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, who 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 with one final effort Big Orange demonstrated the size of his heart and desire to win in getting the verdict by a short head.
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.
“We knew we probably had to do the donkey work, but you can’t check his stride pattern. We knew Quest For More would try to make it, but he was not going fast enough for him. He has got an enormous stride pattern and you have got to let him use it.
“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.”
He went on: “It is the feature race of the meeting. It is an epic race, we were taking on a very good horse and beating him in a proper horse race. I can’t tell you the pride I have in him. I can’t say any more as I am not a politician.”
Bell ruled out the prospect of a second shot 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.
He said: “He will head to Goodwood and won’t run before then. He is not going to the Melbourne Cup, that’s for sure, as he will be rated 121 and that has handicapped him out of that.
“He could come back here on Champions Day or he could go for Cadran. He will go where the ground is fast.”
Veteran owner Bill Gredley is no stranger to big-race glory, he ranked the victory alongside that achieved by User Friendly in the 1992 Oaks.
He said: “We were not quite sure if he would get the two and a half miles, but I always thought he would certainly get two miles. He has been in good form and been working well. All the credit goes to Michael and his team. They have done a fantastic job. This is up there alongside User Friendly.”
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!
“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 and him telling me all about the horse. He was spot on.”