Roaring Lion Trying Dirt for Breeders’ Cup Classic

November 1, 2018

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is a race that could set up for nearly every horse entered on Saturday. A real wild card field where you may be tempted to hit the ALL button, there are a few horses worthy of a closer look. Roaring Lion is one of those horses. Many consider most Europeans trying dirt for the first time an afterthought at best. If you look deep into his pedigree, form, and past performances, Roaring Lion fits into this Classic.

Despite being by top American turf sire Kitten’s Joy, Roaring Lion’s pedigree suggests it can also be productive on the turf. Paired with the right dirt-bred mares, Kitten’s Joy progeny can get over the dirt, especially courses easier on synthetic or turf style horses. Roaring Lion’s dam ran predominantly over turf, winning three times as well as being stakes and G1 placed. Here is the catch – his dam, Vionnet, is by versatile sire Street Sense. Street Sense is even more versatile than Kitten’s Joy with progeny winning all over the world on all surfaces. Vionnet is out of the spectacular mare Cambiocorsa, who is a full sister to Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner California Flag. Cambiocorsa’s progeny have excelled on both dirt and turf just the same as her own siblings. Despite a turf bias, this has always been an extremely versatile and productive family line. If another European were to win the Classic anytime soon, Roaring Lion certainly has the pedigree to do it.

As stated in the paragraph above, some dirt surfaces are easier for turf and synthetic horses to get over than others. Churchill Downs is historically one of the easiest tracks for a turf runner to handle. In past Breeders’ Cup Classics at Churchill Downs, nearly every running had a turf horse hit the board or win the race. In 1991, the winner Black Tie Affair was an Irish horse that was bred for turf, but raced predominantly on dirt. Black Tie Affair’s pedigree quality is extremely similar in style to Roaring Lion. That year’s 2nd place finisher, Twilight Agenda, began his career in Europe winning several turf stakes. In 1998 in arguably the strongest race ever ran in America, Swain ran a gallant third to finish ahead of the likes of Victory Gallop, Coronado’s Quest, Skip Away, Running Stag, Touch Gold, Arch, and Gentleman. Swain has a racing resume that is very similar to Roaring Lion’s, with the pair sharing several of the same victories over the turf. In 2000, another US-bred European raced powerhouse nearly won the race. Giant’s Causeway gave everything he had to be narrowly defeated by Tiznow under the twin spires. Giant’s Causeway also had a similar path to the Classic as Roaring Lion. Coming into a race with no clear cut favorite, Roaring Lion absolutely fits the mold of a sneaky European player on a track that is kind to turf horses.

Lastly, Roaring Lion is a horse that is made for the American Classic 1 ¼ miles. He can get going at a mile, and stay a bit longer than the Classic distance of 1 ¼. Undefeated at that distance, 1 ¼ miles hits Roaring Lion right between the eyes. If the dirt proves a bit more tiring, he will still have enough left in the tank to make it to the finish. The most productive running style at Churchill Downs for the Classic distance is to lay just off the pace or mid-pack and finish with a closing kick. Roaring Lion has ran most of his whole career with that very running style, which should translate well to the Churchill Downs dirt surface.

Whether Roaring Lion will be on your tickets Saturday or you decide not to take the chance, you can be well assured that he will absolutely get the distance and should things go right he will be passing tired rivals late.

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