Sandown round-up: Big Orange on course for Royal Ascot after Dettori masterclass at Sandown

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Thu 25 May 2017

Watch a full replay of the Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes won by Big Orange at Sandown on Thursday and get reaction from trainer Michael Bell and Frankie Dettori and read Geoffrey Riddle's round-up of the action in Esher. 

“He needs fast ground. He is such a good mover, and he has such an enormous stride. He is a relentless galloper and really covers the ground. If it is soft ground he just wheel spins.

“If something wants to sit in front of him they are committing suicide. If something wants to lead him they are probably not going to stay there.”

The last horse to win here and then progress to victory at Ascot was Papineau in 2004. Big Orange has never run over the 2m4f of the Gold Cup, but Bell was hopeful that his charge’s giant stride could see him home despite being out of a mare by sprinter Fasliyev.

“He gets two miles very well, and we don’t know about the Ascot Gold Cup trip but there is no reason why he wont,” Bell added.  “I think he will get it.”

Gredley’s colours will be also carried by Ronald R, a handicap winner at the Guineas meeting at Newmarket this month, in the Britannia Handicap that immediately follows the Gold Cup.

It was Gredley’s decision to appoint Frankie Dettori as Big Orange’s rider, in preference to Jamie Spencer, and following a flying dismount the Italian revealed his admiration for the 546kg bay. 

"I've ridden him a couple of times and am getting to know him now,” he said.

“We went an even gallop throughout, I picked it up at the top of the straight and I knew it would take a good one to get past me. He's as brave as a lion.” 

There will not be a more popular combination in the Gold Cup, judging by the warm response to the crowd here.

“It is fantastic,” Bell said. “He is enormously popular in the yard. My head lad Tyrone rides him every day and won’t let anybody near him. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he has got a following.”

With Bell, Tim Greadley, the owner's son, and Dettori all happy to chat with the media and crowd, there was quite a contrast 35 minutes later when Autocratic produced a career-best effort to win the Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes for Ryan Moore and Sir Michael Stoute.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned colt finished last season winning a handicap at York, but was stepped up to Group Three level for his reappearance in the Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket last month.

That did not go to plan, with the track not looking to his liking, but Stoute had clearly not lost faith in the Dubawi four-year-old and that was rewarded as he stayed on strongly once Moore had found a clear passage just over a furlong out.

Algometer flashed home for the runner-up spot, a length and a quarter behind the 8-1 winner, with favourite Steel Of Madrid - who had Autocratic back in sixth at Newmarket - in third.

The race had lost much of its lustre when top-class filly So Mi Dar was declared a non-runner earlier in the day and with Stoute not at the course, and Moore in a hurry it was left to Chris Richardson, racing manager to owners Cheveley Park Stud, to state the son of Dubawi will remain at 10 furlongs. 

"He won very well," Richardson, who was not at the track, said. "He is an impressive looking horse and we have always had confidence in him, especially Sir Michael Stoute.

"Things just didn't go his way last term, but tonight looked an impressive performance and it was a great ride by Ryan Moore. He is a big, burly horse so he would have needed his first run. To be honest, I would have been happy if he had finished in the first three.

"As a yearling he dislocated his shoulder, as normally we offer all our colts at the sales. He came back and spent time out recovering from the injury. It is great to see a performance like that and it makes him rather exciting now."

Looking to the future, he said: "I don't think we will step him up in trip as that (10 furlongs) looks an ideal trip at the moment and we will just see how he progresses through time.

"We were taking it step by step after he disappointed last time. His plans need to be reviewed now and obviously I need to speak to Sir Michael Stoute, as he could not be there this evening either."

Earlier on the card Havana Grey set up a tilt at the Norfolk Stakes with a front-running success under PJ McDonald in the The Better Odds With Matchbook National Stakes.

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