Brendan Duke: Roaring Lion can rise above the chatter at Ascot

Brendan Duke's been putting up with a lot of noise this week, but says Roaring Lion should cut through the hubbub in the Champion Stakes on Saturday...


An interesting week. The limitations of my headphones were cruelly exposed. My de facto brother-in-law tells me that noise cancelling headphones are the only way to go.

My betting bankroll management system involves spending as little money as possible on fripperies such as food, warmth, audio equipment etc.

headphones, closeup has the latest horse racing odds here

His headphones cost €200. Mine were a mere €10. Normally they do a reasonable job but a trip on the 41C has got me to thinking of breaking open the piggy bank.

The 41C is a popular service. It’s no 46A of course, but what is?

The bus was pretty full. I was content, listening to my audio book with a window seat. Next thing a teenage girl sits down beside me, yakking away on the phone. In quite a loud voice too. She wasn’t happy. Neither was I.

Very difficult to concentrate on one narrative when another is going on beside you. I gave up and paused the book. There were few pauses from Caitlin. We weren’t formally introduced but I learned that if her boyfriend, for it was he on the other end, had said ‘listen Caitlin, I’ve had a very busy day in work and can’t make it tonight’, then Caitlin would have said that she understood.

Caitlin felt there were two central issues that needed to be discussed. There were inevitable segues and a good deal of repetition to my, admittedly relatively untrained in matters of the heart, ear. This meant the conversation continued for quite a while.

First, why had her beau opened an Instagram message but not replied to it?

This got me to thinking. What sicko came up with the idea of letting the sender know that the recipient had read the message. Who does that benefit? For example, perhaps the person on the other end was punting race-to-race while trying to engage a solicitor regarding a house sale.

If getting a text at that point there’s no way I’d have time to respond. Multitasking is a myth.

It’s just doing more than one thing badly.

Meanwhile the sender feels ignored. Probably didn’t happen in this case but it’s something for the big tech companies to consider.

Caitlin also felt that it wasn’t unreasonable to expect the person, ‘you’re supposed to be going out with!!’, to see you at least once a week.

Again that seems reasonable. What if it’s Royal Ascot week though? I thought about mentioning these points of order after Caitlin hung up abruptly. As abruptly as possible given the inability to slam down a mobile phone.

on Day Three of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 22, 2017 in Ascot, England.

Left it in the end though. I seem to remember my teenage years were tricky. The problem is that I’ve such a terrible memory, those years are a blur. It would have been a touch patronising for me to suggest that her current anguish would remain, if at all, but a faint reminiscence in a few years.

The main thing was that Caitlin was now indulging in some low sobbing. Low enough in fact, for me to return to my book.

The limitations of Too Darn Hot remain as yet undiscovered. He was exceptional at Newmarket. A touch keen early on, the combination of Dettori burying him and the hot pace set by the Ballydoyle team meant he relaxed after about a little over a furlong.

Horse Racing – Royal Ascot – Ascot Racecourse, Ascot, Britain – June 21, 2018 Frankie Dettori celebrates on Stradivarius after winning the 4.20 Gold Cup REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Still, that headstrong tendency means he can improve plenty with experience. The response when he pulled out was a joy to behold. I thought it was interesting, with Epsom in mind, how well he handled the dip. His action wouldn’t be aesthetically pleasing but he must be a well balanced horse.

Whether a horse with his speed will fully stay the Derby trip must be in some doubt. I imagine he’ll go for it though. If he’s won the Guineas, connections will find it hard to resist. The family have some Epsom scores to settle. Both his sisters looked to hold huge chances in the Oaks. Both chances scuppered by injury.

Hopefully TDH suffers no such setbacks. He’s an outrageous talent. I still think Ten Sovereigns is top class but, in line with the bookies odds, have changed my opinion as to the most likely 2000 Guineas winner.

A weekend deluge has left the Ascot ground heavy in places. This isn’t ideal. However my weather app brings good tidings. There is no rain forecast. The daytime temperatures hover between low and mid teens. The winds are moderate though.

I know that courses dry out more slowly at this time of year but I’m going to predict good to soft ground on the day. The most interesting aspect of the rain is how it has affected Roaring Lion’s price. He’s currently 5/1 for the Champion Stakes. This factors in the likelihood that he might run in the mile race or miss the meeting altogether.

I have some concerns that a long season may catch up on him but that 5/1 looks worth a tickle.


The owner sponsors the card so would like a runner. They have Lightning Spear in the QE II Stakes. The main reason to back him is the ground. His three turf runs as a two-year-old came on ground with soft in the description. He won two of them and was probably undone by inexperience behind Saxon Warrior at Doncaster.

He’s the highest rated son of Kitten’s Joy. The second and third highest-rated (Taareef and Hawkbill) both recorded their highest rating on soft ground. Plenty of the sires European runners go well on easy turf. I wouldn’t be concerned about the ground at all and am confident he’ll run in the Champion Stakes.

The rest of the card looks tough. One that might be a little overpriced is Safe Voyage. The ground should be fine for him. He was withdrawn from a Leopardstown engagement over Irish Champion’s weekend due to the quick ground. His previous win in Galway reads very well. I thought he did remarkably well to win there. He’s only gone up 4lbs and that looks lenient. This lightly raced five-year-old still has scope to improve and the 10/1 available for the Balmoral Handicap makes plenty of appeal.

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What do you think?