Group 1 ace Oisin Murphy has the low-down on Roaring Lion's Juddmonte rivals
Oisin Murphy is excited by the prospect of getting back on board his Coral-Eclipse winner Roaring Lion in the Juddmonte International at York next week – and in the meantime has had the chance to check out two of the colt's potential rivals.
Murphy does not ride Roaring Lion at home, but he has heard all about the grey's spectacular gallop on Newmarket's July course at the weekend.
The 22-year-old, enjoying by far the best season of his career, said on Monday: "Roaring Lion is usually ridden by either Rab [Havlin] or Kieran [O'Neill] at home, and it was Rab who galloped him on Saturday. I spoke to him and he was delighted with the way he worked.
"He's usually quite a lazy worker, so it was great to see him go clear of his lead horse like he did in a bit of footage on Twitter. It was a nice strong bit of work and he looked fantastic."
It was Roaring Lion's first time on grass since the Eclipse, and he was following a routine that trainer John Gosden adopted so successfully before his win at Sandown, when he also galloped on the July course.
Murphy is not sure of the identity of the lead horse, and Gosden is not letting on either, but the trainer revealed at the weekend that Roaring Lion had worked with "a much better horse than the last time we did it".
Roaring Lion's Sandown success was one of four Group 1s to date this year for Murphy and a first for Qatar Racing since 2016, but it was a much shorter wait before a second came along, courtesy of Lightning Spear – also ridden by Murphy – in the Sussex Stakes.
Racing manager David Redvers said on Monday: "Everyone was delighted with Roaring Lion and he's all set for the Juddmonte. He and Lightning Spear have made it a great season for us. We had a good year last year too, but no Group 1 winners, so to get two on the board after so many close shaves is fantastic."
While Murphy is retained by Qatar Racing, he also has one foot in the Godolphin camp, for whom he has gained Group 1 wins on Benbatl at Meydan in March and at Munich last month.
Benbatl and Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow are both Juddmonte possibles for Saeed Bin Suroor, and although Murphy would not be free to ride either of them, he has ridden them both in their most recent work.
"Thunder Snow did a little bit up the grass on the Limekilns and is moving well. He's fresh and well and ready to go whenever Sheikh Mohammed and Saeed want him to."
Bin Suroor, a four-time Juddmonte winner who enjoyed Group 1 success with Best Solution in Germany on Sunday, said on Monday: "There's no plan yet but both are entered and are working well.
"Thunder Snow worked nicely with Oisin this morning, and Benbatl went well with him on Saturday. Both are ready to go, but it will be up to Sheikh Mohammed.
"If we run either or both Oisin will not be able to ride; we'll see which jockey might suit them nearer the time."
Roaring Lion is a best-priced 3-1 second favourite for York's £1 million showpiece a week on Wednesday, with King George winner Poet's Word favourite at a best-priced 5-2. Benbatl is a 12-1 chance while Thunder Snow is 14-1.
One horse who will not be taking up his Juddmonte entry is Willie John, a 1.9 million guineas buy out of the William Haggas stable in February who made a successful start for Roger Varian at Doncaster this month after missing the 2,000 Guineas following a setback.
Varian said on Monday: "We're going to keep Willie John low key for now, but he's an exciting horse. While you have to be realistic about the form at Doncaster it was good to get him back on track, and you have to be pleased with the manner of his victory.
"We're coming to the end of the summer and will take gradual steps with him. For now it's all about establishing him as a horse who could go places at the end of this year or next.
"I'm not saying he won't run in nice races as a three-year-old, but we've got to be thinking long term."
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