Cross Counter given 57.5kg for Cup defence

Godolphin stayer Cross Counter will defend his Melbourne Cup crown.
Cross Counter will have 57.5kg as he tries to win the Melbourne Cup for the second year in a row.

Defending champion Cross Counter has been given 57.5kg for his attempt at a rare Melbourne Cup double.

Prepared by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin, Cross Counter became the first English-trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup last year, storming home in the 3200m handicap at Flemington as a northern hemisphere three-year-old.

Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter announced the weights for this year’s $8 million Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, with Cross Counter rising 6.5kg on last year.

His 57.5kg is 0.5kg less than the Aidan O’Brien-trained 2018 English St Leger winner Kew Gardens who heads the weights with 58kg.

Avilius also has 57.5kg while star Japanese mare Lys Gracieux has been given 57kg.

If successful, Cross Counter would become the first northern hemisphere-trained horse to win the Cup twice and would join Archer (1861, 1862), Rain Lover (1968, 1969) Think Big (1974, 1975) and Makybe Diva (2003, 2004, 2005) as back-to-back winners.

“I hope it’s a sporting challenge for them,” Carpenter said of Cross Counter’s bid.

“For me it’s a sporting weight. We understand the record in the modern era shows it’s very hard for horses at the top of the weights in the Melbourne Cup to give weight and win, although we’ve seen horses like Criterion (third in 2015 with 57.5kg) and others be very competitive.

“Last year Cross Counter beat Marmelo who carried 56 kilos, so 1.5kg more than that for Cross Counter I think is a weight which he A, is going to be competitive with and B, I think it can be a winning weight for him.”

Cross Counter formed part of a trifecta for English-trained horses in 2018, beating Marmelo and Prince Of Arran.

Those three are all expected to make to trip again, with Marmelo given 56kg while Prince Of Arran has 53kg.

Ebor Handicap winner Mustajeer was the $15 Melbourne Cup favourite on Tuesday after being allocated 55kg while Cross Counter, Finche (54kg), Marmelo and Constantinople (52.5kg) are on the next line at $18.

Handicaps for the $5 million Caulfield Cup were also released, with the James Cummings-trained stablemates Hartnell and Avilius heading the weights with 58kg.

With differing topweights for the two Cups, given Kew Gardens is not nominated for the Caulfield Cup, the majority of dual entries have received 0.5kg less in the Melbourne Cup than Caulfield Cup.