Two British-trained runners have entered Melbourne Cup contention Sunday, including past champion Cross Counter who battled into third in the Group 3 Coral Henry II Stakes (3264m).
Trainer Andrew Balding says his intention for Dashing Willoughby is to target this year’s Melbourne Cup after his son of Nathaniel won the race by 1.25 lengths under Oisin Murphy.
Dashing Willoughby settled third in the five-horse field and showed an impressive turn of foot to fend off fellow four-year-old Spanish Mission, whose ownership group has the long-term plan of targeting the 2021 Melbourne Cup.
2018 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter and $2.30 favourite raced flatly after his third placing in the G1 Ascot Gold Cup (4014m) last month, Sunday’s third placing which had him more than 12 lengths behind Dashing Willoughby was arguably the worst performance of his career.
“It was really good, we made a bit of a mess of it last year running him too many times,” Balding told Sporting Life, referring to Dashing Willoughby’s seven-start three-year-old season.
“These stayers put their heart and soul into the races and they take a lot out of themselves. I probably hadn’t appreciated that with him last year and we probably went to the well a couple of times too many.
“Just with a bit of gap between his races seems to really suit him and he was obviously in good form today.”
Dashing Willoughby may look to the G1 Qatar Goodwood Cup (3219m) for his next start, placing him on a collision course with Stradivarius, who will be shooting for a fourth straight win in the race, but the gap between runs may force Balding to send his runner to the G2 Lonsdale Cup (3270m) at York.
“Obviously we will have a look at Goodwood, but the likelihood is that we will wait for the Lonsdale and go there,” Balding said.
“He has done enough today to get in a Melbourne Cup if that is a goer in the autumn. That will be very much his goal.”