Plenty of confidence behind Big Orange’s Melbourne Cup challenge
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Preview: Australia, Tuesday (Live on ATR 4am GMT)
Flemington: Emirates Melbourne Cup (Group 1 Handicap) 2m, 3yo+
MICHAEL BELL is under no illusions about the significance of Big Orange‘s run in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup as he bids to become the first British-based trainer to send out the winner of Australia’s most famous race.
“This is his best chance,” says Bell. “If he doesn’t run well, we probably won’t be coming back again and if he does run well, he’ll have even more weight and he’s already got top weight. It’s now or never.”
Last year, when their journey resulted in a fifth-placed finish, was Big Orange’s first run outside of Britain and his trainer is hopeful that the experience will not be lost on the gelding.
“He’s older and wiser, bigger and stronger and there’s an old adage that practice makes perfect,” said Bell. “He’s had a bit of practice, so he just needs to improve a couple of lengths and he’ll be bang there.
“He won the same races in 2016 as 2015 but he was a far more impressive winner of those races this year, so you can argue he has definitely improved,” the trainer added.
‘He never gives up’
Jamie Spencer has again made the trip to Australia to ride Big Orange. He has been aboard for all of the horse’s big wins, besides this year’s Princess Of Wales’s Stakes when James McDonald, partner of Melbourne Cup favourite Hartnell, took over.
“I enjoy riding him because he tries hard,” Spencer said. “When he’s challenged he fights. You saw that when he fought against Vazirabad in Dubai and in the first Goodwood Cup, when he was headed twice and battled back.
“I’ve never ridden him and felt like he was stopping at the end of the race. He never gives up and when they’re like that, you always have a little bit more affection for them.”
Big Orange is a best-priced 12-1 with British layers, behind the big-name home hopefuls Hartnell and Jameka. Bell admitted feeling nerves, rather than pressure.
“The work is done now and it’s just so thrilling to be involved in a race like this,” he said. “My cigarette lighter will probably run out of gas but you’ve got to try to enjoy these things and not get too stressed about them. If you don’t enjoy it, there’s no point doing your job.”
Oceanographer: one of five Cup runners for Godolphin
PICTURE: Getty Images
Strength in numbers for Godolphin
Bell is not the only British representative in the race. Among the five Godolphin-owned runners in the field are four based in Newmarket, with Secret Number and Beautiful Romance representing Saeed bin Suroor, and the Charlie Appleby-trained pair of Oceanographer and Qewy.
Ante-post favourite Hartnell is the other Godolphin contender and their combined strength has led Betway to offer just 13-8 that the winner will carry the famous royal blue silks.
There is also Irish representation. Irish St Leger winner Wicklow Brave represents Willie Mullins, while Heartbreak City, last seen winning the Ebor, goes for Tony Martin.
For super-fast reaction from the Melbourne Cup log on to racingpost.com from 4am on Tuesday morning
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