The horse - and race - that could make Goodwood history

Big Orange wins the 2016 Goodwood Cup

Big Orange wins the 2016 Goodwood Cup

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Big Orange may have fallen short in his attempts to bring the Melbourne Cup to Britain.

But he could yet be the biggest star of next year’s Glorious Goodwood.

The Michael Bell-trained hero provided one of the great stories of the 2016 Qatar Goodwood Festival in winning the Qatar Goodwood Cup for the second year running.

Racecourse bosses are hopeful he will be back next year – and say he could even be taking part in a first-ever Group 1 Goodwood Cup.

They have made a bid for the 204-year-old contest to be upgraded from Group 2 to racing’s top table.

Goodwood sport MD Adam Waterworth was at Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup to try to talk connections of other top international stayers to pitch in for the race on the Downs.

Big Orange, ridden as usual by Jamie Spencer, was not disgraced in finishing tenth at Flemington in the world’s richest handicap.

And Waterworth is confident the horse can be part of a great Goodwood story next year.

“We have asked the BHA to upgrade the Qatar Goodwood Cup to Group 1 and we believe we have a genuine chance,” he said.

“If it happens we guarantee it will immediately become a £500,000 contest and that should open the door for some top stayers from all parts of the globe to show interest. We’d love to have an Australian horse over for it.”

Waterworth, along with racecourse general manager Alex Eade and clerk of the course Seamus Buckley, are already plotting for the third year of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, which will see another increase in prize money for the five days, which went up to £4.9m this year. The Qatar Lennox Cup is another race they want to see bumped up to Group 1, while they are also working hard to increase the number of entries from France, Japan and other global racing hotspots.

Bosses declared the 2016 campaign at Goodwood a major success and although crowd numbers for the Qatar week were slightly down, they were up for the overall season to 206,000 from 203,000.

Next year’s fixture list again has 19 meetings, with the three-day May and August Festivals plus June’s Three Friday Night and a family raceday in aid of the NSPCC all still in place.

A ‘modest’ ticket-price increase is planned while around £1m of winter work on bars and other facilities is to go ahead.

Buckley hopes for a ‘proper’ winter to get rid of any bugs in the racing surface and said: “I think 2016 was one of my best festivals since I started here. We had 1,100 entries for Glorious and more than 530 runners, up 15 per cent. We were also delighted to have five Frankel two-year-olds running later in the season.”

Eade revealed some new themes for 2017 meetings. The season opener on Saturday, May 6, will give race-goers the chance to sample the other sports on offer at Goodwood, while the artisan food festival focussing on local produce will move to the May Festival (May 25-27).

The season finale (October 15) will be about ‘harvest, hops and horse-racing’.

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