Qatar Goodwood Festival 2017
|Tuesday 1st - Saturday 5th August
Frankie Dettori is eagerly looking forward to getting back on board Big Orange in Tuesday's Qatar Goodwood Cup.
There are 20 remaining entries for the £300,000 G2 Qatar Lennox Stakes over seven furlongs on Tuesday, August 1.
Europe's top milers Churchill and Ribchester star among 40 entries for the £1-million Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday, August 2.
Minding had to be shaken up to deny Queen's Trust and win her fourth Group One of the year in the 2016 Qatar Nassau Stakes.
Previous winners Take Cover and Muthmir feature among 24 sprinters entered for the £300,000 Group Two Qatar King George Stakes on the fourth day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, Friday, August 4.
Ante-post favourite Projection headlines the 124 acceptors for the £250,000 Qatar Stewards' Cup over six furlongs on Saturday, August 5.
Betfred has opened betting on the Betfred Mile and makes Godolphin's Blair House the favourite following his close second to Zhui Feng in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.
Headway could be stepped up in trip in the Qatar Vintage Stakes at Goodwood following his fine effort in defeat at Royal Ascot.
The Qatar Richmond Stakes could be the target for US Navy Flag, second in the July Stakes at Newmarket.
Bell happy as Big Orange goes for Qatar Goodwood Cup record
Big Orange will make history if successful in the G1 Qatar Goodwood Cup, worth £500,000, on Tuesday August 1 as he would become the first horse to win the historic race three times in succession.
His victories in 2015 and 2016 came when the Qatar Goodwood Cup was a G2 event but the promotion to G1 means that he meets opponents off level weights following his G1 victory in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last month.
Trainer Michael Bell hosted a Goodwood Racecourse media stable visit at his Newmarket yard, Fitzroy House, this morning and reported his stable star is set to run in the Qatar Goodwood Cup unless it is a "bog".
He said: "Big Orange is likely to run unless it is a bog because there is nothing else for him at the moment.
"I cannot see the ground being that bad. We are doing a weather watch but you cannot drive yourself crazy about forecasts because there are so many variables. Especially where Goodwood is on the top of the Downs, there can be a micro-climate. It can be chucking it down at the bottom of the hill but not at the top.
"Big Orange has won on good to soft going as a thee-year-old. We used to think he wanted soft ground but the older he has got, because he has such a good action and long gait, he is very effective on fast ground and gets bogged down on soft ground. So he is a significantly better horse on faster going.
"Big Orange is defending his Qatar Goodwood Cup crown and long may he reign over it. He would be the first horse to win the race three times on the trot - Double Trigger had a year's gap in his three.
"Obviously, Double Trigger was an extremely popular horse and it would be nice for Big Orange to join him in winning three Goodwood Cups.
"He is a worthy favourite and provided the ground remains on the fast side, he should have a great chance.
"Big Orange is six now but for a stayer that means he is just coming into his prime. He is a young horse and has only run 24 times - he is not exactly over-raced.
"We keep his training simple - he goes up Warren Hill once a week on his own to work - on Saturdays usually and over seven furlongs on the peat-moss gallop when it is open. He trains on his own which is unusual for a stayer.
"He is an easy horse to keep fit as he does not need a lot of work - he is very clean winded and has a great lung capacity. He may have a tiny blow on Saturday but I think he is ready and now I have got to not mess him up.
"You cannot get a horse fit in a week but you can soon mess them up in a week. He is fit and just needs to tick over.
"We wanted to run him in the Gold Cup last year but had to abort because of the weather - this year was the first time he ran in that race and it was a very good Gold Cup as he and Order Of St George drew six lengths clear of the best stayers around. There was complete elation, relief and pride after he won that race. To come out the right side of such an epic horse race was amazing. Aidan O'Brien was so gracious in defeat - it was a very happy day.
"There has been a nice gap between the Gold Cup and the Qatar Goodwood Cup, while all his races this year have been spread out. He has not missed a day's training and everything has been well with him.
"He is a fine horse. Most of the time training Flat horses is like a revolving door - they come and go but when you have a gelding you have a chance of hanging onto them and they needed to be owned by a rich man who does not get tempted by offers.
"It is unusual for them to stay around - under different circumstances he probably would have been sold to Australia, but obviously (owners) Bill and Tim (Gredley) are very attached to him. He will end up back at Stetchworth and they will never sell him, so we are lucky.
"He is very sound but even he soundest of horses can go wrong. Touch wood it has all been plain sailing so far and he does have very good timber and clean limbs, so long may that continue."
Order Of St George, beaten a short-head by Big Orange at Royal Ascot, misses a re-match at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
Bell remarked: "That increases the excitement rather than the pressure. Personally, I think pressure is having an empty stable, not looking at a good horse.
"Every time I have had a good horse, I have really tried to enjoy them. Pressure is the wrong word, they increase expectation and maybe levels of concentration!
"He is the first horse we have had that has been really popular - packets of polos in the post for him, texts, emails - it is great. He is such a charming horse, with enormous ears and eyes - everything about him is engaging. He is a gentle giant.
"He is getting used to the attention and is a real character. The stables here are right in the centre of town and I was struggling to decide whether we would open again for the Newmarket Open Day but I feel duty bound to with Big Orange.
"I think it is his style of racing, his physique and other factors which have endeared him to the public and he has a very good win to run ratio."
Big Orange is by Duke Of Marmalade and is very tall - over 17 hands.
Bell continued: "Good stayers need to have speed - Order Of St George placed in an Arc and Big Orange won the G2 Princess of Wales's Stakes twice over 12 furlongs. The high-class stayers have the speed to be competitive over a mile and a half - they are not just plodders.
"He won't be going back to the Melbourne Cup this year because he will have too much weight - it is a handicap and he is rated 121 and so he would be giving lumps of weight away - mission impossible.
"He will go on racing for at least a couple more years if possible. Stayers are just coming into their own at six and there is no reason why he should not be as good as he is for the next couple of years.
"Big Orange has just filled his frame now - he is 17 hands and has come to himself. Good stayers like Double Trigger, Persian Punch and Further Flight were going on until they were 10. He is a very good horse and a pleasure to train."
Bell is planning a bigger raiding party than usual on the Qatar Goodwood Festival and could have eight or nine runners over the five days, Tuesday, August 1 to Saturday, August 5.
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