Roaring Lion outbattles Saxon Warrior in Eclipse and survives stewards' enquiry

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Sat 7 Jul 2018

Watch how Roaring Lion edged out Saxon Warrior in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday plus interviews with John Gosden and Aidan O'Brien.

 Murphy returns to the winner's enclosure after winning the Eclipse on Roaring Lion. Pic: Focusonracing
Murphy returns to the winner's enclosure after winning the Eclipse on Roaring Lion. Pic: Focusonracing

Never mind the Three Lions, what about the Roaring Lion.

Taking a leaf out of the book of the nation’s footballers from earlier in the week, the John Gosden-trained colt made his supporters sweat and needed a bit of extra-time - via a stewards’ enquiry - before being confirmed as the winner of the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at a sweltering Sandown on Saturday.

Roaring Lion edged out Saxon Warrior by a neck after swooping from off the pace down the outside under Oisin Murphy but, not for the first time, he hung in the closing stages and took the 2,000 Guineas winner and teenager Donnacha O’Brien with him.

Watch a full replay of the Eclipse

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Simple Verse was demoted after carrying Sheikh Fahad’s silks to glory in the St Leger in 2015 before getting the race back at the headquarters of the BHA 11 days later.

The Sheikh and his team must have feared lightning was going to strike again as the inquiry dragged on longer than seemed necessary but, having reviewed replays and spoken with the young jockeys involved, the officials allowed the result to stand.

Nobody could argue that the best horse had won, for all that Saxon Warrior dug deep just seven days after he had finished third in the Irish Derby. The pair pulled two and a half lengths clear of a rejuvenated Cliffs Of Moher, with Hawkbill, who made much of the running, in fourth and Happily a subdued fifth.

“I’d be disappointed and surprised if we lose the race [in the stewards’ room] but we’ve been that before in life,” Gosden said as the officials deliberated. “We are not talking about short heads here. We were the last to make a run and always holding him.”

The trainer was saddling the Eclipse winner for a third time after the previous wins of Nathaniel and Golden Horn and was full of praise for Murphy, who did not panic after getting shuffled back. The stewards were not so impressed and gave him a four-day ban for careless riding.

"He rode him beautifully and very coolly,” Gosden said. “He got too far back, he knew that, and he didn't hurry to get back.

"It was very sad that the Derby winner (Masar, who was ruled out through injury on Friday) wasn't here as it would have been a phenomenal race if you had the Guineas and Derby winners and us. It would have been a right old ding-dong over a mile and quarter. He wasn't here, but we still got a hell of a race.”

Sheikh Fahad and his brothers sponsor QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in October and, no doubt, would love to see Roaring Lion take his chance in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

But, before that, he will be freshened up for the Juddmonte International Stakes at York next month and Gosden believes the Breeders’ Cup Turf may be a more suitable end of season objective if the ground is soft in the autumn.

“I'm sure we will see the second there and with some luck, we will see Masar there (in the Juddmonte),” Gosden said. “That will be some horse race."

Betfair make Roaring Lion a best-priced 4-1 for the York showpiece, with Poet's Word and Masar generally 5-1. Saxon Warrior is 6-1, with Enable, stablemate of Roaring Lion, out to 7-1 with Skybet.

Murphy, 22, was winning his first Group One race in Britain after knocking on the door on numerous occasions, especially on Lightning Spear. That horse was beaten a whisker by an O’Brien challenger, Rhododendron, in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May, when some were harshly critical of his tactics, and this triumph gave him huge satisfaction.

Murphy does not know how to swim but last week vowed to jump in to the Thames with Matt Chapman, the presenter, if Roaring Lion happened to win.

"Whenever a horse shifts off a line or anything small in a race, the stewards look into it,” he said. "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. I went out in the race with a very open mind and full of confidence thanks to the owner and the trainer. Thankfully, we delivered."

O'Brien was typically gracious in defeat and had no qualms about the verdict of the stewards.

"The head on looks like they did come together. It was not an advantage as he is a big horse rolling at that time of the race,” he said. “It was a very good run though and I'm delighted.

"It was a very big ask after a tough race in the Irish Derby. We can really look forward to the autumn. We will take him home and give him a nice break.

"I'd say we can go back (to a mile) any time he wants. It was always going to be a big ask wheeling him back quickly."

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