MICHAEL BELL likened Big Orange to a slowly maturing wine after his Melbourne Cup contender made all to land the prestigious Qatar Goodwood Cup.
The first horse to win successive renewals of this two-mile marathon since Mark Johnston’s Double Trigger prevailed for Yorkshire in 1997 and 1998, the favourite enjoyed a vintage ride from Jamie Spencer.
Out of trouble at the head of affairs, Spencer’s mount was perfectly positioned to repel his many challengers in the home straight – not least second-placed Pallasator and third-home Sheikhzayedroad – and reward favourite backers.
A far from disgraced fifth in last year’s Melbourne Cup, a return trip to Australia is on the cards for the five-year-old colt who was recording back-to-back wins following his Princess of Wales’s Stakes success at Newmarket earlier this month over The Grey Gatsby from the Hambleton yard of Kevin Ryan.
“Big Orange is a very brave horse. He gives his all. He has got a very good mind and engine and he has good limbs as well – that combination is a potent force,” said a delighted Bell.
“Big Orange is an enormous horse and big horses tend to mature with age. It is a bit of a 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, 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 Gredley (co-owner) wasn’t going to send him in but this horse cantered by and we said ‘This horse moves well, let’s give it a go’ and the rest is history.
“He was a very raw product as a 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.
“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 is a possibility.
“Bill is not so keen but I am quite keen, although I think we need to see what weight he gets before we commit,” he said. “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.”
Johnston, meanwhile, recorded a one-two-three courtesy of Bear Valley, Montataire and Teofonic in the Telegraph Nursery.
The Middleham trainer’s third winner of the week at Glorious Goodwood, Johnston was fulsome in his praise of winning jockey James McDonald as the New Zealand-born rider prepares to return Down Under following a successful stint in this country.
Johnston, registering his 69th Glorious Goodwood success, said: “It’s a shame they can’t all win, but at the same time, that is why we come here as you throw a lot of darts at the board because you can never be sure.
“James has been really great. He suits me down to the ground as he is a completely uncomplicated jockey. I don’t give any jockey’s instructions and he likes that. He has done really well for us.”
David Griffiths hopes history will repeat itself when battle-hardened Take Cover lines up in today’s Qatar King George Stakes, the day four highlight at Goodwood.
Take Cover struck gold in the 2014 renewal, the biggest win in the career of the Bawtry trainer, and the gelding was beaten just a head by Muthmir 12 months ago.
Griffiths is confident Take Cover can bounce back from a no-show in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
“Ascot was a wash-out. The ground was too soft and he wasn’t particularly well drawn,” he said last night. “We’ve freshened him up a bit since then and he seems in great form with himself.
“He obviously likes the track, hopefully he’ll get his ground and I’m delighted with the draw (stall 11), so he ticks most of the boxes.
“He might be a nine-year-old, but he’s lightly raced, he doesn’t have many miles on the clock and he’s really bouncing at the moment.
“I would say he has a better-than-average chance and we’re going there nice and confident, or as confident as you can be going into a Group Two.”
Next month’s Ladbrokes St Leger is off the agenda for Sir Michael Stoute’s Ulysses, winner of the BeringIce Gordon Stakes at Goodwood on Tuesday.
Even though the Gordon Stakes is a proven trial for the Doncaster Classic, Stoute still rues the colt’s luckless run in last month’s Epsom Derby.
“He got badly buffeted and knocked around at Epsom, which didn’t do him much good, so we just backed off him and brought him along smoothly for this,” said the trainer.
“He’ll go 10 or 12 (furlongs). We wouldn’t be going to the Leger.”
Group One winner Limato could be supplemented for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York’s Ebor festival, trainer Henry Candy disclosed at Goodwood yesterday.
Victorious over six furlongs in Newmarket’s Darley July Cup earlier this month under an inspired and in-form Harry Bentley, Candy believes his versatile stable star has the speed and scope to handle five furlongs.
“We might possibly consider supplementing for the Nunthorpe or we might go completely the other end of the scale and come here (Goodwood) for the Celebration Mile,” he said.
“I know that may not make a lot of sense to anyone, but he is capable of both I think.”