John Gosden reports Roaring Lion and Cracksman to be firmly on course for a mouthwatering clash in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Roaring Lion has carried all before him in the second half of the season, completing a hat-trick of Group One wins in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, the Juddmonte International at York and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
The Qatar Racing-owned three-year-old has the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes as a back-up option on Saturday week, but Gosden confirmed the Champion Stakes as his preferred target.
He said: “Hopefully he is going to the Champion Stakes. He has been a fabulous horse to train and I’ve never had a horse get bigger and stronger like he has. He has got some constitution, to take the racing and the training.
“We don’t want to see much rain. He has won on good to soft, but we don’t want to see it go soft to heavy, that’s for sure. We will leave him in both races and I think we’ll do a bit of pacing around Ascot and walk the track.
“He has always been a fun horse to be around. With some horses it takes a little bit of time to get in the groove. He has had a tough season and has been hard at it since February and come back for more, but he is in a good place mentally and physically.”
Stablemate Cracksman was a brilliant winner of last year’s Champion Stakes, but will defend his crown with something to prove having been off the track since suffering a shock defeat in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Gosden has considered fitting the four-year-old with headgear on what is set to be his final outing before being retired to stud.
“The old boy is in top order. He runs in the Champion Stakes and I should think that would be his last race,” the Clarehaven handler added.
“I’m considering all options. There has always been a prejudice in this country against blinkers and anything of that nature. The great horses like Northern Dancer and Secretariat consistently run in blinkers and we thought nothing of it in America.
“Plenty of horses, like us, need to stay focused on what they are doing and it’s a very useful aid.”
Roaring Lion and Cracksman are joint-favourites for the Champion Stakes with some bookmakers.
Asked who he felt would come out on top, the trainer said: “I’m not going to predict who would win, but you would go with the three-year-old (Roaring Lion) at the weights.
“He (Cracksman) hasn’t had an ideal year as he hasn’t had his ground, whereas Roaring Lion thrives on fast ground.”
Roaring Lion and Cracksman will be part of a formidable Gosden army heading to Ascot.
Stradivarius will be considered as the banker of the day by many as he bids to add to his victories in the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup, Gold Cup and Lonsdale Cup in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
Gosden said: “He is in great form and he has benefited from having a little time off.
“He handles soft ground but he is better on top of the ground.
“This will be his final run of the year.”
Without Parole will bid to bounce back to form in the QEII, while St Leger runner-up Lah Ti Dar and the ultra-consistent Coronet are booked for the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.
Gosden added: “Lah Ti Dar is in super form. I’ve had a lot run in the St Leger down the years and it is a race that can hit them a bit, but I’ve been astounded how she took it in her stride and it didn’t bother her.
“Coronet has run into Enable, Sea Of Class and Waldgeist, who beat her by a nose. We have got one final plan with her called the Lydia Tesio in Rome, which is a Group One in November.
“If she doesn’t win at Ascot then we are planning to go to Rome before she is retired to stud to try and get this Group One.
“She is the most consistent filly and a real trier.”