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Last year’s winner Cross Counter has to overcome a steep rise in weight if he is to defend his title in the Group 1 $8m Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday.

Cross Counter, above, is set to defend his Melbourne Cup title at Flemington. Photo by Ultimate Racing Photos.

Cross Counter, above, is set to defend his Melbourne Cup title at Flemington. Photo by Ultimate Racing Photos.

Cross Counter only carried 51kg to victory in the 2018 Melbourne Cup but will have to lump 57.5kg around the famous two mile Flemington course tomorrow.

Kerrin McEvoy steered the Charlie Appleby trained Cross Counter to victory twelve months ago after settling at the tail of the pack after jumping from barrier nineteen in the twenty-four field.

English jockey William Buick takes over the reins this year and the riding tactics will be completely different after Cross Counter drew in close at gate five.

Appleby’s stable representative who is looking after Cross Counter at the Werribee Quarantine  centre, Chris Connett said that it is very likely that Buick will take advantage of the good barrier and settle the defending champion much closer to the pace.

“I don’t think he has to be dropped all the way out like he was last year when there wasn’t much option but to go back from his wide gate,” Connett said.

“This year William has a few more options to be a bit more handy.”

“It would probably be harder to carry that extra weight and do what he did, but William will make his mind up when they jump.”

Connett said that Cross Counter has travelled down from the Northern Hemisphere without a problem and is in top order to defend his Melbourne Cup title.

“He’s awesome, he’s travelled down beautifully. He’s really bright, really keen, I can’t wait for Tuesday,” Connett said.

“His work’s been really solid and the horses he’s been working with are nice horses, we couldn’t be happier with the way he’s progressed.

“There’s slightly more pressure on him being the defending champ. But in another way there’s less pressure because he’s not had a week standing in the box like he did last year after he had a little mishap.”

“All the signs are there that he’s just about primed for the day.”

Cross Counter has had four runs since taking the 2018 Melbourne Cup back to Appleby’s Newmarket stables in England for a win , a third and two fourth placings.

Cross Counter was quickly back in the winner’s stall after his Melbourne Cup victory with a win in the Group 2 AED 1.5m dirham Dubai Gold Cup (3200m) at Meydan in Dubai on March while his latest outing saw him finish fourth in the Group 1 €600,000 Irish St. Leger (1 mile, 6 furlongs) at the Curragh in Ireland on September 15.

Betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for the 2019 Melbourne Cup has Cross Counter marked at $14 while the Chris Waller trained Finche at $8 has taken over favouritism from Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace who has drifted out to $8.50.

Betting for the 2019 Melbourne Cup at Ladbrokes.com.au: $8 Finche, $8.50 Mer De Glace, $9.50 Constantinople. $12 Vow And Declare, $14 Cross Counter, Il Paradiso, $15 Surprise Baby, $19 Magic Wand, Prince Of Arran, $20 Downdraft, $21 Latrobe, Mustajeer, Southern France, Raymond Tusk, $26 Master Of Reality, $31 Youngstar, $34 Mirage Dancer, $41 Hunting Horn, Twilight Payment, $71 The Chosen One, Steel Prince, $101 Rostropovich, Sound, $126 Neufbosc.

About The Author

Mark Mazzaglia

Mark is a passionate journalist with a life-time involvement in the racing industry. He spent many years as an analyst and form expert at the Courier Mail and also has hands-on experience working with some of Queensland’s top trainers.