John Gosden was thrilled to see Roaring Lion come of age with a dominant victory in the Juddmonte International at York.
Following an odds-on reverse on his seasonal reappearance in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket in April, it would have taken a brave man to suggest he would go on to win one of the biggest prizes of the season on the Knavesmire, but he has proved a triumph of Gosden’s patience.
An impressive display in the Dante Stakes over this course and distance in May was sandwiched by admirable Classic efforts in the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby and he had enjoyed a mid-season break since toughing out victory in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in early July.
He was a 3-1 shot for what looked a stellar renewal of this 10-furlong showpiece, with Sir Michael Stoute’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes and King George hero Poet’s Word a warm order as the 8-5 favourite.
However, while Poet’s Word’s supporters will think he may have finished closer but for encountering traffic problems, Roaring Lion was in a class of his own on the day as he came home three and a quarter lengths clear in the hands of a jubilant Oisin Murphy.
Thundering Blue came home strongly to claim third and vindicate the decision of owner Clive Washbourn and trainer David Menuisier to supplement the 50-1 chance at a cost of £75,000, earning £114,000 for their enterprise.
Saxon Warrior was fourth for Aidan O’Brien.
Gosden said: “He’s run a lovely race. They went an honest pace. You’d got Dubai World Cup winners in there, Poet’s Word came at him and ran a blinder. There were no hiding places out there.
“We were delighted with him – I was expecting a big performance from him.
“He’d been training exceptionally well. We’ve made no secret of the fact he worked on the July Course the other day with Rab Havlin on board and went very well.
“We had a difficult spring with him. It was a horrible, wet spring and he wasn’t enjoying it. The problem is he likes to play too much. We just said we’d let him enjoy himself and come to hand in his own time.
“We’ve just had to be patient with him. He threw away a Racing Post Trophy last year and wasn’t really with me at the time of the Craven and the Guineas, but by god the Guineas put him right.
“He won the Dante brilliantly and ran a super race in the Derby, he just plainly did not stay.
“He battled to win the Eclipse and he’s a much better horse today than he was that day. He’s come here and shown them a clean pair of heels.
“He’s a proper horse who has got bigger and stronger as the year has gone on.
He went on: “He’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse through and through and I’d have been very disappointed if he hadn’t run like that today.
“He won’t be going for the Arc. The Irish Champion is an obvious possibility, as is Ascot (Champion Stakes).
“I would run him on good to soft ground, but I wouldn’t want to run him on soft – that is the only proviso I have. He has a beautiful action.
“A good mile-and-a-quarter horse gets a mile and a half in America, but the Breeders’ Cup Turf is a long way off.
“I think you should savour a race like this, see how the horse is in the next 10 days and then make plans.
“I’ll be disappointed if he’s retired at the end of the season. He’s just getting good.”