Their respect was such that Australian-born McEvoy, the 2004 St Leger-winning rider on Rule Of Law, was the obvious choice to partner the late maturing Cross Counter to a historic win as William Buick, Appleby’s No 1 rider, could not make the light weight.
It was Buick who was in the saddle when Cross Counter finished runner-up in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York’s Ebor festival – a performance that left the gelding at the very bottom of the handicap with just eight stone to carry in the race that stops Australia.
Buick was among the first to congratulate Appleby after a clean-sweep by British horses – Cross Counter overhauled Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo and A Prince Of Arran from the yard of Charlie Fellowes late on.
It also confirmed Newmarket-based Appleby’s pre-eminence as Sheikh Mohammed’s premier trainer. Five years after Dubai ruler’s entrusted the rookie trainer to restore Godolphin’s tarnished reputation following the Mahmood Al Zarooni drug scandal, he has now added the Melbourne Cup to the Epsom Derby win that he and Buick enjoyed with Masar in early June.
“You have all these aspirations and five years ago when I was lucky enough to get the licence people asked me what are the two races you’d like to win for Godolphin and thankfully I’ve just knocked the second one out,” reflected Appleby. “It was the Derby and the Melbourne Cup so I’m just so thrilled to have been able to do that.”
Yet, while Appleby was quick to credit Sheikh Mohammed, it was the aforementioned McEvoy – basking in the glory of a third Melbourne Cup win – who recalled their early days on the A1, driving to meetings at Doncaster and York.
“Charlie was travelling head lad when I was with Godolphin in the UK and we used to head up to all the Northern tracks a lot of the time. I’ve a good photo of him leading me on Into The Dark at Doncaster one day when he won his maiden,” he said. “We had plenty of trips away and some good times on the track. Charlie’s put a lot of faith in me putting me on his horses out here and it’s great to repay that and get a big win for his stable.
“We were kicked up the highway going north a lot, it’s long drives and you’re late getting home but it was fun times. All those days have accumulated in us winning a Melbourne Cup together.”
The race was marred by a 35-meeting suspension handed to Hugh Bowman for riding offences on the runner-up, and Aidan O’Brien’s The Cliffsofmoher being put down after sustaining a serious leg injury in the early stages of a race which saw three-year-old Cross Counter held up in rear before swooping late.
As for Appleby, who is already contemplating a successful defence of the Melbourne Cup in 12 months time, he was full of praise for McEvoy. “It was an amazing ride by Kerrin, win, lose or draw I always knew I had the right man on there and he had a blank canvas to go out there with,” he said.
“We’d considered being closer to the pace but you have to let him make those split-second decisions and nine times out of ten he’s right. He’s got an astute brain and winning mentality so he knows where to find those gaps.”