The Lion Roars Again At York

3rd at YOR, Gr. Stk, £165,000G2 Betfred Dante S. (10f 56y)Winner: Roaring Lion, c, 3 by Kitten's Joy

Roaring Lion well clear in the Dante |

By Tom Frary

We all knew Qatar Racing’s Roaring Lion (Kitten’s Joy) had class in abundance, but after Thursday’s G2 Betfred Dante S. we also know he is one industrious colt as he demonstrated his wellbeing in what represents a busy period for such a fledgling performer. As he burst 4 1/2 lengths clear of the solid yardstick Mildenberger (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}) on York’s Knavesmire, he put his tame return third in the G3 Craven S. four weeks ago behind him once and for all. After that prep for the G1 2000 Guineas, John Gosden had refused to flinch claiming the grey was only 80 per-cent and with his much-improved fifth to arch-rival Saxon Warrior (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) in the Newmarket Classic itself he proved that assessment to be correct. Just 12 days on from that effort he was enjoying a class drop as he took a less-travelled path from Guineas to Dante, but surprisingly was allowed to start as big as 3-1 which he duly made a nonsense of with Oisin Murphy’s hardest decision being when to strike.
Following the pace set by Mildenberger with ease in fifth throughout the early stages, Roaring Lion was on the heels of stablemate Crossed Baton (GB) (Dansili {GB}) entering the straight. By the time they passed the three-furlong marker he was tanking along caught in a pocket behind him and White Mocha (Lope de Vega {Ire}), who interestingly had robbed him of second late on in the Craven. As soon as daylight appeared he took off between that duo and showed that dramatic acceleration he had at Doncaster in October before Saxon Warrior rallied to deny him a G1 Racing Post Trophy victory. Connections now have the dilemma of whether winning this time-honoured Derby trial in such manner means that he deserves another crack at Ballydoyle’s “monster” in the June 2 blue riband at Epsom or whether to stick to the original plan and head to Chantilly’s 10 1/2-furlong equivalent a day later. Perhaps tellingly, Gosden could only bow to the Guineas winner who is 2-0 in their meetings so far. “I think it only pays an enormous compliment to Saxon Warrior, who beat us a neck in the Racing Post Trophy at ‘Donny’ and was imperious in the Guineas,” he said. “I think it just confirms the fact that the best Derby trial is the Guineas and this is probably the second best Derby trial.”
While the win was impressive visually, fans of Saxon Warrior will point to the fact that the fourth-placed Merlin Magic (GB) (Camelot {GB}) was much closer to Roaring Lion than he had been in the Racing Post Trophy. It may also be significant that Aidan O’Brien got a marker with the third-placed Zabriskie (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), a 50-1 outsider who was only 1 1/4 lengths further behind and who was carrying two pounds overweight. Roaring Lion did put extra distance between himself and Mildenberger on the form of the G1 Royal Lodge S. at Newmarket in September, however, and this was the first time he had encountered good-to-firm ground in his life. Tackling a mile and a half at this stage of a 3-year-old colt’s career is always an unknown, whatever the indications of pedigree, so there is the chance that he could be a different proposition tackling Saxon Warrior again.
Gosden was non-committal regarding Epsom or Chantilly immediately afterwards. “I think we’ll see how he is over the next few days and if he’s in great nick we’ll make a decision about which race to go for,” he added. “I’ve always said this is his trip and he’s proved himself over a mile and a quarter. I liked the way he hit the line strong and he’s galloped out well. I like Epsom and the Derby, obviously I do, but I’m not putting words in people’s mouths. We’ve given ourselves something to think about.” The Newmarket handler was full of confidence coming to York and believes he is coming forward all the time. “I never shout before a race, but he’s been training beautifully since the Guineas,” he continued. “He’s mentally in the zone now, so we’ll have to work out whether it’s Epsom or the [Prix du] Jockey Club. I was expecting a performance like that and would have been disappointed if he didn’t give it. He’s a lovely horse, but he’s a playboy and is inclined not to concentrate sometimes. I liked the way he went away and didn’t do any of his silly hanging left and playing about. He’s always been a right old ‘Jack the Lad’ at home, but he’s just professionally got in the zone recently. His temperament is getting better. He’s a complete playboy–his trick is rearing up, but he hasn’t reared up for two weeks now he’s fit and in the zone, so I think he’ll be fine at Epsom.”
Trainer Mark Johnston said of Mildenberger, “My first impression was it was a fantastic run behind an impressive winner. There’s absolutely no doubt he wants further, how much further only time will tell. We’ve got to be happy. We’ve got a dilemma, we’ve him and Dee Ex Bee (GB) (Farhh {GB}) for the same owner, there’s the Derby, the King Edward VII and the Queen’s Vase to think about. Long term the Leger is in our sights, they are two of the nicest types I’ve had since Bandari.”
The winner’s stamina for 12 furlongs is under question, but Kitten’s Joy stayed that trip well and gets horses who do. Hawkbill is the best pointer in Europe so far and he improved for a step up to that distance after winning an Eclipse on rain-softened ground, while one of his better ones in North America Big Blue Kitten finished close-up behind the top-class Euros Found (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Golden Horn (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}) in the 2015 GI Breeders’ Cup Turf. Stephanie’s Kitten, Sadler’s Joy and the brothers Oscar Performance and Oscar Nominated all comfortably got 10 furlongs and stayed beyond that, so the portents are strong for Roaring Lion. He is the first foal out of Vionnet (Street Sense), who was third attempting to make all in the 2013 GI Rodeo Drive S. over a mile and a quarter and stayed a lot further than her MGSW sprinter dam Cambiocorsa (Avenue of Flags). She also produced the GII John C. Mabee S. scorer Moulin de Mougin (Curlin), whose sole try at this trip was inconclusive as she slipped up on the bend of the Rodeo Drive a year on from her half-sister taking part in that Santa Anita feature.
Also the dam of the GII Royal Heroine Mile S. scorer Schiaparelli (Ghostzapper), Cambiocorsa is a full-sister to the five-times graded-stakes scorer California Flag who took the second edition of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and won the GIII Morvich H. three times. Vionnet’s 2-year-old colt by Medaglia d’Oro was unsold at $265,000 as a Keeneland November foal, but was put up for auction again back there the following year. Eleven days before Roaring Lion made his winning debut in the mile maiden on Newmarket’s July Course won by Frankel (GB) and Motivator (GB), Spendthrift Farm exercised some clairvoyance with a winning bid of $550,000. Named Fran the Man, he is currently the last produce of the dam after she aborted the following year bred to The Factor and unfortunately bore a dead foal bred to More Than Ready this year.

