JOHN GOSDEN was quick to praise the tactical calmness of jockey Oisin Murphy after Roaring Lion survived a tense stewards inquiry to win the Group One Coral Eclipse – one of Flat racing’s midsummer highlights.
The biggest win in Murphy’s burgeoning career, it saw the grey exact revenge on Aidan O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior for a narrow defeat in last October’s Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster when it was Roaring Lion who was hunted down late on.
Forced wide on Sandown’s final bend to avoid becoming entrapped on the inner, 22-year-old Murphy and Roaring Lion – the runaway winner of York’s Dante Stakes in May – timed their challenge to perfection.
Yet, as they began to assert in the final stages, they intimidated the runner-up as horse and rider strained every sinew in the pursuit of a career-defining victory on a day of Three Lions euphoria as England qualified for the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990.
Murphy received a four day ban for careless riding following a televised inquiry that saw the aforementioned O’Brien’s teenage son Donnacha, who rode Saxon Warrior, try to argue that the interference changed the outcome of the race.
It did not – the margin of a victory was a neck – but these two protagonists could meet again in the Juddmonte International at York next month where they could be joined by Epsom Derby victor Masar if Charlie Appleby’s stable star recovers from a leg injury that saw him miss the Eclipse.
And Gosden, who has nurtured the careers of high-profile jockeys like Frankie Dettori and William Buick, was fulsome in his praise of Murphy who was recording a first domestic Group One win to add to three overseas triumphs at the very highest level. “He rode him beautifully and very coolly,” said the former champion trainer.
“He got too far back, he knew that, and he didn’t hurry to get back. It was a very good ride and I’m thrilled. I thought Saxon Warrior was magnificent, so all credit to Aidan O’Brien.
“Roaring Lion ran beyond his trip when third in the Derby at Epsom and we stood on the Downs right there and then said ‘this horse goes for the Eclipse and comes back to a mile and a quarter’. Others seemed to join us on the idea late.
“It was very sad that the Derby winner Masar wasn’t here as it would have been a phenomenal race. He wasn’t here, but we still got a hell of a race. We will freshen up and go to York. I’m sure we will see the second (Saxon Warrior) there and with some luck, we will see Masar there. That will be some horse race.”
Though Murphy was clearly relieved to keep the race, he believed it was a fair result, praised the Gosden team for teaching Roaring Lion to settle better on his races and spoke about the confidence provided by the trainer when discussing tactics.
“Whenever a horse shifts off a line or anything small in a race, the stewards look into it,” said the jockey who is regarded as one of the most gifted horsemen of his generation.
“My horse has caused very little interference, if any, and clearly he was the best horse in the race.
“He’s a very talented colt. There’s a huge team at John Gosden’s who deserve big-race success and I’m delighted.”
The Eclipse forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series which is underpinned by Sheikh Fahad, and Qatar Racing, who own the victorious horse.
The likable and eloquent jockey’s biggest victory since he became retained by the equally ambitious Qatar Racing, he added: “Sheikh Fahad buys and breeds horses that are supposed to be brilliant, but as we all know from the other big organisations, they are hard to find and we have one now. I’m just lucky enough to be part of one.
“It’s a relief. I’m pleased for my family. My mum and dad will be proud as it has taken me six years to win a Group One race in Britain.
“This is at the top of my achievements. I was on the best horse in the race and I just had to get it right and not get there too soon. John always asks me how I want to ride him and he is always happy with that. That gives me confidence before you start.”