Gosden hoping kickback does not mute Roaring Lion in Breeders' Cup Classic
A potentially glorious swansong awaits Roaring Lion in the Breeders' Cup Classic next weekend – but so, too, does a challenge trainer John Gosden described on Wednesday as "massive".
Roaring Lion will need to beat the Americans at their own game by handling racing on dirt for the first time and all the demands that come with it.
Connections are playing with house money at Churchill Downs as the three-year-old is to be retired after his Stateside sojourn, but Gosden is concerned whether the kickback he will encounter in the $6 million Grade 1 will disrupt his rhythm and potentially leave him floundering behind homespun talent.
"It's a massive challenge to race on the dirt," said Gosden. "We don't want a sloppy track. That's a real acquired taste – usually the jockeys with the cleanest silks win, which tells you something.
"But it's actually not so much the surface. I've found down the years the problem is the kickback. What they do is they immediately start climbing as they're not used to it – their breathing gets interrupted. They're not seasoned to it.
"It's unknown waters, and I think it's very brave and bold of the owners. Roaring Lion is probably not expecting to get on a plane – but he's tough enough for it."
Qatar Racing's colt is 4-1 second favourite with Sky Bet – and a top-priced 10-1 – for the Classic, and heads into the race off the back of his fourth consecutive Group 1 triumph, which came in challenging circumstances at Ascot last weekend.
But while handling the drop back to a mile from a mile and a quarter on ground softer than ideal in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was an impressive effort, Roaring Lion will need to surpass himself a week on Saturday.
Asked whether a change in tactics could be employed in an attempt to minimise kickback, either by running closer to the pace or out wide in the field, Gosden added: "It's not an easy thing to do. You need enormous speed from the gate in America.
"To suddenly think we're going to start breaking faster than their horses is probably not something that's going to happen. And if you go wide you give all the ground away. It's a big ask."
Gosden's other Breeders' Cup runner, Enable, has her own mountain to climb as she bids to become the first Arc winner to succeed at the meeting the same year.
Eight previous Arc winners have tried and failed in heading on to the Breeders' Cup, including Dancing Brave, Sakhee and Golden Horn.
British and Irish bookmakers think Enable can end the hoodoo, making her 4-6 for the Turf, and she heads to the race off a light campaign after returning from injury.
Gosden said: "She comes relatively fresh after two runs and we'd be hopeful of a big run. But when you're shipping that far you don't go there full of confidence until you know how the horse has travelled."
In 2015, the Gosden-trained Golden Horn was unable to follow up victory at Longchamp in the Turf at Keeneland, finishing second to Found.
Reflecting on that performance, Gosden said: "He wasn't beaten by anything other than the fact it rained an inch and a half and the track was very deep and loose. He spun his wheels and hated the surface."
Returning to Enable, Gosden does not expect the layout of Churchill Downs to be an impediment to the filly as she tackles a mile and a half around three turns.
"It's a sand-based track and rides pretty well," he said. "It's tight, but she went round Chester on the second race of her three-year-old career and handled that particularly well, and she got round Epsom. I think the track will be fine."
While Roaring Lion and Cracksman will not be back at Gosden's Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket next year, Enable might stay in training as a five-year-old, the decision to be made after she runs at the Breeders' Cup.
Aidan O'Brien has been readying his Breeders' Cup Classic contender Mendelssohn in the US this season, giving the colt four runs after his spectacular victory in the UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup night.
Mendelssohn's first experience of racing in the US was a baptism of fire as he trailed home last in the Kentucky Derby. However, he has subsequently finished second in the Travers Stakes and was third last time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
"We've been happy with his three runs up to the Classic," O'Brien said on Wednesday. "We think he's progressed with every run."
O'Brien is responsible for 18 of the record 48 European-trained horses who appeared among Breeders' Cup entries unveiled on Wednesday.
European-trained winners at 2018 Breeders' Cup
Coral 15-8 four, 5-2 three, 7-2 five, 13-2 two, 10 six or more, 20 one, 66 zero
Aidan O'Brien-trained winners at 2018 Breeders' Cup
Coral 6-4 one, 9-4 two, 7-2 zero, 7 three, 20 four or more
John Gosden enhanced double
William Hill Enable to win Turf and Roaring Lion to finish in first three in Classic – 5-1
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