Bell's Big Orange squashes Cup rivals
Great stayers are the only Flat horses capable of rivalling jumpers in terms of enduring popularity, and one came to the rescue as the gloom and mist descended upon the Goodwood Cup yesterday.
The glory, for the second consecutive year, went to Michael Bell's Big Orange, perhaps not quite as frenetically as in the blanket finish of 12 months earlier, but in just as determined and admirable fashion.
He made even more of the running this time around - allowing a chasing pack, headed by the enigmatic Pallasator and Aidan O'Brien's Sword Fighter, to get close without ever shortening his relentless stride.
Big Orange is that rare individual in that he is able to win a Group race over a mile and a half - the Princess Of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket on two consecutive seasons - and mix it with the best over further.
No wonder he means so much to Bell, owner Bill Gredley and jockey Jamie Spencer, who was reinstated after jumping off him at Newmarket three weeks ago.
"He gives his all," said Bell. "He has a good mind, an engine, and good limbs as well. That combination is a potent force.
"We know that big horses need time to mature, and although it's a cliché he's like a fine wine and is just getting better with age."
Spencer said: "The crowd always love a horse that wears his heart on his sleeve and he's just a big, strong galloper. I had a very easy race."
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In 2015, Big Orange went on to York and then finished an excellent fifth in the Melbourne Cup. This latest triumph gives Bell plenty to chew over.
"The problem is that the Melbourne Cup is a handicap and we need to know what weight he'd get against a lot of those horses," the trainer said.
"You know before you ship there, but if he got 10st it would make it difficult. Otherwise there are plenty more options, like Canada or Hong Kong."
Mark Prescott clearly thrives on the mental challenge of dealing with Pallasator, a ferocious individual that terrifies everyone bar his work-rider Rosie Jessop.
The trainer had concocted a "convoluted Prescott plan" that jockey Oisín Murphy had followed to the letter and resulted in him finishing just over a length behind the winner in second.
"He's an exam question, this horse. There are always things to put right. He has been so horrible for so long, he has become rather like John McEnroe - everybody loves him now," said Prescott.
(© Telegraph Syndication, London)