The highlight of the whole Royal Meeting 2017 was undoubtedly the staying championship of the week, Thursday’s G1 Gold Cup.
The race was widely expected beforehand to be won by Aidan O’Brien’s 2016 winner Order Of St George, but the popular jet-setter Big Orange, trained by Michael Bell, produced the performance of his career to win the feature race at 5/1.
Jockey James Doyle, on board the son of Duke Of Marmalade for the first time, set superb fractions in a top class front-running performance and sent his mount two lengths clear a furlong from home. Ryan Moore gave chase on the race favourite, and under Moore’s strong urgings the two horses battled to a thrilling finish in which Big Orange beat the Aidan O’Brien-trained five-year-old by a short-head.
It was a brave performance by the 5/1 second favourite Big Orange, a runner who had so often previously been the “nearly horse”.
“He’s just absolute superstar,” said Bell. “He gives his all and he’s got a heart as big as himself. I can’t praise his attitude enough; he wants to race and he’s a colossal racehorse. On fast ground in the middle of the summer, he’s a monster.
“We knew we would probably have to do the donkey work but we were happy to do that; you can’t check his stride pattern. Quest For More went to try and make it but they just weren’t going fast enough for them [Big Orange and James Doyle]. You can’t check his stride – he’s got an enormous stride pattern and you’ve got to let him use it.”
Explaining how it felt to win the Gold Cup for the first time, Bell replied: “It’s the feature race of the meeting, an epic race taking on a very good horse [Order Of St George] in a proper horse race, and I can’t tell you the pride I have got in Big Orange. Enormous pride and great satisfaction for the team at home. I’m so pleased for them, for the horse, for the owners, for me – for everybody.”
It was a seventh Royal Ascot winner for Bell.
Order Of St George took the two and a half mile Gold Cup in 2016 and a victory in this year’s running would have brought trainer Aidan O’Brien an eighth success in the day’s highlight.
Trainer Jessica Harrington’s runner Torcedor came fifth; if it had won she would have become the first trainer ever to take the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Ascot’s version in the same year – she was successful in the former with Sizing John in March. Only Vincent O’Brien has done the double, with Gladness in the 1956 Gold Cup at Ascot, having produced Cottage Rake (1948, 1949 and 1950) and Knock Hard (1953) to win at Cheltenham.
Please click on images below for larger photos.
Results of the 4.20pm £400,000 Gold Cup (Group 1) (British Champions Series)
Two Miles & Four Furlongs
1 (7) BIG ORANGE (SHEEPSKIN C/P) MICHAEL BELL 9ST 2LB JAMES DOYLE 5/1
2 (13) Order of St George (IRE) Aidan O’Brien, Ireland 9st 2lb Ryan Moore 5/6 Fav
3 (5) Harbour Law Laura Mongan 9st 0lb Jim Crowley 33/1
4 (8) She Is No Lady Ralph Beckett 8st 13lb F. M. Berry 50/1
5 (1) Torcedor (IRE) Mrs J. Harrington, Ireland 9st 2lb Colm O’Donoghue 20/1
6 (3) Sheikhzayedroad (Hood) David Simcock 9st 2lb Martin Harley 10/1
7 (10) Sweet Selection Hughie Morrison 8st 13lb Silvestre De Sousa 14/1
8 (14) Prince of Arran Charlie Fellowes 9st 0lb Tom Queally 66/1
9 (12) Nearly Caught (IRE) Hughie Morrison 9st 2lb Adam Kirby 66/1
10 (6) Endless Time (IRE) Charlie Appleby 8st 13lb William Buick 20/1
11 (11) Harrison Mick Channon 9st 0lb Graham Lee 66/1
12 (9) Quest For More (IRE) (Blinkers) Roger Charlton 9st 2lb Jamie Spencer 25/1
13 (2) Trip To Paris (IRE) Ed Dunlop 9st 2lb Andrea Atzeni 50/1
14 (4) Simple Verse (IRE) Ralph Beckett 8st 13lb Oisin Murphy 15/2
Winner owned by Bill & Tim Gredley