Dubai Gold Cup preview: Godolphin duo duke it out as Ispolini tries to Cross Counter in MeydanPublished on: March 27, 2019Author: Jamie Clark
Dubai World Cup night at Meydan this Saturday has taken on extra significance.
As if this prestigious evening of international Flat racing wasn’t exciting enough already, the 2m Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup (12:50) is now a qualifying race for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million bonus.
Stradivarius won that last year after successes in the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup at the Ebor Festival. Achieving it is a lot easier than it sounds.
Major owners Godolphin won the first two runnings of the Dubai Gold Cup, and their retained trainer Charlie Appleby has a couple of leading contenders this year in Cross Counter and Ispolini.
Both are four-year-old geldings that are unexposed as stayers and have progressive profiles. That makes it tough to choose between them, but it’s Cross Counter who has leading form claims and tops official figures.
After going well in a couple of Ascot handicaps, Cross Counter smashed the course record for 1m 4f at Glorious Goodwood when leaving Epsom Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee for dead in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes.
He was value for tons more than the winning margin of 4 1/2 lengths, as the son of Teofilo was eased close home after putting the race to bed.
In among Classic horses last season
While he was then held a head in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York by another stable companion Old Persian, Cross Counter was 1 1/2 lengths in front of subsequent St Leger hero Kew Gardens.
That made him a major fancy for the Melbourne Cup. Cross Counter duly delivered on that, becoming the first British trained winner of Australia’s race that stops a nation.
It was all the more impressive because he got hampered early on, and was then short of room and needed switching out wide to deliver a challenge, but still won going away by a length.
This was a performance from Cross Counter that you can upgrade, given how the race panned out and despite the fact he still won.
His victory Down Under in one of the biggest staying Flat handicaps on the planet, alongside back form from his three-year-old campaign, gives Cross Counter major claims here and he’s a worthy 13/8 favourite with Unibet.
Given that four-year-olds get 6lb from their elders here, it puts him 4lb and upwards clear of the field on adjusted ratings. Cross Counter thus looks the one to be on if turning up in similar shape after a winter break.
Main danger Ispolini a forecast fancy
Ispolini also has lots to offer for the same connections, but hasn’t yet achieved the same level of form as his stablemate.
While this son of Dubawi lacks a win at the trip, he absolutely bolted up in a Group 3 contest at this venue on his second start over 1m 6f.
Red Galileo, who lines up again for the owners here, was left toiling in his wake and beaten 10 1/2 lengths.
Ispolini clearly has nothing to fear from that rival and the way he finished off his course victory suggests the step up holds no fears.
Prior to his group success, he won a handicap and was second in another, so he’s clearly wintered well at Meydan.
Ispolini was also an unlucky short-head second on his first start in a Group 3 at Sandown last season before coming fourth in two other outings at that level.
There is obviously more to come from him and, at 11/4 with Paddy Power, he is the obvious alternative to Cross Counter if that one does need the run.
A reverse forecast is a potential option for punters to explore with this pair here.
Call The Wind also has claims
French raider Call The Wind is another Group 1 winner in the line-up and has proven rather than potential stamina.
Trained by Freddy Head, this five-year-old Frankel gelding showed progressive form in a number of conditions contests throughout last season before peaking in the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp’s Arc de Triomphe meeting.
That was a first try at 2m 4f for Call The Wind and he stayed on gamely when under plenty of pressure inside the final furlong to score by over a length.
A prep run when second over an inadequate trip on the all-weather at Chantilly is something he should strip fitter for now pitched back into elite company.
The clear negative with Call The Wind is he’s giving that weight away to the four-year-old Godolphin duo, and that makes it tough for him.
If either Cross Counter or Ispolini do disappoint though, then he is the one most likely to capitalise on that at 4/1 with Ladbrokes.
The French do have a good record in the race with Vazirabad winning the Dubai Gold Cup in each of the last three years prior to this.
Prince Of Arran an each-way or place punt
As the first three in the betting are reasonably short, and over half the remainder of the field are 20/1 or bigger, Melbourne Cup third Prince Of Arran looks the best each-way angle.
He meets Cross Counter, who beat him by three lengths at Flemington, off 1lb worse terms here, but on the pick of his form cannot be discounted from making the frame.
This Charlie Fellowes trained six-year-old has run some big races in major handicaps. When trying to give 5lb to 2017 Cesarewitch hero Withhold in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle, Prince Of Arran was second.
He was also a close-up third in the Herbert Power at Caulfield on his first start Down Under and then won the Group 3 Lexus at Flemington over 1m 4f.
If there is one concern about Prince Of Arran, it’s that he was only eighth in this race 12 months ago. While he never got nearer enough to challenge Vazirabad, he did run on in the latter stages and was beaten 5 3/4 lengths.
As he came on for his first run at Meydan last season, having fewer preps for a tilt back up over the 2m trip might be the key to him.
Odds of 16/1 with 888Sport represent value in a race where the profiles of many others are unattractive.
OpenOdds’ 2019 Meydan Gold Cup shortlist
✮✮✮✮✮ Cross Counter
✮✮✮✮✰ Call The Wind