Where does Big Orange stand amongst the staying greats after Gold Cup win?

Thu 22 Jun 2017

How does Big Orange measure up to two other former staying warriors in Double Trigger and Persian Punch? Tom Peacock compares and contrasts the trio, plus watch what Michael Bell believes are his main qualities and the reaction of owner Bill Gredley

By Tom Peacock at Royal Ascot

Big Orange has surely now joined an elite band of cherished stayers from the modern times after his incredible victory in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

The two which spring to mind to rival the domestic popularity of Michael Bell’s titan are Persian Punch and Double Trigger, both in terms of style and charisma.

What is quite possible is that Big Orange could surpass them both in terms of legitimate achievements if he can win a third consecutive Goodwood Cup, which has been upgraded to Group One level for the first time. He was installed as the 6-4 favourite with Paddy Power for the prize, which has been moved to open the Glorious meeting on August 1.

Double Trigger is the only horse so far to have won three Goodwood Cups, but not in a row, as he did not take part in 1996.

Mark Johnston’s white-faced wonder was another of those game front-runners who simply never knew when he was beaten, memorably besting his full-brother Double Eclipse on the Sussex Downs a year earlier.

Despite really being a two-mile specialist, Double Trigger also won a Gold Cup 1995, when he dominated under Jason Weaver to defeat that loveable rogue Moonax by five lengths.

Like Big Orange, ‘Trigger’ then went to Australia to try to end Britain’s wait for a Melbourne Cup, but never seemed like his old self.

The wonderful chestnut Persian Punch held a special place in the hearts of racegoers too. He ran in seven Gold Cups but Ascot was never his track and it was where he was to meet his sad demise in the Sagaro Stakes of 2004.

Despite registering 20 career victories, not one came on the Berkshire course including a tooth-and-nail defeat by Royal Rebel in the 2001 Gold Cup, evoking Big Orange’s heart-stopping triumph over Order Of St George on Thursday.

However, thanks to David Elsworth’s bold campaigning, Persian Punch achieved two third places in Melbourne and was almost unstoppable around Sandown and Newmarket, as well as putting his name on the Goodwood Cup twice.

Big Orange, admittedly with inflation in his favour, has already passed Persian Punch’s career prize-money total with £1,142,586 and was a brave fifth at Flemington two seasons ago when Michelle Payne and Prince Of Penzance stole the headlines.

He has a truly international following now, having been to Dubai and performed with credit, while his two Goodwood Cups so far include another recent classic when battling back past his regular sparring partner Quest For More.

Melbourne looks like it will now be shelved - as much as trainer Michael Bell and the members of the Gredley family have enjoyed their couple of experiences Down Under, he is simply going to be saddled with too much weight when the Victorian handicapper makes his assessment.

However, winning the Gold Cup must be considered the ultimate prize for this almost curiously British combination. Owner, trainer, jockey James Doyle and the horse himself were all bred on these shores.

Like those other two greats, he also likes to do it the hard way from the front.

Inside the final furlong, Big Orange began to wander across the track and all those who did not have some kind of interest in the favourite Order Of St George began to fear he was going to get mown down by a charging Ryan Moore.

As if sensing the mood of so many, Big Orange dug deeper into his resources and would not let him pass, with an ever-diminishing short head dividing the two after they had bumped a couple of times.

Aidan O’Brien revealed that the Goodwood Cup will be considered for Order Of St George too, and the upgraded prize should be the fitting stage for a rematch that will probably now be used as the selling point for the meeting.

While Big Orange might now be considered the equal of the aforementioned pair, he is still of course short of O’Brien’s Yeats, generally considered the greatest stayer with four consecutive Gold Cups, and two Goodwood Cups to boot.

He’s still only six, mind you.


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