Never mind the future being bright and orange, the present is Big and Orange.
The Michael Bell-trained Big Orange became the first horse since Double Trigger in 1997 and 1998 to retain the Goodwood Cup thanks to a gutsy length-and-a quarter success in the Group 2 Qatar-sponsored £300,000 contest.
It was the highlight of a rain-hit Ladies’ Day when light drizzle and mist spread across the Downs for the last couple of hours of the afternoon.
The Jamie Spencer-ridden colt led throughout the two-mile Goodwood Cup. Turning for home, the son of Duke Of Marmalade was still travelling well for Spencer despite horses lining up in behind ready to challenge the gelding.
The five-year-old was not for passing and fended off the challenge of second-placed Pallasator and third-home Sheikhzayedroad.
What chance him coming back and completing a remarkable treble in a year’s time?
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.
“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.”
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.”
Jockey Jamie Spencer explained that he had an armchair ride throughout. “I had a very easy race,” said the jockey, celebrating his 13th success at Glorious.
“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.”
Trainer Sir Mark Prescott was delighted with the performance of Pallasator, who finished the one-and-a-quarter length runner-up behind Big Orange.
“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!”
Trainer David Simcock was also happy with Sheikhzayedroad, who finished a further head back in third place.
The Goodwood Cup, which is one of the Group 2 races Goodwood bosses would love to see bumped up to Group 1 status, followed the Qatar Richmond Stakes, another Group 2 contest. That one brought joy to the festival’s Qatari sponsors as Mehmas defied a 3lb penalty to land the prize and give Frankie Dettori his first win of this festival, which he celebrated with a flying dismount.
The 7/2 shot had to dig deep to repel the challenge of runner-up and 5/6 favourite Blue Point, and the two-year-old stuck to his guns admirably, eventually prevailing by a neck, with the pair three lengths clear of their other two rivals.
Trainer Richard Hannon, with his first win of the week here, was delighted with the performance of Mehmas and revealed that the son of Acclamation was likely to head to a Group 1 race next time out.
“He’s very tough,” said Hannon. “I love the horse. He is very tough and has done nothing wrong all year. He is a horse we like a lot - the Sheikh likes him (Sheikh Joaan - owner of Al Shaqab Racing) and I love him even more now.
“Ultimately he is extremely talented. We’ll utilise him this year as a two-year-old and probably think about either the Prix Morny (at Deauville) or the National Stakes (at the Curragh).”
Frankie Dettori was recording his 2,995th British victory aboard Mehmas (7/2) in the Group Two Qatar Richmond Stakes.
Dettori said: “Mehmas is not overly big but he has a big heart to compensate. He took it to the favourite and showed what a tenacious horse he is. Mehmas is straightforward and does not need any cover. He loves a scrap and came up trumps.”
Dettori added: “He does not know how to run a bad race.”
Earlier in the day, Amanda Perrett of Pulborough registered her seventh winner at Glorious courtesy of 9/1 shot You’re Hired in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap. Martin Dwyer managed to do 8st 2lb in the one mile and two furlong contest but was caught wide.
Entering the final furlong, the son of Dalakhani ran on to snatch the lead in the closing stages and won by a head from Ode To Evening , with Stargazer who was a further head back in third.
Perrett said: “It’s great to have a winner at my local track. It’s so special for George [Materna, owner] to have a winner here.
“The owners have been very patient with this horse. He had a problem earlier in the year and they didn’t ever rush us at any stage.”
Trainer John Gosden was happy with the performance of California after the 9/2 shot stayed on well to land the Group 3 Markel Insurance Fillies’ Stakes - also known as the Lillie Langtry Stakes.
The four-year-old was always handy under jockey Rab Havlin and the pair gradually wound the pace up, staying on strongly to beat runner-up Tioga Pass, trained by Paul Cole.
Gosden admitted he was impressed by the way in which California was progressing at the moment.
Aidan O’Brien made it three wins in three days with Ryan Moore - 24 hours after their Sussex Stakes success with The Gurkha, they took the Dove 100 Colours EBF British Stallion Studs Maiden Fillies’ Stakes with a comfortable win for 10/11 favourite Rhododendron.
Another trainer-jockey duo having a very consistent week are Mark Johnston and James McDonald, who claimed the Telegraph Nursery Stakes on 8/1 chance Bear Valley.
The afternoon concluded with the Tatler Stakes, won by 13/2 contender Laughton (Shane Gray / Kevin Ryan).
Before the main racing of the afternoon, event rider Izzy Taylor won the Magnolia Cup ladies’ charity race in a thrilling finish which saw the first three home hard to separate.
Taylor, who was riding Alketios for Hampshire trainer Chris Gordon, was always handy on the five-year-old and, with the stands’ side rail to race against, the pair came home narrowly in front of the Scott Dixon-trained Armelle (ridden by Dido Harding) and the Jim Boyle-trained Continuum (real name Perfect Pastime and ridden by Emily Baxendale).
The key objective of the Magnolia Cup is to raise as much money as possible for female-focused charities and, in doing so, raise their profile.
Through a mixture of sponsorship, ticket sales from the Regency Ball at Goodwood House, private donations and betting initiatives, the Magnolia Cup has raised over £1m for charity over the last five years.
Clerk of the course Seamus Buckley said it had been a good day’s racing and said of the weather: “We’ve only had one millimetre of rain, believe it or not. It’s been that drizzly, fine rain so it’s probably looked worse than it actually is.
“It’s a bad type of rain to be honest. I did think we’d got away with it this morning but it just appeared later than forecast. It is what it is and hopefully it’ll be ok tomorrow. I’m told tomorrow is going to be a better day.”
* Friday’s highlights are the Qatar King George Stakes over five furlongs and the Betfred Mile. Full coverage on this website.
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