Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed was ‘behind Melbourne Cup victory plan’ of Cross Counter, says winning trainer Charlie Appleby

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Kerrin McEvoy leads Cross Counter to Melbourne Cup glory. (AFP)
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Updated 07 November 2018
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Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed was ‘behind Melbourne Cup victory plan’ of Cross Counter, says winning trainer Charlie Appleby

  • Ruler of Dubai was instrumental in the plan that saw Cross Counter claim Godolphin's first ever Melbourne Cup victory.
  • Appleby and McEvoy pay tribute to the team behind the four-year-old stayer.

LONDON: Charlie Appleby has revealed that Sheikh Mohammed, ruler of Dubai, was key in the planning that resulted in Cross Counter winning Godolphin’s 
first Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.
The idea that Sheikh Mohammed is heavily involved in the Dubai-based stable is nothing new — passionate about horses and the team, he is known as a hands-on leader of the “Boys in Blue.” But having seen the English stayer, ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, reach the winning post ahead of an impressive field at Flemington race track, the winning trainer revealed that Sheikh Mohammed had been involved in the planning of Cross Counter’s Cup campaign right from the start.
“His Highness could see a trend developing where young improving stayers from Europe would be ideally suited by the Melbourne Cup, and Cross Counter fitted that description perfectly,” Appleby said a day after the triumph.
“The plan was a good one, and despite heavy rain early in the day, it all went well. The horse is a very good stayer, with a mature mind for his age and experience,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed had been trying for 30 years to win “the race that stops a nation,” with Faithful Son Godolphin’s first runner 20 years ago. 
The famous stable has won almost every big race going but the Melbourne Cup had continued to elude them.
Appleby admitted on Tuesday that winning the race for the Dubai outfit ticked off a box on his bucket list, but while the English trainer was able to bask in the glory of victory, he was later also quick to praise his boss and the team.
“This is all for Sheikh Mohammed and the royal family and 
Godolphin, and for me to say thank you for giving me this opportunity,” he said.
“I’m just in the very fortunate position to have a great team behind me.”

Winning trainer Appleby said the win ticked of an "item on his bucket list." 


It was a great run by the horse and McEvoy. They had settled among the last few and stayed there until McEvoy called on him at the 800m.
Appleby said that he thought they had perhaps left themselves too much to do.
“When I saw him down the back I thought he had to do a lot,” the trainer said.
“And when he was making his run, I thought turning in that if he finds the gap then this horse has got the gears to pick up.”
McEvoy, like Appleby, was quick to praise Sheikh Mohammed. The win gave the Australian his third Cup win, but it was Sheikh Mohammed who gave him his first chance in the race, putting him on Beekeeper who finished third in 2002, and that ride led to McEvoy joining Godolphin.
“It’s such a huge thrill to win this for Sheikh Mohammed, to repay the faith that he showed in me,” McEvoy said.
The win Down Under was only Cross Counter’s eighth run and it came only 11 months after his debut.
But it was his win in an Ascot in a three-year-old handicap in July that made Melbourne a possibility and it was a strategy that did not disappoint.
Cross Counter’s plans for 2019 will be formulated once he gets back to Dubai for his winter break.


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”