December 9, 2018

Breeders’ Cup options for Royal Lodge hero Roaring Lion, Cheveley Park queen Clemmie

Roaring Lion is trainer John Gosden's fourth Cartier Horse of the Year in the past five years (Photo courtesy of Newmarket via Facebook)

The neck of Qatar Racing’s Roaring Lion was all that prevented Aidan O’Brien from a Group race sweep at Newmarket on Saturday, as the John Gosden juvenile overturned Ballydoyle hotpot Nelson in the Royal Lodge (G2). O’Brien then notched a big-race double courtesy of Clemmie in the Cheveley Park (G1) and less fancied U S Navy Flag in the Middle Park (G1), bringing up his tally of 2017 Group 1 winners to 20 – and inching closer to the late Bobby Frankel’s calendar-year record of 25.

Unbeaten Roaring Lion earned a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), and 10 points on the “European Road to the Kentucky Derby,” in the Royal Lodge. Although the Kentucky-bred Kitten’s Joy colt doesn’t appear the type to give the dirt a whirl, Del Mar on November 3 is very much under consideration.

Under Oisin Murphy, the 11-4 second choice was reserved off the pace as odds-on Nelson and Mildenberger vied up front. Favorite backers had to be concerned when Nelson hit a flat spot and was already being driven along to match Mildenberger’s ratcheting tempo. Nelson responded generously to counter Mildenberger’s move, but Roaring Lion was on the prowl by that point too.

Surging to the fore, Roaring Lion nearly threw it away by his sudden interest in lurching standside. Murphy reacted quickly to return him to the straight and narrow, in the nick of time. Roaring Lion found another late burst to overtake Nelson once again in a final time of 1:39.56 for the good-to-soft Rowley Mile.

Mildenberger was an admirable third, never giving up the fight and just outkicked by the top two. Petrus rounded out the top four, who received Derby points on the 10-4-2-1 scale. No-hoper Midnight Wilde, who flashed early speed attending Nelson and Mildenberger, dropped back to last of the quintet. Herculean was withdrawn Friday after a dirty scope.

Roaring Lion is now three-for-three, building upon a fine debut over Newmarket’s July Course and a romp on the Kempton Polytrack. Gosden outlined his options as the October 28 Racing Post Trophy (G1) (if the Doncaster ground is reasonably good), Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, or calling it a season.

Bred by Ranjan Racing, the gray was sold for $160,000 at Keeneland September. He is the first registered foal from the Street Sense mare Vionnet, a Grade 1-placed half-sister to Grade 2 vixens Moulin de Mougin and Schiaparelli as well as stakes scorers Alexis Tangier and Bronson. Roaring Lion’s second dam is multiple Grade 3 heroine Cambiocorsa, a full sister to 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint star California Flag.

Clemmie, the well-named sister to Churchill, has won three straight (Photo courtesy Newmarket via Facebook)

Although the Cheveley Park wasn’t a “Win & You’re In,” O’Brien mentioned that Clemmie could be bound for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) after her sparkling performance as the 15-8 favorite.

The full sister to Churchill quickened stylishly to pull away from French shipper Different League, thereby turning the tables on the Albany (G3) winner. Clemmie was only seventh to Different League in that Royal Ascot prize, but hasn’t lost since. She broke her maiden by 2 3/4 lengths in the Grangecon (G3) at the Curragh, put away the smart Nyaleti in the Duchess of Cambridge (G2) when last seen July 14, and made it a hat trick here. Clemmie scampered 1 3/4 lengths clear while finishing six furlongs in 1:12.00 – .44 faster than the boys in the Middle Park – with Ryan Moore.

Madeline reported home third, and trainer Roger Varian revealed that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf could also be on the agenda for the Lowther (G2) runner-up. Lowther winner Threading suffered her first loss in a disappointing seventh of 11. Heartache was scratched on account of the rain-softened ground.

By Galileo and out of the Group 2-placed stakes winner Meow, by Storm Cat, Clemmie is on course to emulate brother Churchill in next season’s mile classics. She’s improved her scorecard to 5-3-0-1.

The classic route doesn’t look likely for Middle Park upsetter U S Navy Flag, though, with O’Brien suggesting a sprint campaign down the line. Thus he’s a different sort from full sister, Roly Poly, winner of the Falmouth (G1) and Prix Rothschild (G1) over a mile this summer.

Overlooked at 10-1 with Seamie Heffernan, U S Navy Flag was always prominent and fended off his 25-1 stablemate Fleet Review by a half-length. They served up an exacta not only for O’Brien, but for their sire, War Front, and broodmare sire Galileo.

The 14-1 Cardsharp, who had beaten U S Navy Flag in the July (G2), was third in a race dominated by outsiders. The leading lights all chose to run below par. The 7-2 favorite Beckford checked in fifth; O’Brien’s top hope, Sioux Nation, was sixth; and Unfortunately, Rajasinghe, and Sands of Mali were ninth, 11th, and last of 12, respectively.

Few could have spotted U S Navy Flag as the Middle Park winner in the first half of the season. Beaten in his first four starts, including a 14th behind Rajasinghe in the Coventry (G2), he finally broke his maiden at the Curragh in first-time blinkers. Following a second to Cardsharp in the July and a fourth to Sioux Nation and Beckford in the Phoenix (G1), U S Navy Flag turned the proverbial corner with a six-length rout of the Round Tower (G3) last time. His record now reads 9-3-1-2.

U S Navy Flag could have been expected to stay farther, with his dam being four-time Group 1 star Misty for Me. The Galileo mare was a multiple highweight with victories in the 2010 Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) and Moyglare Stud (G1) and 2011 Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) and Pretty Polly (G1), and she was a near-miss third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Misty for Me is batting a thousand as a broodmare, producing Grade 3 vixen Cover Song (by Fastnet Rock) before her Group 1-winning offspring Roly Poly and U S Navy Flag. Her two ensuing foals are also by War Front, a yearling filly and a 2017 colt.