Roar­ing Lion in hunt for Ep­som af­ter Dante Stakes vic­tory

The National - News - - SPORT - AMITH PASSELA

Roar­ing Lion moved into Ep­som Derby con­tention with an im­pres­sive vic­tory in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York on Thurs­day.

The John Gos­den-trained colt won by four-and-a-half lengths, beat­ing front-run­ner Milden­berger in the silks of Sheikh Ham­dan bin Mo­hammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Zabriskie, in the sec­ond colours of trainer Ai­dan O’Brien, was a cred­itable third and Godol­phin’s Nordic Lights was fifth in the nine-run­ner field run over the 2,100-me­tre dis­tance.

It was the first time Roar­ing Lion, sired by Kit­ten’s Joy, was cov­er­ing such a long run in seven ca­reer starts.

“This is his trip and he’s proved him­self over a mile and a quar­ter,” Gos­den told the post-race tele­vi­sion in­ter­view. “I liked the way he hit the line strong. He’s gal­loped out well.

“I think it only pays an enor­mous com­pli­ment to Saxon War­rior, who beat us a neck in the Rac­ing Post Tro­phy at Don­caster and was im­pe­ri­ous in the Guineas.”

Roar­ing Lion, rid­den by Oisin Mur­phy, fin­ished be­hind Derby favourite Saxon War­rior twice in two starts.

He went down nar­rowly to O’Brien’s run­ner in the Group 1 Rac­ing Post Tro­phy as a two-year-old last Oc­to­ber and was fifth be­hind the same horse in the English 2000 Guineas May 5. “I liked the way he came be­tween horses and went away and won. He didn’t do any of his silly hang­ing left and play­ing around,” Gos­den said.

“He’s al­ways been a right old Jack the Lad at home, but he’s just pro­fes­sion­ally got in the zone re­cently. Be­tween our­selves I was ex­pect­ing a per­for­mance like that. I would have been dis­ap­pointed if he didn’t give it.”

But Gos­den did not com­mit to the horse’s im­me­di­ate fu­ture, say­ing he would rather dis­cuss it with the own­ers.

“I think we’ll see how he is over the next few days. If he’s in great nick, we’ll make a de­ci­sion about which race to go for [Ep­som or French Derby],” he said.

“We’ll dis­cuss it with the owner and the man­ager and the jockey – the point is if we are in that po­si­tion it’s a won­der­ful de­ci­sion to have to make. They [Saxon War­rior and Roar­ing Lion] are the two nicest colts in Europe. I like Ep­som and the Derby, ob­vi­ously I do, but I’m not putting words in peo­ple’s mouths.”

Mark John­ston was pleased with Milden­berger’s ef­fort, say­ing his first im­pres­sion was “it was a fan­tas­tic run be­hind an im­pres­sive win­ner”.

“I said to James [Doyle, the jockey] when he came in ‘well done, you made a truly-run trial’. But then Char­lie [John­ston, the as­sis­tant trainer] has quite rightly said he maybe didn’t go fast enough for his own good, he set it up for a faster horse.

“There’s ab­so­lutely no doubt he wants fur­ther, how much fur­ther only time will tell. We’ve got to be happy.”

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