Big Orange lands Gold Cup in Dettori's absence

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Ascot (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Big Orange held off a late charge by defending champion Order of St George to win a thrilling edition of the Gold Cup, the feature race of Royal Ascot, on Thursday.

The winner's jockey James Doyle took the plaudits for a superb ride, but his heart went out to Italian star Frankie Dettori, who should have been riding him but for an injured arm that ruled him out of the meeting.

"Unfortunately Frankie couldn't have got the injury at a worse time," said Doyle.

"Frankie's a real star. He called me a couple of nights ago and I was probably on the phone for about 20 minutes getting instructions and him telling me all about the horse. He was spot on.

"You can't do it without the help of everyone. Frankie said to me 'whatever you do, don't interfere with him'. He knows what speed he wants to go at and you just sit as a passenger.

"I had Frankie's voice in my head as I just eased him out and let him go to the front and the rest was history."

Order of St George looked set to record successive wins as he gained and gained on the long-time pacesetter Big Orange, but Doyle just managed to keep his nose in front as they hit the line.

"This horse is as tough as they get," said Doyle after pulling his ride up to return to the winners' enclosure for the second time this week.

Big Orange's trainer Michael Bell said his heart had been in his mouth as Order of St George gained on his runner.

"I was just praying for the line and begging for the line to come," said Bell.

"The horse is a superstar -- he's a warrior. That's his eighth Pattern (Group/Listed) win and we're extremely lucky to train him."

Tim Gredley, who owns the winner along with his father Bill, said that he had gone through a whirlwind of emotions.

"When we came round the final bend I thought he would win easily but when Order of St George came with his run I thought oh no here we go.

"However, he has so much heart and never gives an inch and James (Doyle) said to me he finds strength through being challenged and he certainly did."