Roaring Lion ‘leading’ Breeders’ Cup contender, jockey says

November 01, 2018 11:22am
Roaring Lion ‘leading’ Breeders’ Cup contender, jockey says
Photo: Bee Buck Photography

Along with questions regarding his first mount in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Roaring Lion, jockey Oisin Murphy faced another pressing issue this week at Churchill Downs.

What’s the correct way to say his name?

“If you split it into two syllables, it’s ‘uh-shin,’” Murphy said. “But I’m not too fussy — not bothered by the pronunciation.”

The 23-year-old native of Ireland wouldn’t mind if a few thousand Americans knew his name following Saturday’s Classic, in which he’s giving Roaring Lion a real chance to win. That’s despite the son of Kitten’s Joy having never run on dirt and raced just two weekends ago, gutting out a victory over a mile in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

“It was always the plan, if he had a good season, to try the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Murphy said. “It’s a much bigger race than just staying on the turf. The horse is a champion 3-year-old. He’s the best miler and mile and a quarter horse in Europe.

“We’ve got nothing to lose, so we’re going to give it our best shot.”

Roaring Lion, a John Gosden trainee for Qatar Racing Limited, enters having won four straight races, with the Coral Eclipse (G1), Juddmonte International (G1) and Irish Champion Stakes (G1) making up the rest of the streak.

Before whisked away to stud next year, the flashy gray colt could pad his resume going 10 furlongs on Churchill Downs’ main track. It’s not the dirt itself, but rather the kickback produced over it, that concerns Murphy.

“They either take it or they don’t. That’s my view on things,” he said. “He moves perfectly fine, in my opinion, and John certainly thinks his action will be fine for dirt. He’s going to have to jump and race a lot faster than he does the first two furlongs.”

To that end, Murphy has paid attention to the Aidan O’Brien-trained Mendelssohn’s American exploits as the colt went from bashed leaving the gate in the Kentucky Derby to a speedster who can break on top in route races in a matter of months.

Before post time for the Classic, Murphy said he’ll also speed with jockeys Julien Leparoux and Florent Geroux, as “they’re fully aware of what it’s going to take, and they have a European perspective on things.”

Murphy rode once previously in the Breeders’ Cup, finishing ninth aboard Cotai Glory in the 2017 Turf Sprint at Del Mar. He picked up a Thursday mount in allowance company at Churchill — that turf race will be taken to the main track — that will give him some experience on the course, too.

“I can’t emphasize the significance of this meeting — this event — enough,” Murphy said of the Breeders’ Cup. For him, it comes a week after he rode in Australia’s Cox Plate, the race won by super mare Winx. “…For me, this is on par if not a bit bigger.”

Roaring Lion will break from post 2 in the Classic. He sits at 20-1 on the morning line, though he’s being offered at a lower price through European race books.

“It’s an opportunity I’m going to have to savor, because when’s the next chance I’ll get to ride in the Breeders’ Cup Classic?” Murphy asked. “Realistically, if he takes to the surface, he’s going to be a leading contender — but that’s an ‘if.’ Personally, I’m going to go out there with an open mind and give it our best shot. That’s all we can do.”


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