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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Goodwood Cup proves fruitless for Big Orange as Stradivarius prevails

John Gosden-trained colt makes the most of the age-for-weight allowance to triumph in the opening day's feature race.

Stradivarius ridden by jockey Andrea Atzeni wins the Goodwood Cup Stakes during Day 1 of the Goodwood Festival. John Walton / PA
Stradivarius ridden by jockey Andrea Atzeni wins the Goodwood Cup Stakes during Day 1 of the Goodwood Festival. John Walton / PA

Big Orange came short of a record breaking hat-trick bid in the Group 1 Goodwood Cup, the opening day’s feature prize in the five-day festival meeting.

The Michael Bell-trained six-year-old was beaten by Stradivarius, a colt who made the most of his weight-for-age allowance and the good to soft surface to clinch the 3,200-metre race. Desert Skyline, another three-year-old colt, finished third.

The winner, trained by John Gosden and ridden by Andrea Atzeni, pulled clear at the 200-metre mark to flash past the winning post a length-and-a-quarter in front of Big Orange under Frankie Dettori.

Atzeni was completing a hat-trick after winning both the Group 2 prizes on Expert Eye and Breton Rock from Godolphin runners Zaman and Home Of The Brave respectively.

“It’s a great day,” the Italian jockey said. “I thought I had a chance coming here, but knew Big Orange was the one to beat. He had to give us a lot of weight, though, and he’s a three-year-old who stays well.

“I spoke to Mr Gosden before the race and said that if I had a chance to challenge Big Orange I didn’t want to get near him, everyone knows what he’s like, you can’t get near him as he loves a fight. He’s improving, I liked him at Ascot and he picked up like a nice horse. He could be anything.”

Stradivarius came into the race having won the Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in June.

“He’s not the biggest and he got knocked around a bit, but Andrea has been cool today,” said Gosden of the chestnut son of multiple Group 1 winner Sea The Stars. “Frankie went into the middle which was clever as he didn’t want to be attacked near a rail on one side, but that meant it opened up for us.

“He will go for the Leger, obviously. Andrea said he’s still mentally immature and he’s improving all the time.

“He loves fast ground so it was good he handled this slower ground, but he’s got a big heart, which is important.”

Big Orange bowled along with his usual front-running tactics and appeared to have all of his rivals in trouble as he went in search of a third successive win, which no horse has achieved in the 205-year history of the race.

Big Orange’s handler was “proud” of the effort and said he is better on faster ground.

“He pulled well clear of the older horses and the other three-year-old was third," Bell said.“That weight concession is very tough for older horses, but Big Orange has run a huge race,”

“We were hoping to win, but equally he has run his heart out so you can’t be disappointed with the run, it will probably turn out that the winner is a very good horse. It was slower than ideal for him, but he still ran a great race in defeat.”

Godolphin are double handed in today’s Group 1 Sussex Stakes with Ribchester and Toscanini, both trained by Richard Fahey.

Fahey is confident Ribchester can amend his defeat in the race 12 months ago.

“He was a little bit unlucky in the Sussex Stakes last year,” he said. “He got himself into a position that didn’t suit, with both the winner and the second getting first run.”

“As he has matured, he has started to relax more. “I’m growing more in confidence with him every time I see him work or race. I just want him to turn up and perform – the one thing with Ribchester is that he never lets us down.”