appleby, responsible for Cross Counter and Ispolini, said he had been receiving good reports about his two runners. “They worked independently at Werribee on Saturday, and the plan is for them to work together in a stronger gallop next weekend.
“James Doyle and William Buick are our retained jockeys, and we will stick with them for Melbourne. Cross Counter carried 51kg (8st) last year and Kerrin, who has ridden for Godolphin over many years, was a logical choice and did a great job for us. James will go out to Australia a week before the Cup, while William will arrive the day before the race, coming from America,” Appleby explained.
Cross Counter is set to carry top weight of 57.5kg (9st 1lb) this year. The original top weight, Kew Gardens, with 58kg (9st 2lb), did not make the trip to Melbourne, instead winning Saturday’s British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot, defeating Stradivarius by a nose.
Doyle has ridden Cross Counter twice — for fourth in the Ascot Gold Cup in June and third in the Goodwood Cup in July. Both races were won by Stradivarius.