Champions Day: Forecast gives Michael Bell "headache" over Big Orange

Fri 20 Oct 2017

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By Racinguk.com staff

Michael Bell faces a difficult decision over whether to let Big Orange take his chance in the Qipco Long Distance Cup at Ascot.

Having famously prevailed in the Gold Cup in June on a fast surface, conditions are likely to be much more testing on Saturday, with more rain forecast on already soft ground.

That leaves Bell in a predicament, as the formbook suggests the gallant Big Orange is nowhere near the same operator when there is cut in the ground.

"It's a bit of a headache," the Newmarket handler said. "Given the forecast and the ground is already soft, I'd say the ground is likely to be nearly heavy. I'd suggest we'll probably be having a team meeting on the course in the morning.

"That way we'll get to see how much more rain has fallen and how soft the ground actually is."

Big Orange is a general 10-1 chance and should he take his chance, he will clash again with the Aidan O'Brien-trained Order Of St George, who finished just a short head adrift after a titanic finish up the Ascot straight in the Gold Cup at the Royal meeting.

Order Of St George is a best-priced 10-11 with a number of firms to reverse that form and improve upon his fourth-place finish in this race in 2016, having since won the Irish St Leger and finished fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

"He ran very well in it last year when the line came a bit too soon," said O'Brien.

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"There's been an extra week between the Arc and Champions Day this time, and that would not be a disadvantage.

"We've been delighted with him all year and he looks to have very good chance.

"This will probably be his last run of the year and then we'll look at next year with him."

John Gosden took the unusual step of running a three-year-old in the Goodwood Cup, but it paid off when Stradivarius beat Big Orange with a hefty weight advantage.

That allowance has been reduced by 5lb this time, but he has subsequently finished third in the St Leger and Gosden is looking forward to stepping back up to two miles.

"He's been a revelation this year and his wins in the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot and Goodwood Cup were fabulous," he said.

"He ran a blinder in the Leger. He got a little bit left on his own racing on the rail. The race happened a little bit more in the middle of the track.

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"I love the way in the last half a furlong he is coming right back at them again in what was probably the best Leger run in a very long time.

"He is a grand horse and will be a lot of fun in the Cup races next year."

Another of the Classic generation to test himself against his elders is David Elsworth's Desert Skyline, winner of the Doncaster Cup.

"It's a little bit ambitious, but then again so was running him in the Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup," said Elsworth.

"He's run a series of good races this year, his Doncaster win coming after a fantastic effort at Goodwood Cup behind Big Orange and Stradivarius.

"We all know how good Big Orange is and Stradivarius showed his class in the St Leger.

"We will pull up stumps afterwards and next year come back and win the Goodwood Cup."

Sir Michael Stoute's Dartmouth was supplemented for the race, but needs to bounce back from a disappointing run behind Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger.

John Warren, racing manager for owner the Queen, said: "It seemed to be the obvious race for him when the Queen doesn't get many opportunities to see her horses race through the year, so we decided that it made sense to go for a race like this.

"We still have no idea why he didn't run well last time, but he came out of the race well and has been in very good form since, so he is taking his chance.

"He's a tough, hardy horse who we know stays well.

"He stays in training next year. He's so versatile and we will look at all options between a mile and a half to two miles, including internationally.

"It's nice to have a horse owned by the Queen where the trainer has options.

"He's been great fun and given the Queen a lot of pleasure. Hopefully he runs up to expectation."

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