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The Gold Cup

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The Gold Cup, Ascot’s oldest race and Britain’s top event for long-distance thoroughbreds, has been dominated by one horse in recent years – the incomparable Yeats. The Irish-trained bay became the only horse in Ascot history to win the Gold Cup four times in succession when taking the 2009 race, making him arguably the best stayer of all time.

The Group 1 race, the second long-distance event in the QIPCO British Champions Series, is run over 2 miles 4 furlongs (4,000 metres) and is open to four-year-olds and older. It is traditionally held on day three – ‘Ladies’ Day’ – of Royal Ascot.

The Gold Cup certainly has royal connections. The inaugural running was watched by King George III and Queen Charlotte, while the 1844 running was attended by Nicholas I of Russia, after which the event became known as the Emperor’s Plate for a short period (the Crimean War may have had something to do with the decision to change the name back again).

The trophy is one of three at Royal Ascot traditionally presented by The Queen though she won the race herself with the Sir Micahel Stoute-trained Estimate in 2013 so it was presented to her by her son, Prince Andrew. Estimate tried again in 2014 but went down by a neck to the 2013 Ladbrokes St Leger winner, Leading Light, giving trainer Aidan O’Brien his sixth victory in the race.

The Gold Cup, along with the Artemis Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup, make up Britain’s Stayers’ Triple Crown. All three races feature in the QIPCO British Champions Series Long Distance category. The last horse to win them in the same year was Double Trigger, trained by Mark Johnston, in 1995.

Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Yeats, claimed his seventh Gold Cup with Order Of St George in 2016.

Current leading jockey: Frankie Dettori (1992, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2012)
Current leading trainer: Aidan O’Brien, 7 wins (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016)

Previous winners

Year Horse Jockey Trainer Owner Prize money




No/Draw Horse/Jockey Age Form/Type BHA Rating Weight Trainer Odds


Big Orange squeezes out extra to win epic

Connections of Big Orange were united in their admiration for the gelding after he had pulled out all the stops under James Doyle to win a pulsating renewal of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

The Michael Bell-trained six-year-old, well-known for his front-running style, made virtually every inch of the running in the 2m4f showpiece under James Doyle.

Order Of St George, 5-6 favourite to repeat his win of the previous year, came late on the scene under Ryan Moore and the two horses engaged in a thrilling finish, with Big Orange edging home by a short head. It was his third success in a QIPCO British Champions Series contest, having previously won two Goodwood Cups.

“He’s just an absolute superstar,” Bell said. “He gives his all and he’s got a heart as big as himself. I can’t praise his attitude enough; he wants to race and he’s a colossal racehorse. On fast ground in the middle of the summer, he’s a monster.

“I was very happy throughout the race. I thought James was in total charge of the situation and I was very happy. Then in the closing stages I was praying for the winning post, saying, ‘Inshallah, please God’, any religious thing I could think of to make the winning post come, and it did.”

Explaining how it felt to win the Gold Cup for the first time, Bell replied: “It’s the feature race of the meeting, an epic race taking on a very good horse [Order Of St George] in a proper horse race, and I can’t tell you the pride I have got in Big Orange. Enormous pride and great satisfaction for the team at home. I’m so pleased for them, for the horse, for the owners, for me – for everybody.”

In the absence of injured Frankie Dettori, the well-backed 5/1 shot was ridden by Doyle.

“Frankie just told me not to interfere with Big Orange,” the elated jockey said. “He knows what speed he wants to go at and you just sit as a passenger. I had Frankie’s voice in my head, so just eased him, let him go to the front and the rest was history.

“Big Orange got a little bit lonely and I wished that something had just joined him a bit sooner and he would have won a bit more impressively. It is a long time to be in front when you make the running like that and he had plenty of time to get lonely, so I couldn’t knock him for that.

“I only knew I was going to be on this horse a couple of mornings ago and he is the people’s horse – it was just a pleasure to ride him.”

Asked to describe the qualities the six-year-old son of Duke Of Marmalade possesses, Doyle responded: “He is a real proper old-fashioned stayer who just wears his heart on his sleeve and just tries. I wish most horses I rode tried as hard as him. He is just a real battle-hardened champion; as tough as they get.”

Winning owner Bill Gredley said: “All credit must go to Michael Bell. He has done a fantastic job on him. His head lad Tyrone has looked after him and Michael’s staff deserve a lot of credit. They are really good guys who have done a lot of work on him.

“We are here to take the applause but there are people behind-the-scenes who deserve to take the applause.

“This is alongside User Friendly’s [Epsom Oaks, Irish Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and St Leger winner] victories I suppose. She was a good horse and let’s hope they keep coming!”

In every great horse race there has to be a loser, and on this occasion it was Order Of St George, who found plenty under a strong Ryan Moore ride but came up agonisingly short.

“He ran a very good race,” said O’Brien of the five-year-old by Galileo. “I am not sure yet where he will go next, we’ll see how he is.”

Laura Mongan’s burgeoning career was furthered enhanced by her stable star Harbour Law’s third place.

The 33/1 chance, who took the Ladbrokes St Leger last year, ran superbly to be six lengths behind the front pair.

An elated Mongan said: “I threw my hat off! He ran a cracking race. We knew he was entitled to be here. He didn’t have a great start to the year but has come here 100 per cent and he is a very nice horse – there is a lot more to come from him. He has done us proud.

“I am happy with this and will enjoy it for now.”

The Lawman colt’s jockey Jim Crowley, added: “He has run a good race, he has run as well as I thought he would. If this was soft ground it would be a different story.”


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The Course

British horseracing can lay claim to plenty of blue-blooded connections, but none rival those of Ascot. The Berkshire racecourse’s roots go back 300 years to Queen Anne, who recognised the potential of a stretch of heath land while out riding just a few miles from Windsor Castle.

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The royal link has endured ever since. Today, Queen Elizabeth II and members of the Royal Family attend the world-famous ‘Royal Ascot’ meeting each year, arriving in a horse drawn carriage. Royal Ascot, meanwhile, has earned iconic status as a centrepiece of the social calendar, when the world’s best thoroughbreds face fierce competition from the world’s most extravagant fashion designs.

Ascot, which underwent a £200 million redevelopment between 2004-6, also hosts the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes sponsored by QIPCO in July, the most prestigious open-age Flat race staged in Britain.

It will also host the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day in October which will be the richest raceday ever staged in Britain with over £4.2m in prize money and the climax to the QIPCO British Champions Series.  Including the five category finales on QIPCO British Champions Day, Ascot stages no less than 13 of the 35 QIPCO British Champions Series races.

What sort of horses like Ascot? Horses that like right-handed courses. And what sort of people? People who like champagne and scones, apparently. During the five-day Royal Ascot meeting in 2010, 60,000 bottles of champagne and 40,000 scones were consumed. Lobsters, meanwhile, don’t like Royal Ascot – 1,500 of them were eaten over that same period.

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