Big Orange and Order Of St George, who fought out a pulsating finish to the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last week, feature among 29 entries for the newly-promoted Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup.
The two-mile contest has been upgraded to Group One status from Group 2 this year and carries a record prize fund of £500,000, up from £300,000 in 2016.
The historic race, first run in 1812, is now the highlight of the opening day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival on Tuesday, August 1, having been moved from the Thursday.
The move is part of a number of changes, approved by the BHA, which see the G1 Qatar Nassau Stakes move to Thursday, the G1PA Qatar International Stakes move to Wednesday and the G3 Qatar Gordon Stakes move to Saturday.
Big Orange, trained by Michael Bell and owned by Bill and Tim Gredley, became the first horse since Double Trigger (1997 & 1998) to capture back-to-back renewals of the Qatar Goodwood Cup last year when he won from Pallasator (Sir Mark Prescott) and Sheikhzayedroad (David Simcock) in 2016. His first Qatar Goodwood Cup success in 2015 saw him rally gamely to beat Quest For More by a neck.
The six-year-old gained the biggest success of his career when defeating Order Of St George by a short-head in the G1 Gold Cup over two and a half miles at Royal Ascot a week ago.
Order Of St George, a decisive winner of the Gold Cup in 2016, headlines five contenders from Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien. The Ballydoyle handler has also entered last year’s Epsom Derby runner-up US Army Ranger along with three-year-olds Belgravia, Finn McCool and Wisconsin.
Vazirabad missed the Gold Cup after incurring an injury in the G2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier at Chantilly, France, on May 28, which he won by a short-neck. The five-year-old, owned by the Aga Khan, has won on 11 of his 16 starts including two renewals of the G1 Prix Royal-Oak at Saint-Cloud in 2015 and 2016.
The son of Manduro won the two-mile G2 Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan, UAE, on March 25 with Sheikhzayedroad in third and Big Orange fourth. He also triumphed the previous year in Dubai when beating Big Orange a neck.
His trainer Alain de Royer Dupre commented: “It is possible that Vazirabad will make the Qatar Goodwood Cup. He came back from the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier with a problem - he got a cut behind from another horse.
“We are going very slowly because it is not completely healed. The plan is to go to Goodwood but it depends on when we can get him back to normal training.
“The Gold Cup would have been a typical race for Vazirabad because when they have a lot of pace, he has a very strong turn of foot. Big Orange won well but Vazirabad has beaten him twice in the Dubai Gold Cup.”
Other Qatar Goodwood Cup entries include Wicklow Brave (Willie Mullins IRE), who beat Order Of St George in the G1 Irish St Leger last season before going on to G1 glory over hurdles, and Simple Verse, successful in the G1 St Leger at Doncaster in 2015.
Stradivarius (John Gosden) captured the G2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot on June 23 and the Sea The Stars colt could try to be the first three-year-old to win the Qatar Goodwood Cup since Lucky Moon in 1990.
The Charlie Appleby-trained pair of Qewy, fourth in the G1 Melbourne Cup at Flemington, Australia in November, and G1 Qatar Prix Vermeille runner-up Endless Time feature among five Godolphin entries.
Oriental Fox (Mark Johnston), successful in Royal Ascot’s marathon Queen Alexandra Stakes for the second time on Saturday , last season’s Cesarewitch Handicap winner Sweet Selection (Hughie Morrison) and G3 Belmont Gold Cup second St Michel (Sir Mark Prescott) also hold entries.
The Qatar Goodwood Cup is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Nassau Stakes entries
Winter (Aidan O’Brien IRE) heads the entries for the £600,000 G1 Qatar Nassau Stakes, staged over just short of 10 furlongs for fillies and mares.
This year sees the Qatar Nassau Stakes move from its previous Saturday slot, the fifth and final day of Qatar Goodwood Festival, to become the highlight of Ladies’ Day, Thursday, August 3.
Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien bagged his third Qatar Nassau Stakes in 2016 with the outstanding Minding and Winter heads the Ballydoyle handler’s nine entries this time around, having already bagged an impressive G1 treble in 2017 with victories in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last week.
Also among the O’Brien-trained contingent are last year’s G1 Matron Stakes heroine Alice Springs, QIPCO 1000 Guineas and Investec Oaks runner-up Rhododendron, plus the 2016 G1 Irish Oaks and G1 Yorkshire Oaks scorer Seventh Heaven.
Runner-up to Minding in 2016 was Queen’s Trust (Sir Michael Stoute). The daughter of Dansili, now a four-year-old, ended last year in great style when taking the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita, USA, in November.
She has made two appearances so far in 2017, most recently finish a staying-on fourth, beaten two lengths, behind Highland Reel in the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 10 furlongs at Royal Ascot on June 21.
Chris Richardson, Managing Director of Queen’s Trust’s owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “We would very much hope that Queen’s Trust can go for the Qatar Nassau Stakes again this year.
“I haven’t spoken to Sir Michael since her run at Royal Ascot last week but we have put her in and the race is very much an option for her.
“She was slowly away at Royal Ascot and got pinned in on the rail. When she did get clear, she ran on well to the line.
“She certainly showed improvement from her first run this season at York and hopefully she can continue to do that throughout the year.”
Sir Michael Stoute has three entries in total as the Newmarket trainer seeks a record-equalling eighth success in the Qatar Nassau Stakes. In addition to Queen’s Trust, his entries are multiple Listed winner Abingdon and Smart Call, a three-time G1 winner in South Africa.
Another trainer with an excellent record in the Qatar Nassau Stakes is John Gosden, who has won the prestigious contest four times, including three consecutive successes between 2012 and 2014.
The Newmarket handler has made three entries in 2017 - Journey, winner of the G1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes at Ascot in October last year, G1 Prix de Diane fourth Shutter Speed and So Mi Dar, winner of four of her five starts but not seen out since finishing a close third in the G1 Prix de l’Opera in October.
Three entries are owned by Godolphin, including Wuheida (Charlie Appleby), winner of her two starts to date but not seen out since landing the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly in October.
Sobetsu (Charlie Appleby) is also a G1 winner, having captured the Prix Saint-Alary at Deauville in May before disappointing in the Investec Oaks, while Arabian Hope (Saeed bin Suroor) was a Listed winner at York earlier this month.
There are 14 Irish-trained entries in total, including G2 Lanwades Stud Stakes scorer Creggs Pipes (Andrew Slattery) and Turret Rocks (Jim Bolger), a winner at G2 and G3 level.
The French entry is Wajnah (Francois Rohaut), owned by Al Shaqab Racing. The three-year-old was fourth on her latest start in the French Classic , the G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas).
The Qatar Nassau Stakes is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.