The two-mile contest has been upgraded to Group 1 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, Tuesday, August 1, having been moved from the Thursday. The move is part of a number of changes that have been approved by the BHA, which see the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes move to Thursday 3 August, the Group 1PA Qatar International Stakes move to Wednesday 2 August and the Group 3 Gordon Stakes move to Saturday 5 August.
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 Group 1 Gold Cup over two and a half miles at Royal Ascot on June 22.
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 Group 2 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 Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak at Saint-Cloud in 2015 and 2016.
The five-year-old son of Manduro won the two-mile Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan, UAE, on March 25 with Sheikhzayedroad in third and Big Orange fourth.
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. The plan is to go to Goodwood but it depends on when we can get him back to normal training."
Other Qatar Goodwood Cup entries include Wicklow Brave (Willie Mullins IRE), who beat Order Of St George in the Group 1 Irish St Leger last season before going on to Group 1 glory over hurdles, and Simple Verse, successful in the Group 1 St Leger at Doncaster in 2015.
The Charlie Appleby-trained pair of Qewy and 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 Group 3 Belmont Gold Cup second St Michel (Sir Mark Prescott) also hold entries.
The Qatar Goodwood Cup is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.