O'Brien's Order squeezed out by 'monster' Big Orange in Gold Cup epic
Only the very best racehorses can be labelled "colossal" but that seemed just about the perfect description for Big Orange after he landed an Ascot Gold Cup that will live long in the memory.
Few wear their heart on their sleeves more than the Michael Bell-trained six-year-old and after several attempts he finally gained the Group One victory his talents deserved, serving up a finish of epic proportions having missed the race 12 months ago due to soft ground.
Although Quest For More took the field along through the early stages of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, an inspired James Doyle - standing in for the injured Frankie Dettori - sent his mount into a lead he was not to surrender with a full circuit to go.
Turning for home the 5/1 shot was still well in control of matters as stamina became an issue for many, with the exception of Aidan O'Brien's odds-on favourite Order Of St George, which under a patient Ryan Moore began his charge from the back. As the pair pulled clear, it looked like last year's winner was going to repeat the dose, but Big Orange demonstrated the size of his heart in getting the verdict by a short head.
Superstar Bell said: "He is just an absolute superstar and gives his all. He has a heart as big as himself and I can't praise his attitude enough. He wants to race and is a colossal racehorse, and on fast ground in the height of a summer he is a monster. I was very happy throughout the race, I thought James Doyle was in total charge of the situation and I was very happy. I was praying for the winning post."
Bell ruled out the prospect of a third tilt at the Melbourne Cup, with an attempt at claiming a hat-trick of wins in the newly-upgraded Group One Goodwood Cup next on the agenda.
Doyle, who was given a two-day ban for his use of the whip, was quick to deflect the praise to the winning horse and absent rider: "Blimey, he's as tough as they get! Full credit to everyone. It was great to get the call-up. Unfortunately Frankie couldn't have got the injury at a worse time.
"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. He was spot on. 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."
O'Brien, on the mark in the opening Norfolk Stakes with 14/1 shot Sioux Nation, will let the dust settle before making any future plans for Order Of St George, although a rematch at Goodwood is a possibility. "He's run a very good race," he said. "The Gold Cup is one of those special races. It was a brilliant race, the winner was very good and brave."