The John Gosden-trained pair have helped illuminate this campaign and their respective connections have issued upbeat bulletins after the latest scratchings stage for Britain’s richest raceday, which boasts prize money of £4.35 million and features four Group 1 races, a Group 2 and the richest mile handicap in Europe.
Roaring Lion is one of 24 left in the £1.3 million QIPCO Champion Stakes and has shown a mile and a quarter to be his optimum trip on his past three starts – reeling off successive Group 1 wins in the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes.
The grey, owned by Qatar Racing Limited, also won the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York in May in between finishing fifth in the 2,000 Guineas and a gallant third in the Derby. He was also third in the Craven Stakes on his return,
His appetite for racing seems unlimited and David Redvers, racing and bloodstock manager for Qatar Racing, says that, typically, he has taken his latest race, when beating Saxon Warrior by a neck in a pulsating QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, in his stride.
“Roaring Lion has the most remarkable constitution,” Redvers said. “He was charging around the place and wanting more a few days after his win at Leopardstown, which is quite something when you think of the amount of racing he’s had and that he had a pretty tough race.”
Redvers has particular admiration for the way the son of Kitten’s Joy bounced back from finishing a non-staying third in the Derby.
He said: “The Derby can destroy horses. It’s always a real fear running a horse that you’ve got serious stamina doubts about in a race like that because you can leave him there, and you might never get them back afterwards.
“He clearly did not stay at Epsom and there is never a tougher race than when you run beyond your stamina. Anyone into running themselves will tell you there is nothing worse than either being unfit, or being pushed beyond where you can actually physical go. It can leave its mark, but with him he came straight back out and “wallop”, into the Eclipse and he does it again.”
Watch our experts analyse Roaring Lion's Irish Champion Stakes win
Roaring Lion has also been left in the QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day but he will only revert to a mile if underfoot conditions become testing. He is a standout 2-1 with William Hill for the Champion Stakes, and a general 8-1 for the QEII.
“All along the form men – the clever boys with their sectional times – have said that he’s as good as any of the best milers this year so the QEII will definitely be kept as an option if the ground comes up soft,” Redvers said. “We just want the ground to have good in the description, that would be ideal.”
On the prospect of meeting Cracksman, runaway winner of the Champion Stakes 12 months ago, he added: “He’s last year’s champion and, while it’s not been plain sailing for him this year, it’s coming to his time of his year. To see those two square up would be fascinating, potentially explosive. It’s what QIPCO British Champions Day is all about and what it is there for.”
It has yet to be decided whether Roaring Lion will stay in training next season, or instead start his second vocation as a stallion at Tweenhills in Gloucestershire. Redvers said: “I’m itching to get him at Tweenhills as fast as I can, but that decision will be made by Sheikh Fahad and his brothers. It may be made before QIPCO British Champions Day, on Champions Day, or after the Breeders’ Cup.
“We are making preparations so that if it is decided he is going to come to Tweenhills we are all ready for him. We are building a new stallion box, so everything is getting shipshape for him. He will be in high demand and it’s very exciting from that point of view, but I can’t second guess Sheikh Fahad and his family’s decision.”
Meanwhile, Stradivarius is on target to try and capa perfect season in the £500,000 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.
Successive wins in the Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup earned his connections a £1 million bonus offered by Weatherbys Hamilton.
The four-year-old had to dig deep to extend his winning spree under regular rider Frankie Dettori at York last time but he still had a length and a half to spare over Count Octave at the finish.
“I saw him on Friday morning. He’s had a nice break and recovered well,” said Bjorn Nielsen, his owner-breeder. “The weather forecast for at least the next two weeks is good and, provided it’s not heavy ground, he will run.
“Frankie said he was flat at York but they are very happy with him now. Those four big races he had are tough on any horse and he’d had only a three-week break between Goodwood and York, whereas he’ll been having six weeks before.
How good was Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup?
“Don’t forget he had that 3lb penalty to carry last time. If you take that away he’d have won by five lengths, with nine lengths to the third and 12 lengths to the fourth and everyone would have been saying ‘wow, what a performance’.
“That 3lb is three lengths over two miles and it makes a big difference. They raised him afterwards [from 118 to 120], which shows the handicapper thought it was his best performance.”
Stradivarius is a best-priced Evens but he is set to face an intriguing new challenger in Flag Of Honour, winner of the Irish St Leger.
Flag Of Honour is not among the 22 entries left in the race but Aidan O’Brien, his trainer, has indicated that the three-year-old son of Galileo will be supplemented provided he continues to please in the build-up to the two-mile feature.
He has thrived since being upped in distance and on his latest start made all for Classic success at the Curragh. Asked to volunteer intended Ballydoyle runners on Champions Day, O’Brien said: “Flag Of Honour would be one we’d be thinking of sending over. The QIPCO Long Distance Cup over two miles is what we have in mind for him.”
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