David Ord on why he'd run Roaring Lion in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Saturday plus Timeform hit the mark again and Graham Bradley on Luck On Sunday.
LION CAN ROAR OVER ASCOT MILE
John Gosden is a busy man.
On Monday he was raising his hand to snare a Kingman yearling on behalf of Godolphin for 750,000 guineas as Book 2 of the Tattersalls October Sale sprang into life.
On Thursday - before the first horse enters the sales ring on a gruelling week at Headquarters – he’ll walk the course at Ascot and decide which race Roaring Lion runs in on Saturday.
The temptation must be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Not because of the fact it gives the champion trainer a stronger chance of winning both Group One features on QIPCO British Champions Day.
Not because it avoids a clash with stablemate Cracksman in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.
But because it makes sense.
The three-year-old is my horse of the year. He hasn’t missed a dance since a reappearance in the Craven which posed more questions than it answered.
Just look at his big-race haul since that thumping at the hooves of Masar. The Betfred Dante, Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte Interanational and the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes.
Three Group One wins at ten furlongs and clearly he’d have a big chance of making it four on Saturday.
But a mile-and-a-quarter in testing ground at Ascot, at the end of a busy season, is hard work – bear in mind it even slightly blunted Frankel's undoubted brilliance in his final career start.
And you sense the QEII may be there for the taking.
There are clearly upsides for owners Qatar Racing if he was to drop in trip and win. The stallion brochure for the son of Kitten’s Joy will already boast of three top flight wins at a mile-and-a-quarter – one at a mile would sit very nicely alongside.
Then there’s America. If, as Gosden and David Redvers have indicated, a trip to Churchill Downs is on the agenda should their warrior emerge unscathed from the weekend, then he’s less likely to leave his chance behind on the straight mile than trying to reel-in his fresh stablemate when Cracksman boots for home two out in a Champion.
There’s no official confirmation that Roaring Lion will retire at the end of the season – but the refreshing way he’s been campaigned must make it very likely.
What else is there left to win at four? He ran well to be third in the Investec Derby but his trainer felt that run proved conclusively he doesn’t stay a mile-and-a-half.
Having shone so bright at Sandown, York and Leopardstown this summer all that’s up for grabs in 2019 – in Britain and Ireland at least – are a Tattersalls Gold Cup and Prince Of Wales’s.
It would be wonderful to see him return again next season but you can completely understand given his campaign at three why they’d draw stumps.
And that’s why a switch of target on Saturday makes sense. A final chance to add a top flight mile success to a glittering CV and potentially leave something in the tank for America.
It’s no penalty kick – how can it be with Laurens in there while Recoletos and Expert Eye appeal as the sorts to go well too. But they wouldn’t cope with a fit and firing Roaring Lion. What price would he be non-runner/no bet for the race? 7/4?
He has the speed and he has the class for such a test. He'd be just about last off the bridle in the QEII, win, lose or draw - and has the turn of foot to quickly put it to bed if anywhere near his A-game.
Cracksman would struggle to cope with his younger neighbour on good ground or quicker in the Champion but after the rain lashed down in Berkshire on Monday, the barometer at Clarehaven must have spun away from that particular clash of the generations.
CHASERS AND HURDLERS BACK WITH A BANG
Last weekend’s fixture at Chepstow traditionally marks the start of the jumps season proper, and as ever it was preceded by the publication of Timeform’s Chasers And Hurdlers annual.
It’s one of the weightier – and more expensive – of the racing tomes but packs a significant punch with several hard-hitting essays.
It’s a wonderful recap of the previous campaign while offering pointers for the new one – Great Field at 25/1 for the Champion Chase anyone? - but the talking points it provokes remain its core strength.
The piece on Apple’s Jade includes a renewed plea for the introduction of 48-hour declarations for all jumps racing. Altior is crowned Timeform Horse of the Year for the second time, there’s a fascinating debate over which was the greatest Gold Cup while reflecting on Native River’s triumph in March.
Then there’s Cue Card and the question of when a top jumper should be retired.
Think back to last autumn and his fall in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby – many believed that was the time for him to exit stage left. He didn’t and, while he wasn’t to win again, his duel down the Ascot straight with Waiting Patiently proved one of the races of the season.
The curtain eventually came down after pulling up in the Ryanair Chase and failing to sparkle at home before Aintree.
Timeform wrote: “There was hardly any stage in Cue Card’s career when he wasn’t making headlines with some big-race success or other (he won nine Grade 1s) and his longevity undoubtedly contributed to him becoming one of the most popular racehorses of recent times.
“In one sense, he had nothing more to prove. That, in itself, though, was no reason to retire him. So long as a jumper is fit and well, and capable of winning races, owners will generally keep racing them, which they are fully entitled to do.”
And there’s the crux. Connections of the top Flat stars have commercial pressures to help guide them as to when to call it quits. For the jumpers it’s a different ball game.
Retirement is forced upon many through injury. Others become a light of former days and the decision to walk away is inevitable. For horses like Cue Card things are never quite as clear-cut.
In the end he went into retirement a healthy and happy horse and while his final campaign may not have included another notable win, it did feature a notable performance.
He was throughout his career a credit to connections.
ROUTE BACK FOR THE WAYWARD LAD?
The excellent Luck On Sunday made a welcome return to our screens on Sunday morning and offered up an intriguing guest in Graham Bradley.
You remember him? One of the best jockeys of his generation right?
As stylish and composed a rider as you’d see in the saddle – a man who honed his skills on the likes of Bregawn and Wayward Lad, who provided moments of pure magic aboard Morley Street.
That Graham Bradley.
It’s also the same one who in 2002 was warned off for eight years by the Jockey Club - later reduced to five – for passing on inside information to a known criminal.
“The main problem I’ve got at the moment is my reputation – I need to rebuild people’s trust and regain my reputation,” was his opening gambit of a compelling – if surprisingly reserved – interview.
“I want to apologise for what I’ve done over the last few years. I was a very successful jockey who rode a lot of big winners and I have a lot of friends in racing but I created some stupid, stupid mistakes. I want to apologise and I have apologised in the past but I need to regain people’s trust and I want to get an official position within racing, get back among my friends and set my career off again.”
The opportunity is there – it seems – as assistant trainer to David Elsworth. So why shouldn’t Brad be allowed to take it? After all it’s now 2018 – he’s served his time.
Back in 2014 he had his heart set on taking out at trainers’ licence but having completed the necessary modules, his application stalled in the in-tray at BHA headquarters.
In the October of that year, he and Brendan Powell were cleared of a charge that Bradley had actually trained horses under Powell’s name.
The BHA were left “disappointed” by the ruling but Bradley withdrew his application for a training licence the following September, citing frustrations by the length of time it was taking and the loss of premises he planned to train from.
The governing body had written to him indicating the authority did not think he was "a suitable person" to hold a licence.
So what now? Does Graham Bradley still pose a significant threat to the integrity of British racing? Is he someone who should have his route back into it blocked?
Or should it be down to the sport and those within it to decide? If a trainer like Elsworth wishes to employ him and the owners are happy to have him playing a pivotal role in the day-to-day running of the yard, isn’t it time to allow him back?
I’d sit in the latter camp although, as with all things Graham Bradley, it isn’t straightforward.