Thursday, York, Britain
BETFRED DANTE S.-G2, £165,000, York, 5-17, 3yo, 10f 56yT, 2:09.79, g/f.
1–ROARING LION, 126, c, 3, by Kitten’s Joy
1st Dam: Vionnet (GISP-US, $175,140), by Street Sense
2nd Dam: Cambiocorsa, by Avenue of Flags
3rd Dam: Ultrafleet, by Afleet
($160,000 Ylg ’16 KEESEP). O-Qatar Racing Ltd; B-Ran Jan Racing Inc (KY); T-John Gosden; J-Oisin Murphy. £93,572. Lifetime Record: G1SP-Eng, 7-4-1-1, $301,380. Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Mildenberger (GB), 126, c, 3, Teofilo (Ire)–Belle Josephine (GB), by Dubawi (Ire). O-Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum; B-Godolphin (GB); T-Mark Johnston. £35,475.
3–Zabriskie (Ire), 128, c, 3, Frankel (GB)–Moonlight’s Box, by Nureyev. (€750,000 Ylg ’16 GOFORB). O/B-Flaxman Stables Ireland Ltd (IRE); T-Aidan O’Brien. £17,754.
Margins: 4HF, 1 1/4, NK. Odds: 3.00, 3.50, 50.00.
Also Ran: Merlin Magic (GB), Nordic Lights (GB), Wells Farhh Go (Ire), Crossed Baton (GB), James Cook (Ire), White Mocha. Click for the Racing Post result or the free catalogue-style pedigree. Video, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

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