Roaring Lion, one of the leading juveniles of last season but who failed to fire on his first two starts this term, stormed back into the Investec Derby reckoning when routing his rivals at York yesterday in the Group 2 Betfred Dante Stakes.
Stepping up to the extended mile-and-a-quarter for the first time having finished fifth in the 2000 Guineas earlier this month, Oisin Murphy’s mount travelled beautifully throughout the most reliable of Derby trials before showing impressive acceleration to bound clear of long-time leader Mildenberger. Mark Johnston’s colt kept on well but was a distant four-and-a-half length runner-up, with Aidan O’Brien’s rank outsider Zabriskie (50/1) staying on to take third without ever landing a blow.
Roaring Lion runs away with the Betfred Dante Stakes, a fourth success in the race for John Gosden
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Frankie Dettori’s mount Crossed Baton faded having held every chance two out, Godolphin’s gambled-on Nordic Lights could only muster one pace from the same point, while Merlin Magic stepped up on previous efforts with an honourable fourth.
It was all about Hunting Lion though as the Newmarket-based colt emerged as a potential Derby danger to the outstanding 2000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior, who only narrowly beat him when the pair locked horns in last season’s Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
There is a catch though. The son of American sire Kitten’s Joy is by no means certain to run at Epsom despite bookmakers having rushed to slash his odds from a pre-Dante 20/1 to a current best price of 7/1 with Boylesports.
Gosden, always very candid with the public about his horses, made it crystal clear that no decision to run in the Derby has yet been taken and punters would be wise to hold thier fire.
“I would absolutely advise people to wait,” the former champion trainer told reporters. “We have set ourselves something to think about. I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t won like this. He’s been training beautifully at home. He woke up after the Guineas and has got himself mentally in the zone. To that extent, I expected a big performance.
“He hit the line strong, galloped out well, and we just have to work out whether we go to Epsom or the Prix du Jockey Club [French Derby]. There is no decision to be made in a hurry.”
With Roaring Lion’s participation in the Derby uncertain, Saxon Warrior strengthened further in the Derby ante-post market to a best priced 4/5 with 888Sport.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.