Doyle joy after Big Orange pips Gold Cup rival

Big Orange ridden by jockey James Doyle (left) battles with Order Of St George ridden by Ryan Moore on the way to winning the Gold Cup during day three of Royal Ascot.Big Orange ridden by jockey James Doyle (left) battles with Order Of St George ridden by Ryan Moore on the way to winning the Gold Cup during day three of Royal Ascot.
Big Orange ridden by jockey James Doyle (left) battles with Order Of St George ridden by Ryan Moore on the way to winning the Gold Cup during day three of Royal Ascot.
ROYAL Ascot's race of the week produced the finish of the week after Big Orange won the Gold Cup in an epic finish worthy of a historic race first staged in 1807.

James Doyle’s mount – who was in the vanguard for most of the two-and-a-half mile marathon before bursting clear – clung on to hold off defending champion Order Of St George after a pulsating stride-for-stride battle between two equine warriors stretching every last sinew.

Another stride and the former winner would almost certainly have pipped Big Orange after charging down the home straight with a withering late run under Ryan Moore, with last year’s St Leger winner Harbour Law third.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Yet, while racegoers awaited the photo-finish, Doyle, 29, was already celebrating the win of his life on a horse that he had never previously ridden.

He only got the call-up on Tuesday after Frankie Dettori – the intended jockey – was ruled out with injury and he was quick to credit his sidelined colleague for providing all that he needed to know about the heroic six-year-old.

“Blimey, he’s as tough as they get,” said Doyle who could not stop chatting when he received his trophy from the Queen.

“Full credit to everyone. It was great to get the call-up. Unfortunately Frankie couldn’t have got the injury at a worse time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Frankie’s a real star. He called me a couple of nights ago and I was probably on the phone for about 20 minutes getting instructions and him telling me all about the horse. He was spot on.

“You can’t do it without the help of everyone. Frankie said to me, ‘whatever you do, don’t interfere with him’. He knows what speed he wants to go at and you just sit as a passenger.

“I had Frankie’s voice in my head as I just eased him out and let him go to the front and the rest was history.

“He got a little bit lonely. I wish the second horse had joined me a bit earlier and I think he’d have won by further then.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Big Orange is trained by Michael Bell, who said the champion will now bid for a third successive win in the Goodwood Cup on August 3.

The gelding has run in the last two renewals of the Melbourne Cup, finishing fifth and 10th, but a third trip to Australia was immediately ruled out by winning owner Bill Gredley, whose User Friendly won the Epsom Oaks and St Leger 25 years ago under Yorkshire riding legend George Duffield.

“I get quite a bit of fan mail for him, and it’s great to have a horse the public love,” said Gredley, who grew up in London’s East End.

“I don’t know what he will go on to do in the future, but it can’t get much better than winning the Gold Cup at Ascot.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The victory for Big Orange – unplaced in last year’s Melbourne Cup – completed a redemptive week for Doyle who had won Tuesday’s St James’s Palace Stakes, a one-mile championship race for three-year-old colts, on Barney Roy for Richard Hannon.

Though he is retained by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, he has been sidelined by Saeed bin Suroor, one of the Dubai ruler’s main trainers, to the perplexion of many in racing.

While Doyle has kept his own counsel and allowed his riding to do the talking while making the most of the big-race opportunities still afforded to him by supportive trainers, it explains why Oisin Murphy partnered the Bin Suroor-trained Benbatl to victory in the Hampton Court Stakes.

Fifth in the Epsom Derby after a far from clear passage, Murphy, 21, said afterwards that the horse would be better over a shorter trip and his judgment was more than vindicated.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

His ecstatic celebration – he repeatedly punched the air in delight after passing the post – showed what a first Royal Ascot winner meant to the former champion apprentice, who is the rising star of Flat racing.

“I don’t celebrate very often, but that one meant the world to me,” said the jockey whose Gold Cup mount Simple Verse was last of the 14 runners.

“It builds up in your mind and you’re just trying to get it out of the way and the monkey off your back. It’s fantastic to do it.

“I’m very fortunate to have a job with Sheikh Fahad and Qatar, but Saeed has been very good to me as well and to reward him with a Royal Ascot winner is fantastic. We had the hood off him and fair play to Saeed and everyone at home, they got him here in top order and he won with a bit in hand.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He travelled like the best horse in the race because he was the best horse in the race.”

Bin Suroor nominated the Champion Stakes back at Ascot in October as a potential long-term target.

He said: “When he won first time at Doncaster we thought this was a horse for big races. He finished fifth in the Derby and we thought the mile and a quarter would be better for him.

“He’s a nice horse for the future and Oisin is a jockey for the future. He’s done a really good job for us in Dubai and here, and we’re going to use him more in the future.”