Big Orange aims for Goodwood history

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Frankie Dettori will return to ride Big Orange after recovering from an arm injury
Qatar Goodwood Festival
Venue: Goodwood racecourse Dates: 1-5 August
Coverage: Commentary and updates on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website

Big Orange has the chance to be the big story at Glorious Goodwood this week – but there are a whole host of reasons to follow this year’s five-day festival.

While the most popular horse in flat racing seeks to become the first runner to win the Goodwood Cup three years in a row, other big names are also chasing glory.

From the fascinating prospect of a ‘Duel on the Downs’ between Ribchester and Churchill, to Winter’s bid for a fourth straight Nassau Stakes win, the meeting is filled with stellar talent.

Here, BBC Sport guides you through the moments to watch out for.

Calendar changes

First things first: don’t miss any of the features.

Two of the biggest prizes of the Tuesday-to-Saturday festival, the Goodwood Cup and the Nassau Stakes, have both moved slots.

In changes that could catch out the unwary, the £500,000 Goodwood Cup, now upgraded to Group One status, is to be staged on the opening afternoon, not Thursday.

Meanwhile, the £600,000 Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares – which is already a Group One race – has upped sticks from Saturday to take centre stage on Thursday.

Officials hope the moves will boost attendance for the early part of the fixture, sponsored for the third year by Qatar.

Goodwood Cup: different day, same star turn

Big Orange won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in June

Big Orange, the most popular horse in flat racing, will attempt to rewrite history by becoming the first horse to win the 205-year-old Goodwood Cup three times on the bounce.

Record holder Double Trigger was successful three times in four years – winning in 1995, 1997 and 1998.

In June, the big, powerful son of the stallion Duke Of Marmalade – hence the Big Orange name – raised the Royal Ascot roof with a narrow success over Order Of St George in the Gold Cup there.

Now, with jockey-of-the-moment Frankie Dettori back on board after missing Ascot because of injury, Big Orange faces up to 15 opponents in the two-mile race.

Big Orange’s Newmarket-based trainer Michael Bell likes what he’s seen from the six-year-old in training of late. The Bell team might not be the only ones to have noticed that.

“When we walk down from Warren Hill [gallops], there’s a road beside that runs up towards the village of Moulton, and the school bus invariably goes past at the time he’s walking home,” Bell told BBC Sport.

“When he sees the bus, my head lad Tyrone Lloyd-Jones, who rides him, has a job to sit on him, though he’s always ready for it.

“He goes through a few motions, whips round or throws a few shapes. But it tells us – and maybe the kids on the bus – his well-being. If he doesn’t do it, we know he’s not 100% himself.”

A catchy name and a bold, front-running style have gained a wider and wider following for Big Orange, owned by businessman Bill Gredley and his son Tim.

All fans know that the horse prefers drier ground conditions, so, for them, it would be ‘Glorious’ if Goodwood’s weather could live up to its long-held nickname.

It’s Ribchester versus Churchill in this year’s ‘Duel’

With a nod to Goodwood’s picturesque location, high up above the cathedral city of Chichester, the £1m Group One Sussex Stakes is called the ‘Duel on the Downs’.

In recent years, there have been all sorts of shootouts involving top-notch runners such as Kingman, Toronado, Canford Cliffs and two-time winner Frankel.

In 2017, two more big names are taking aim.

Ribchester, successful in this season’s Lockinge Stakes and Queen Anne Stakes, faces the three-year-old Churchill, victorious in the Newmarket and Irish 2000 Guineas.

The Coolmore-owned and bred Churchill, trained by Aidan O’Brien, must bounce back from a defeat at Royal Ascot, and may find the increasingly imperious four-year-old Ribchester, part of Sheikh Mohammed’s resurgent Godolphin string and trained by Richard Fahey, quicker on the draw.

Ribchester finished comfortably clear of the field at Royal Ascot – will he replicate this in the ‘Duel’?

Winter comes to Glorious Goodwood in August

No, don’t panic, not that kind of winter, but the three-year-old filly named Winter, who is all set to try to make it four stellar wins on the trot in the Nassau Stakes.

A one-mile standard-bearer for Coolmore, she has already mopped up in both the Newmarket and Irish 1000 Guineas, as well as the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien is upping her distance by a quarter-mile, and she has some hardy opponents, but she’ll probably freeze them out all the same.

‘TC’ is top cat for Griffiths

Big Orange is not the only popular runner with an easy-to-remember name going for an historic repeat success at Goodwood.

Take Cover – ‘TC’ to jockey-turned-trainer David Griffiths and his team at Bawtry, South Yorkshire – attempts to become the first horse to record three wins in the Group Two King George Stakes on day four.

David Griffiths (right) celebrates with Take Cover and his team after winning the King George Stakes last year

The potentially tricky undulations of the Goodwood track make it one that often attracts the ‘horses for courses’ brigade, and the veteran 10-year-old is firmly in that camp.

This will be the fifth year running that he has come to either the King George Stakes or to a supporting race, and he has never been out of the first two nor beaten much more than the length of Top Cat’s whiskers.

“It seems stupid to say it when he’s 10 years old,” said Griffiths, “but he seems be taking his races better than he used to – can that be possible?

“He was great when winning at York last time, and seems just as good and strong as last year.

“He’s won on heavy [going], but ideally wants it good or firmer. I’ve been driving the clerk of the course [Seamus Buckley] mad ringing for the latest reports.”

Griffiths was an apprentice jockey with trainer Ian Balding when one of his greatest stars Lochsong, looked after by good friend Chris Scudder, became the most recent dual King George Stakes winner, in 1993 and ’94.

“You see your mate go to Goodwood with the stable star and win,” he said, “and of course you think about doing it yourself one day.

“When Take Cover won the second and emulated Lochsong, it was very special, but to beat her record, and therefore, I suppose, beat the Guv’nor [Balding] would be fantastic, a dream.”

Take Cover is sure to go well, but the race favourite Battaash will be hard to beat.

Finally, a colossal tip for Saturday’s Stewards Cup.

Projection, trained by Roger Charlton, was a fine third at Royal Ascot in the big-field Wokingham Handicap, when he was the first home of the runners racing on the stands’ side of the track.

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