The thrilling battle between Big Orange and Order Of St George for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot has proved one of the highlights of the season so far and there is the mouth-watering prospect of a re-match at the same track with both horses entered for QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup on British Champions Day.
Sixty horses have been entered, including last year’s winner Sheikhzayedroad, and the horse who denied Big Orange a hat-trick of wins in the Qatar Goodwood Cup, the John Gosden-trained three-year-old Stradivarius.
Big Orange’s trainer Michael Bell is considering a tilt at the Comer Group International Irish St Leger now with his fantastic performer, but Ascot remains at the forefront of his mind.
“He’s having an easy time for two or three weeks now as he lost a lot of weight, he lost 18 kilos and he was a tired horse after Goodwood,” said Bell.
”He ran a fantastic race. I was hugely proud of him and he absolutely gave his all. It was a very tough ask trying to give all that weight away to a three-year-old but he fell on his sword.”
Aidan O’Brien is planning a similar preparation for Ascot with Order Of St George, who last year finished fourth in the race when he was attempting to back up a big run in France just a fortnight earlier.
“The plan with Order Of St George is we might start him off in an Irish Leger trial and then go for the Irish Leger first, but it’s definitely a strong possibility he’ll go to Ascot,” said the trainer.
“Last year was one of those races that didn’t work out for him, but he’s a big, hardy individual, physically and mentally. He’s had a break since he finished second at Ascot but he’s perfect and not far away from running again now.”