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Champions Series Stars To Stud: Roaring Lion

24 Dec 2018

This week we put the four-time Group 1 winner and Cartier Horse of the Year under the microscope.

ROARING LION (Oisin Murphy)

Roaring Lion and Murphy after landing the Juddmonte International Stakes. Picture Steven Cargill/Racingfotos.com

CAREER DETAILS:

Races: 13. Wins 8. Champions Series Wins: 3. Prize money: £2,723,865.

Roaring Lion certainly did his best to live up to his name.

Rivals trying to tame him, by and large, found it an unequal struggle as he chalked up four Group 1 wins in the second half of 2018.

In the second half of the year he was almost unstoppable – achieving successive wins in the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International Stakes, QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes and QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes under regular rider Oisin Murphy.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic proved a bridge too far – fears that he would not enjoy the dirt proved well founded – but a heavy defeat in America did not stop him being crowned Cartier Horse of the Year ahead of such as Enable, Cracksman, Alpha Centauri and Stradivarius .

Nobody could argue his exciting neck defeat of Saxon Warrior, a familiar foe throughout his career, in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown was not deserved.

His previous performances in Group 1 company had consisted of a neck defeat, by Saxon Warrior, in the Racing Post Trophy; a close fifth in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, behind the same rival, and an excellent third in the Investec Derby.

At Epsom it looked like he might be coming with a winning run in the premier Classic but he could not stay on quite so strongly as Masar and Dee Ex Bee.

It would be wrong to say the son of American-based stallion Kitten’s Joy did not stay a mile and a half – you do not finish a two-length third in any Derby without being effective at the trip – but by the end of his career it was clear that a mile and a quarter was his optimum distance.

He had previously been an emphatic winner of the Dante Stakes over ten furlongs and his Eclipse triumph – when swooping from off the pace after getting shuffled back early on – confirmed his relish for ten furlongs.

“Roaring Lion is growing up a lot and he’s still improving, and he stayed straight as an arrow today,” John Gosden, his trainer, said after the Derby. “Take nothing from the winner, we were following him, but he outstayed us. Our horse really is a mile and a quarter horse.”

David Redvers, Racing and Bloodstock Manager for owners Qatar Racing, said: “He did us proud, my heart is still a flutter. To see a horse travel that well in a field like that, we always had a doubt that this would be a step too far and in this ground and it has been proven thus. We’re goíng to have a fun summer though.”

That “fun summer” rolled on and on until deep into the autumn, even though his connections had to suffer a lengthy stewards’ inquiry before he was confirmed the winner on the first occasion at Sandown. He hung right late on but nobody had any doubt the best horse had won.

There were no such alarms in the Juddmonte International. Roaring Lion was faced by six other Group 1 winners but won with tremendous authority by three and a quarter lengths from Poet’s Word, who had won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and QIPCO-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on his previous two starts.

He was no less impressive, in different circumstances, when beating old rival Saxon Warrior by a neck – again – in the Irish Champion Stakes. His electric turn of foot enabled him to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat after he had been forced wide.

Roaring Lion was then aimed at the QIPCO Champion Stakes, only to be switched to the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes because of the rain-softened ground.

Underfoot conditions, the drop in trip and a wide draw were all concerns but Roaring Lion rolled up his sleeves and showed great determination to beat I Can Fly by a neck in a tremendous finish.

Roaring Lion also won the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes as a juvenile, with the $160,000 paid for him as a yearling proving a tremendous bit of business.

He ended his career with an official rating of 127, having gone into the Dante on a mark of 116.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT:

August 22, 2018, The Juddmonte International Stakes at York

All bar one of the eight runners in the Group 1 showpiece boated at least one win at the highest level but Roaring Lion, sent off at 3/1, effectively turned it into as one-horse race.

Thunder Snow, the Dubai World Cup winner, set the pace until three out when Benbatl, his stablemate, picked up the baton.

Roaring Lion was never far away and when Oisin Murphy hit the front on him a furlong and a half out the contest was quickly over. The combination zipped clear and at the line had three and a quarter lengths to spare over Poet’s Word, who kept on after finding some trouble in running.

The runner-up, who had won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and QIPCIO-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on his previous two starts, might have finished a bit closer with a clearer run but nothing more.

Thundering Blue stayed on to ne third, with Saxon Warrior, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner, beaten aggregate of five length into fourth.

WHAT THEY SAID:

“He battled to win the Eclipse and he’s a much better horse today than he was that day. He’s a proper horse who has got bigger and stronger as the year has gone on. He’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse through and through.”

John Gosden after Roaring Lion’s Juddmonte International triumph

“My reaction is that the owners were very game and brave to run because they had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Roaring Lion had won all those Group 1 races at a mile and a quarter on fast ground, and we brought him here today on soft over a mile.

“He has proven his class and his guts to get there, but I think he was hating every second of running on that ground. You could that see from his action and the way he was carrying himself – I would not work him on that ground.”

Gosden again after victory in the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

WHERE WILL HE STAND:

Roaring Lion will stand at Tweenhills, which is situated five miles to the north of Gloucester just south of the village of Hartpury. His initial covering fee has been set at £40,00.

WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM HIS OFFSPRING?:

It will be a surprise if Roaring Lion ever sires a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner but, beyond that, just about anything is possible.

He showed top-class form between a mile and a mile and a half, showing himself to be effective on fast and slow ground for all that the former surface almost certainly suited him best.

More than that, the strong and attractive grey had a fantastic constitution. He thrived on his racing and if he can pass that trait onto his offspring then they will not lack for toughness or a will to win (three of his four Group 1 wins were achieved by a neck).

Sons and daughters of Roaring Lion may also be lively characters if taking after their sire.

“He was a real lad and liked mucking about – the type who that if he went into town you’d have to make sure he didn’t start a fight,” Gosden recalled of his early days before the colt’s win on QIPCO British Champions Day.

“He’s come good with racing. It’s got him disciplined and professional. He’s improved so dramatically this year and been a fabulous horse to train.”