Thursday 21 November 2019

Big Orange to pip his rivals to Goodwood Cup if it stays dry

Big Orange
Big Orange

Marcus Armytage

The first things to note about this year's Qatar Goodwood Festival are the programme changes; the Goodwood Cup, now run as a Group One for the first time, moves to the opening day on Tuesday, the Sussex Stakes retains its position as the highlight on Wednesday, while the Nassau Stakes, the meeting's third Group One, moves from Saturday to Thursday.

Backing winners in big-field handicaps at Goodwood is notoriously hard because the topographical nature of the Duke of Richmond's racecourse brings luck into play on a more regular basis than perhaps any other track in Britain.

Otherwise, Richard Hannon and Mark Johnston are very often the trainers to follow at this meeting. If Johnston has multiple runners in handicaps, it is probably worth backing them all, not just the shortest priced.

It would be a surprise if Big Orange were not to kick off the meeting with a third Goodwood Cup. Now that the race is a Group One, it means he does not have to carry a penalty for his Ascot victory which has so often proved a stumbling block for Gold Cup winners.

Nowhere dries better than Goodwood, so the ground should not be a worry, but if it were to come up soft, it might be worth a saver on Sheikhzayedroad.

Librisa Breeze was flying at the death of the Golden Jubilee over six furlongs and a return to seven should see him home to good effect in the Lennox Stakes, while a repeat of his Newmarket effort would allow Nebo to go close in the Vintage Stakes for Charlie Hills. An outsider to keep an eye on in this race is George Scott's James Garfield.

On Wednesday, dual-Guineas winner Churchill attempts to put a below-par effort in the St James's Palace Stakes behind him, but he will need to be on his game to beat Richard Fahey's Ribchester, who is putting together a pretty smart portfolio of the top mile races.

It would be a surprise if Barney Roy, also owned by Godolphin, lines up against Ribchester as he is considered better on a flatter track.

The American-trained Happy Like A Fool might not know what has hit him in the Bombay Sapphire Molecomb, going uphill and down-dale, so that gives Havana Grey a leading chance.

Revived is the subject of good reports from Newmarket for the Markel Insurance Fillies Maiden the same day and Three Duchesses in the EBF Fillies' Handicap is on a steep upward curve of improvement if her past two starts are anything to go by.

Winter has not put a foot wrong all spring and summer and even stepping up to a mile-and-a-quarter for the first time is unlikely to stop her in Thursday's Nassau Stakes, though Queen's Trust, Nezwaah and So Mi Dar are three smart older fillies.

On Friday, the highlight should be the Hills-trained Battaash, a highly progressive sprinter, in the Group Two King George Stakes. He won his last start by three-and-a-quarter lengths - a big margin in sprinting terms - and looks on his way to the top, while Projection has a good profile for Saturday's Stewards' Cup.

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