James Doyle enjoys big day on Big Orange
Aiden O’Brien gets second winner of the week with Sioux Nation in Norfolk Stakes
Despite having never ridden Big Orange before James Doyle delivered an inspired effort.
James Doyle is a divisive figure for some but Royal Ascot saw near-unanimity on Thursday when the jockey produced a master-class of subtlety and strength to win the Gold Cup on the crowd favourite Big Orange.
The 5-1 hero of the hour had a short head win over Aidan O’Brien’s actual 5-6 favourite Order Of St George at the end of as fine a finish the famous 210-year old race has ever seen.
But if the abiding freeze-frame memory of Big Orange’s victory will be the final stride at the line, it was Doyle’s pinpoint judgement of pace for every other stride during the two and a half mile marathon that made the crucial difference.
Determined to set his own fractions, Doyle exchanged the lead with Quest For More up the straight for the first time before grabbing the initiative with a circuit to go.
The presumption that the veteran six-year-old is all about stamina ignored how it was his first time at the extreme distance, so coming out of ‘Swinley Bottom’ Doyle juggled leading with slowing the pace and did it so well the field stacked up with Order Of St George stuck at the back.
Ryan Moore eventually swept down the outside and looked set to win on the favourite, only for the winner’s famous guts and determination to kick in as the pair treated the crowds to a truly grandstand finish.
It’s proving a vintage Royal Ascot for Doyle who won the first day highlight, the St James’s Palace Stakes, on Barney Roy for his employer, Godolphin.
That just over an hour prior to the Gold Cup Godolphin had landed the Group Three Hampton Court Stakes with Benbatl was a reminder of how that one’s trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor, flatly refused to let Doyle ride his horses anymore last September.
The 29-year-old Englishman even found himself on Godolphin duty in Australia during the spring.
Fashion is fleeting though and at racing’s ultimate catwalk venue Doyle has stepped back up to the Group One mark with a vengeance.
“It was great to get the call up. Frankie’s a real star. He called me a couple of nights ago and I was probably on the phone for 20 minutes getting instructions. He was spot on. He said ‘whatever you do, don’t interfere with him.’ He knows what speed he wants to go. You just sit,” he said.
If that was summation was notable for its modesty it was left to Bell to sum up most people’s reaction: “The horse is a warrior with a brilliant, brilliant jockey.”
Dettori’s mood had hardly eased earlier when his Ribblesdale Stakes option, Coronet, pounced late under Oliver Peslier to deny the favourite Mori. Naughty Or Nice, one of the big Irish hopes, finished last after running very free in first-time blinkers, leading to Declan McDonogh losing his irons.
Earlier the O’Brien-Moore team landed a 14-1 surprise with Sioux Nation in the Norfolk Stakes. Just as with Bless Him’s later victory in the Britannia Handicap, the winner raced on the far side rail and proved half a length too good for Santry.
“He’s a massive, powerful horse. To be doing this at this time of his career is incredible,” O’Brien said.
Apprentice jockey Kieran Shoemark rode a first Royal Ascot winner when Atty Persse overcame a high draw to land the King George V Stakes.