Trainer Aidan O'Brien and the Coolmore owners went 2-for-3 in 2-year-old races at Newmarket Sept. 30, turning up promising contenders for the Breeders' Cup races while just missing the automatic qualifier for those festivities.
The Irish connections won both group 1 events on the card but came up a neck short in the lone Breeders' Cup Challenge heat, the one-mile Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (G2) for colts and geldings.
Instead, it was Roaring Lion edging the O'Brien-trained favorite, Nelson, in the Royal Lodge, earning a fees-paid spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) at Del Mar. Roaring Lion, an American-bred Kitten's Joy colt out of the Street Sense mare Vionnet, remains undefeated in three starts and dropped to single-digit odds for the Juvenile Turf in the British betting shops.
Trainer John Gosden said the Breeders' Cup is tempting for Qatar Racing's colt because of the likely conditions in California.
"He is an American-bred horse and he likes top of the ground. The next 10 days with the horse will tell us everything," he said.
Asked if the colt might be a contender for next year's Investec Derby (G1), winning rider Oisin Murphy said, "I haven't ridden a Derby horse in a while, so I'm not sure if he is one or not. But he certainly has a big future."
Roaring Lion waited near the rear of the five-horse field in the Royal Lodge as Nelson, under Ryan Moore, battled with Mildenberger. Murphy got Roaring Lion into the mix inside the furlong mark and, despite drifting left for a few strides, he found just enough to nip Nelson by a neck for the win. The final time over the good-to-soft going was 1:39.56.
Mildenberger held third, two lengths behind the winner, followed by the two long shots, Petrus (IRE) and Midnight Wilde (GB). Roaring Lion's previous wins came on the Newmarket turf and the Kempton all-weather course.
Nelson, a Frankel colt racing for the Coolmore partners, entered the Royal Lodge off back-to-back victories at Leopardstown. O'Brien said Nelson had travel problems en route from Ireland and was late arriving at Newmarket.
"The poor fellow had never flown before, but he learnt a lot today," the trainer said. "I don't know how much that affected him, but it wasn't an advantage."
The day's two group 1 events for 2-year-olds saw a couple of high-profiled siblings break out for their own success.
Clemmie, a full sister to dual Guineas winner Churchill, powered away from the field in the final 100 yards to win the six-furlong Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes (G1) by 1 3/4 lengths over Different League. The Galileo filly, out of the Storm Cat mare Meow, won her third in a row with Moore up for O'Brien and moved smartly into the picture for next year's Irish One Thousand Guineas (G1) and possibly the Breeders' Cup.
"She would have the option of going to America if that's what the lads wanted to do and she said she was happy to do that," O'Brien said. "A mile around there (Del Mar) on nice ground should be no problem to her."
Trainer Roger Varian said Madeline, third in the Cheveley Park, also is a candidate for the Breeders' Cup.
The six-furlong Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes saw U S Navy Flag, a full brother to multiple group 1-winner Roly Poly, power home to defeat stablemate Fleet Review by half a length. The War Front colt out of the Galileo mare Misty For Me scored his third win from nine starts with Seamie Heffernan riding for O'Brien and Coolmore.
O'Brien said U S Navy Flag is less likely to tackle two turns.
"He takes his racing well and is progressing with every run," the conditioner said. "He is long and he is powerful. I think he will go down the sprinting route, but there is nothing to say he won't get seven (furlongs)."
Clemmie and U S Navy Flag gave O'Brien his 19th and 20th group 1 wins of the season.