JOHN GOSDEN has praised the battling qualities of Roaring Lion – the dual York winner – ahead of Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot this weekend.
The grey, winner of both the Dante Stakes and Juddmonte International on the Knavesmire, is still due to line up in the 10-furlong Champion Stakes.
However, torrential rain at the Berkshire track means the colt has been handed a provisional entry in the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes which is due to feature Leyburn trainer Karl Burke’s five-time Group One winner Laurens.
Gosden is keen to keep his options open for the Sheikh Fahad and Qatar Racing-owned champion whose big race successes this summer under jockey Oisin Murphy also include Sandown’s Coral Eclipse and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
The horse has been imperious over 10 furlongs, accelerating off a strong pace. However, the colt did not quite stay the Epsom Derby trip of a mile and a half, hence the stamina concerns following the deluge at Ascot.
“He’s improved so dramatically this year and been a fabulous horse to train. I’ve never had a horse get bigger and stronger like he has – and his constitution has truly impressed me,” said Gosden.
He’s always been a fun horse to be around. He wasn’t with us in the spring but with some horses it takes a little time to get in the groove.John Gosden
“The extraordinary thing about him is that he’s had a tough season – he’s been hard at it since February – yet he’s come back for more. He’s in a good place mentally and physically. I think the trainer’s more likely to go over the top than him.
“He would be the very legitimate favourite for the Qipco Champion Stakes but would not want it very soft or heavy. He’s got the class and speed to run over that mile [in the QEII Stakes] if that were the case and we’ll keep an eye on what’s around us weather wise.
“He showed a lot of guts in the Eclipse and was hugely impressive in the Juddmonte. Then he had an impossible task at Leopardstown when forced to go round five horses off no place. I don’t know how he quickened like he did.
“He’s always been a fun horse to be around. He wasn’t with us in the spring but with some horses it takes a little time to get in the groove. You ask a football manager – it takes quite a long time to gel players together or get someone doing what you want them to do. It’s no different with horses as it is with humans.
“He was a complete playboy and during the winter spent a great deal of time on his hind legs. 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. He came good with racing. It’s got him disciplined and professional.”
If the Champion Stakes is run on soft ground, Gosden believes conditions could play to the strengths of Cracksman who won this renewal 12 months ago under Frankie Dettori. It is likely to be the horse’s final race before retiring to stud.
Gosden is enjoying a golden run by his own high standards – the Dettori-inspired Enable became just the eighth dual winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s blue riband race, 10 days ago, while Too Darn Hot is ante-post favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas after winning Doncaster’s Champagne Stakes and then Newmarket’s Dewhurst Stakes at the weekend.
A dominant display by Gosden at Ascot this Saturday will, in all likelihood, see him crowned champion trainer for a third time.
Other fancied runners for the Newmarket trainer include Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup – the horse has already won a £1m bonus for his dominance of the stayers’ division this summer – as well as Lah Ti Dar and Coronet in the Fillies and Mares Stakes.
There is also due to be a strong Yorkshire contingent. As well as the aforementioned Laurens, entries for the QEII Stakes include Richard Fahey’s Gabrial and David O’Meara’s very consistent Lord Glitters.
Meanwhile, the Champions British Sprint sees Fahey’s Sands of Mali go up against the Kevin Ryan-trained Brando.
Kadar may still head to Doncaster for this month’s Vertem Futurity Trophy despite missing his intended second racecourse appearance at Newmarket.
Trainer Karl Burke remains keen to run the two-year-old again this season after withdrawing him from Saturday’s Group Three Autumn Stakes because he felt the ground was too fast.
His intention had been to aim Kadar, owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred Limited, at the final Group One of the domestic season on October 27 as long as he performed creditably at Newmarket on the back of his debut victory at Haydock last month.
“It was just the ground. I’m very happy to think of going straight for the Vertem Futurity in two weeks’ time,” said the Leyburn trainer. “We will surely have a bit of rain by then. The ground was pretty quick at Newmarket, and he’s still a bit of a baby. I’m very keen to run him again – I’d be happy sending him to Doncaster.”