Big Orange won his second Goodwood Cup
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Newmarket Racecourse
Big Orange once again dictated matters from the front and showed tremendous courage to fend off his challengers and win the Group 2 Qatar Goodwood Cup at Goodwood this afternoon.
A healthy field of 14 lined up for this historic race which had an open look to it, despite the presence of last year’s winner Big Orange.
Oriental Fox was away well but Big Orange soon went to the front from Sword Fighter, Pallasator and Sheikhzayedroad
On the inside, Oriental Fox was badly impeded by Sandro Botticelli and had to be sharply snatched back, losing many lengths and did well to stay on his feet after a nasty incident.
Up front, Big Orange raced out of trouble and was chased by the only three year old Sword Fighter, with Pallasator third and then Sheikhzayedroad, while Kinema took closer order on the inside.
Racing uphill and towards the top turn, Big Orange and Jamie Spencer still led from Sword Fighter and began the run downhill into the straight.
He came under pressure with three furlongs to run and was challenged by Sword Fighter and Pallasator through the increasing gloom, with Sheikhzayedroad just behind these.
However, Big Orange fought on gamely, again demonstrating his huge heart and repelling all challengers for another hugely gutsy performance and back to back victories in the Goodwood Cup.
Pallasator stayed on gamely for second ahead of Sheikhzayedroad, with Wicklow Brave staying on late for fourth place as Sword Fighter weakened late on.
The Michael Bell trained 5 year old Big Orange, a son of Duke Of Marmalade, has now won four Group 2 prizes and having run a close fifth in last year’s Melbourne Cup, it would be no surprise to see him return to Australia this autumn, although Bell was non-committal afterwards.
A delighted Bell said: “Big Orange is a very brave horse. He gives his all. He has got as very good mind and engine and he has good limbs as well – that combination is a potent force.
“Big Orange is an enormous horse and big horses tend to mature with age. It is a bit of cliché but like a fine wine he is getting better with age. He is just a star and we are so lucky to have him. He has a massive stride and such a high cruising speed. Touch wood he is very clean limbed and loves this fast ground.
“I thought he was headed and said to Claire ‘he is beat’ but Jamie always knew he was going to win. We saw Big Orange at a breaking yard in the summer of his two-year-old career. Bill wasn’t going to send him in but this horse cantered by and we said ‘God, this horse moves well let’s give it a go’ and the rest is history.
“He was a very raw product as yearling and was a box-walker so he didn’t go to the sales as he would have made a ham sandwich. It’s great because he has now won a lot of prize money with still more to come. He won well today and won the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket by two lengths this year. Last year he won those races by a neck and half a length so you would have to say he has improved and I think the handicapper would probably say he has as well.
“In the Princess of Wales’s Stakes he beat the Grey Gatsby who is a Group One winner so our horse is a high-class horse over both a mile and a half and two miles and he likes fast ground so he travels very well.”
As for the future, Bell suggested another trip to the Melbourne Cup, in which he finished a two and a half-length fifth last year was a possibility: “Bill [Gredley, co-owner] is not so keen [on Melbourne Cup] but Tim (Gredley) is very keen and I am quite keen, although I think we need to see what weight he gets before we commit. There are other possible targets like the Canadian International or Hong Kong. There is a lot to be chewed over and Bill usually opens a good bottle of wine when we talk plans!
“The Melbourne Cup is a handicap so there is no point flying round the world if you think you’ve got too much weight. I’ve got to talk to Bill but I think we will make the entry. The Caulfield Cup is also a handicap so that is an option but we would have to see what he is rated. I doubt his rating will go up today but we will have to see what weight he is given before deciding about Melbourne. He has got the attitude to do it and I enjoy the Melbourne experience more than any other experience I have had on a racecourse so we might go back if we feel we could troubling the judge.”
Big Orange became the first horse since Double Trigger (1997 and 1998) to land back-to-back runnings of the Qatar Goodwood Cup at the Qatar Goodwood Festival this afternoon.
The popular horse, who is trained by Michael Bell, took up his customary front-running position in the early stages of the race and didn’t see another rival, with only Sir Mark Prescott’s Pallasator getting anyway near the five-year-old in the final furlong.
Jockey Jamie Spencer galvanised his mount for one final effort though and the pair stuck on gamely to record a one and a quarter length victory. Spencer explained shortly after the race that he had an armchair ride throughout.
“I had a very easy race,” said the jockey, celebrating his 13th success at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
“He was bowling along in front nicely. I was a little bit concerned that the rain had got in the ground but, other than that, there were no worries.
“They just about matched him for pace between the three furlong pole and the last furlong but, when I gave him a smack, he took off again and that did for the rest of them. Last year, he was a very good horse but this year, he’s improved again.
“The fact that he has got stronger means that he can sustain his run a lot longer. They came at him a long way out but he was very strong at the finish. He’ll be better on very fast ground – on that sort of ground he can stretch away.
“I can see no reason why he wouldn’t run a big race in the Melbourne Cup again (Big Orange was 5th at Flemington last year). A race like the Caulfield Cup wouldn’t suit him though as it’s an extremely tight track. He’s a horse that likes to gallop.
“We’ll see what Mr Gredley (Bill – co-owner), Tim (Gredley – co-owner) and the others have to say after this. They’ve got it right with him so far so I’ll leave the decisions to them. The crowd always love a horse that wears his heart on his sleeve and Big Orange is a big, strong galloper. He has got stronger since last June and is able to sustain top speed for a lot longer.
“I am not convinced this his track. Flat tracks you can really let him at it whereas here you have to slow him down for the bends. He was really tough when they came to him. They matched me for speed from the three and then in the last furlong he just outstayed him. I was going to get a lead off Colm [O’Donoghue, Sword Fighter] but Mr Gredley said let him bowl and if he is the best horse he will win and he was right.”
Trainer Sir Mark Prescott was delighted with the performance of Pallasator, who finished the one and a quarter length runner-up behind Big Orange in the Qatar Goodwood Cup at the Qatar Goodwood Festival this afternoon.
Pallasator has been called some names in the past but produced another strong staying performance under jockey Oisin Murphy and his trainer felt their race plan had been executed without a hitch.
“I thoroughly enjoyed watching it as we had this convoluted Prescott plan that came off perfectly,” said Prescott. “I’m lucky to have a jockey (Oisin Murphy) who could have carried it off perfectly too. From my point of view, it was a joy to watch. It’s just a shame that beastly thing kept on going! He’s an exam question this horse. There are always things to put right. Rosie (Jessop – who looks after Pallasator) really does deserve all the credit as she’s the only person in the world who likes him.
“He’s just a fascinating horse – if you like that sort of problem. He’s like one of those kids who throw their weight around in the pub until someone challenges them and then they back down. That’s exactly what he’s like. Just when I think I’ve worked him out, he keeps changing. I thought the winner was jolly good though.
“He’ll head back to Doncaster now. Placing is not the problem – it’s getting the best out of him. He’s been so horrible for so long but, rather like John McEnroe, everybody loves him now!”
Trainer David Simcock was also happy with Sheikhzayedroad, who finished a further head back in third place.
“I’m very happy with him, he has run a lovely race,” said the trainer. “He is consistent and that is him really. It needs to rain for him to win but at the same time I couldn’t be happier with him. He has been beaten by two good horses.
“He will go to back to Canada, whether he goes for something before that I don’t know. There are loads of options for him. The Doncaster Cup and the Lonsdale so we will just pick and choose.”