There have been a few turn-ups in the Group Two Princess Of Wales’s Stakes in recent years, but nothing as shocking as Big Orange’s 25-1 bolt from Newmarket’s blue skies here.
This was meant to be a final warm-up for the unbeaten Mahsoob before meeting his stablemate, the Derby winner Golden Horn, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in a fortnight. His trainer, John Gosden, had won the first two races with Mr Singh and Shalaa; the vibes were good.
But as Mahsoob traipsed home towards the rear, blowing his final exam, it was instead the rank outsider Big Orange, beaten 25 lengths and 42 lengths on his two starts this season, who rediscovered his lost form and more besides to fight off all challenges and claim his first Group win of any description.
“We were tilting at windmills a bit looking at the form, but when a horse is telling the trainer [Michael Bell] he’s happy, you’ve got to take a chance and it’s worked out,” said the winning jockey, Jamie Spencer. “We went a nice, even gallop and when the others came at him he just kept stretching, stretching.”
Unsurprisingly, punters began wading into Mr Singh for the St Leger – for which he is now generally 8-1 – straight after the colt’s uncomplicated, all-the-way success in the Group Three Bahrain Trophy; this is a horse with history on his side, as well as the Derby-winning trainer, Gosden, and jockey, Frankie Dettori.
One day Dettori, now into middle age, might do himself a mischief performing his flying dismount, but for now he is like a young kid again, riding with all the enthusiasm and confidence he had when he first arrived in Newmarket 30 years ago.
Gosden has now won the Bahrain Trophy four times in the past five years, notably in 2011 with Masked Marvel, who almost threw the race away, but reappeared at Doncaster two months later, quirk ironed out, to beat Brown Panther in the St Leger.
Mr Singh will take the same route. “I’m not saying he’s a Masked Marvel, but he’s improving and he has a gear change,” said Gosden. “He’ll be a better horse next year, but in the meantime the St Leger is made for him.”
Not everything is going right for the Italian. He chose Eltezam instead of Shalaa in the Group Two July Stakes and then watched the latter draw ahead under Rab Havlin to win in some style and earn a 20-1 quote for next year’s 2,000 Guineas.
Ryan Moore was taken to hospital in Cambridge for checks on his neck after a stalls incident in the last race.
Integral will attempt back-to-back victories in Friday’s highlight, the Group One Falmouth Stakes, if the ground is deemed suitable, but she was a big flop at Royal Ascot and this is a stronger contest.
Lucida, beaten less than a length in both the 1,000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes, represents this year’s female Classic crop, but seems a bit tricky to win with, unlike the French four-year-old Avenir Certain, who kicked off her career with six straight victories and who showed that she was ready to win again when flying home just too late to catch Fintry at Chantilly last month.
The Duchess of Cambridge Stakes features perhaps the best two British juvenile fillies seen so far this summer: Illuminate, winner of the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot, and Easton Angel, who arguably achieved even more when overcoming a wide draw to beat all but the turbocharged American raider Acapulco in the Queen Mary Stakes.