BC Classic on Table After Roaring Lion Lands QEII

 
BC Classic on Table After Roaring Lion Lands QEII20 Oct 2018

Kitten's Joy colt bound for Tweenhills Stud, but one final challenge may loom.

Any trip, any ground, anywhere. When Roaring Lion is concerned, it makes no difference—he is simply unstoppable.
So much was against this season's rising star as he chased a fourth consecutive group 1 win in the Oct. 20 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1), including a trip short of his ideal and ground he "hated," but he showed all the courage of a pride of lions in their prime, roaring to a tenacious win under a skilled Oisin Murphy ride.
Had he not been owned by Qatar Racing, whose sister company QIPCO have thrown their lot behind British Champions Day since 2011, Roaring Lion may well have been pampered before a trip to the Breeders' Cup.
But instead of chilling out in the spa-like facilities of John Gosden's all-conquering Clarehaven yard after heavy rain early in the week turned the ground against him, the owners decided to be bold with their champion, switching from "Plan A" in the 1 1/4-mile QIPCO Champion Stakes (G1) to tackle the shorter test of the QEII over a mile. It proved inspired.
His victory may have lacked the ease of his Juddmonte International Stakes (G1) triumph or the explosive turn of foot which sealed an unlikely win in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (G1), but this was no less absorbing, Murphy expertly nursing his partner into contention before asking for maximum and getting every ounce from his partner in the final furlong.
"What a horse," declared Gosden after Roaring Lion held off outsider I Can Fly—whose rider, Donnacha O'Brien, received a seven-day whip ban, which means he misses the second day of the Breeders' Cup along with a £2,050 fine—by a neck to complete the group 1 four-timer.
"At no stage was he ever on the bridle, and Oisin said he absolutely hated the ground," said Gosden. "He's probably a good ground/good-to-firm-ground horse, but he showed his class, and so did the jockey.
"Oisin could have panicked at the two-furlong pole and thrown everything at it, but he kept him balanced, nursed him, and got him there."
Gosden continued to heap praise on Murphy, a young rider who has come of age this year with nine wins at the top level alone, growing in confidence alongside Roaring Lion.
The 22-year-old, never flustered in or out of the saddle, has become the go-to jockey on the big stage this season, but even by his own high standards, he was at his clinical best not to engage top gear too soon despite being on a horse dropping in trip.
"He hated the ground and was never on the bridle, but he wanted it and showed his resolution and toughness," said Murphy.
"It was nip and tuck in the final furlong, and my horse had no petrol left, but he stuck his head out, and I'm very relieved to get the job done.
"Dropping back to a mile is what initiated him winning. If he'd gone 10 furlongs today, we'd have been in trouble."
The immediate future for Roaring Lion is a little unclear. Gosden and owner Sheikh Fahad Al Thani confused the press pack with different views.
Gosden thought this was more than likely Roaring Lion's glorious swan song, but while confirming a stallion career awaits at the end of the season, Sheikh Fahad is keen to have one last crack of the whip against the best dirt horses in the United Stakes in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.
"We are strongly considering the Breeders' Cup Classic on dirt," said Sheikh Fahad. "We need to see how the horse comes out of this race.
"It's only two weeks and he's had a hard campaign, so it will be a very tough decision. But at the moment, the plan is to go there. He will be retired next year to Tweenhills Stud, along with Lightning Spear, so we're adding two very nice stallions to our roster."
Discussing the late switch from the Champion Stakes to the QEII, the owner said: "We always knew the ground would be a bit against him, but I sat with John Gosden and said, 'We've already proved we're the best mile-and-a-quarter horse around. Let's try to prove we're the best mile horse around,' and he did it.
"It's an amazing feeling, and I'm still on cloud nine."
After a performance like that, he was not the only one flying high at Ascot.
-By Lewis Porteous/Racing Post