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Hold fire! Gosden issues Derby warning after Lion roars to an impressive victory

Roaring Lion was no bigger than 7-1 for the Investec Derby on Thursday night after running away with the Betfred Dante Stakes at York on Thursday – but trainer John Gosden advised punters to hold fire as a tilt at the Epsom Classic is far from a certainty.

Gosden acknowledged Saxon Warrior was confirmed as "the horse" after Roaring Lion, beaten into fifth at Newmarket, completed a four-and-a-half length victory.

All of which can only add up to Saxon Warrior's chances of taking the second leg in a potential Triple Crown bid having improved without the 2,000 Guineas winner leaving Ballydoyle.

Even though Qatar Racing's Roaring Lion was cut to a top-priced 7-1 (from 16-1) second favourite for the Epsom Classic by Ladbrokes, Gosden warned punters to hold their bets until a decision was made on whether to target the Derby or Prix du Jockey Club.

"I would absolutely advise people to wait," he said. "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. There is no decision to be made in a hurry."

Roaring Lion has already come up against Saxon Warrior twice in his short career, going down by a neck in the Racing Post Trophy and by two and a half lengths at Newmarket.

Without that Classic hero in the field the colt, under Oisin Murphy, sprinted away a furlong and a half out to leave Mildenberger to lead home the rest, followed by Zabriskie, a 50-1 stablemate of 4-5 Derby favourite Saxon Warrior.

"It has confirmed Saxon Warrior as the horse," said Gosden. "He beat us at Doncaster, he beat us in the Guineas – which is the best trial – and we've won the second-best trial in emphatic style.

"Roaring Lion is very comfortable at this trip and I always knew this was his trip. I'm not saying he'll stay a mile and a half. He hit the line strong. They didn't go the most generous pace, Frankie tells me, but they really turned it on from the four. I was very confident about this trip, the next I don't know."

With Gosden's other runner, Crossed Baton, back in seventh Roaring Lion is the stable's only possible Derby runner. Gosden said Sevenna Star, winner of Sandown's Classic Trial, would wait for Ascot's King Edward VII Stakes.

He continued: "Saxon Warrior is a fabulous horse. We thought we had him beat at Doncaster but he came back and beat us fair and square. I thought he was imperious in the Guineas. He looked marvellous, a big, powerful horse. I have tons of respect for him. It would be fabulous if they both went there together. It's not for me to make the decision.

"They are the two outstanding colts in Europe. The French Guineas was a bit nip and tuck. Maybe it would be great if they met at Epsom, maybe it would be smart if they didn't – I don't know.

"I like Epsom and the Derby. I'm just going to see how the horse is over the next few days and make a decision from there. Roaring Lion is better than Benny The Dip, but Golden Horn was exceptional."

Mildenberger is not engaged in the Derby and Mark Johnston indicated Royal Ascot is a more likely target for the Feilden Stakes winner.

"There's no doubt he wants further, how much further only time will tell," said Johnston. "But we've got to be happy.

"We've got him and Dee Ex Bee for the same owner and we've got the Derby, King Edward VII Stakes and Queen's Vase to think about. Long term, we have the St Leger in our sights.

"Dee Ex Bee is in the Derby and Mildenberger isn't, so that would maybe make Dee Ex Bee the more likely of the pair, but the King Edward VII and Queen's Vase are a big lure."

 

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