Kentucky-bred Roaring Lion secured the 2018 Cartier Horse of the Year award at the 28th annual Cartier Racing Awards Nov. 13 in London.
Bred in Kentucky by Jan Van de Bos Naify’s RanJan Racing and owned by Qatar Racing, Roaring Lion won four straight group 1 races in England and Ireland this year to secure the top honor. The 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy is the first United States-bred horse to be named Horse of the Year in Europe since Fantastic Light in 2001.
The talented and consistent Roaring Lion is the fourth Cartier Horse of the Year winner in the past five years to be trained by John Gosden at Newmarket, following Kingman (2014), Golden Horn (2015), and Enable (2017).
Purchased by Qatar Racing’s Racing Manager David Redvers from Taylor Made Sales Agency’s consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale for $160,000, Roaring Lion won three straight 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 tests in the space of just over two months from July to September: the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park, the Juddmonte International at York and the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
Roaring Lion followed up on those wins with a fourth straight Group 1 success when dropped down in distance to a mile for the Oct. 20 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sponsored by QIPCO at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day. He also ran a great race in his only attempt at 1 1/2 miles when a close third behind Masar in the Group 1 Investec Derby at Epsom Downs in June, and traveled to the United States for a sporting bid at the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt, although he finished last of 14 in that race.
Roaring Lion was presented the Cartier 3-year-old colt award as well, seeing off Saxon Warrior, Masar, and Sands of Mali.
Three of the other four nominations for Cartier Horse of the Year, Enable, Stradivarius, and Cracksman — the 2017 Cartier champion 3-year-old colt — are also trained by Gosden. The final nomination for Cartier Horse of the Year honors was Alpha Centauri.
Enable, the Cartier Horse of the Year and Cartier champion 3-year-old filly in 2017, narrowly lost out on becoming the third horse, following Frankel (2011 and 2012) and Ouija Board (2004 and 2006), to become Cartier Horse of the Year twice. But the brilliant filly takes the award for Cartier older horse in 2018. The Khalid Abdullah-owned and -bred 4-year-old was on the sidelines for much of the year, but she made a stunning winning reappearance in the Group 3 188Bet September Stakes on the all-weather track at Kempton Park.
A month later, the daughter of Nathaniel became the eighth horse to twice win Europe’s premier all-aged middle-distance contest, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. She created more history as the first horse ever to follow up success in the Longchamp feature with victory in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.
The other Cartier older horse nominees were Cracksman, Poet’s Word, and Lightning Spear.
There is further success for Gosden with Stradivarius, who takes the Cartier champion stayer award. Owned and bred by Bjorn Nielsen, the 4-year-old Sea The Stars colt went through 2018 unbeaten, with his five victories including the Group 1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup. Other nominees in the Cartier stayer division were Kew Gardens, Holdthasigreen, and Vazirabad.
A record-equaling fifth equine win on the night for Gosden came courtesy of Too Darn Hot, who bagged the Cartier champion 2-year-old colt award. Lord Lloyd-Webber’s homebred son of Dubawi is unbeaten in four outings, ending the campaign with a decisive success in Britain’s premier juvenile contest, the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in October. Other nominees in the division were Advertise, Quorto, and Ten Sovereigns.
The only other trainer to achieve five equine Cartier Racing Awards in a year was Aidan O’Brien in 2016.
If one horse lit up the summer of 2018, it was Alpha Centauri, who won the Cartier champion 3-year-old filly award. Trained by Jessica Harrington in Ireland for the Niarchos Family, the daughter of Mastercraftsman won a total of four group stakes in 2018, beginning with the Tattersalls Irish One Thousand Guineas, a one-mile classic race in May. She was outstanding at Royal Ascot, taking the Group 1 Coronation Stakes by six lengths in course-record time. Another easy success followed when she landed Newmarket’s Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths.
She lined up against older horses and males for the first time at Deauville in August and proved she could take on all comers as she won the Group 1 Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois by an easy 2 1/2 lengths for Group 1 wins this year in England, Ireland, and France. The other nominees for Cartier 3-year-old filly were Laurens, Sea of Class, and Wild Illusion.
It was a close battle in the Cartier sprinter division, with the honors going to Mabs Cross. Trained by Michael Dods for owners-breeders David and Emma Armstrong, the 4-year-old Dutch Art filly was a model of consistency throughout the year and capped her campaign with a tremendous performance to land the strongest sprint run in 2018, the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines at Longchamp in October.
The Rogers family, one of Ireland’s great owners-breeders, secured the Cartier champion 2-year-old filly award with Kentucky-bred Skitter Scatter. Trained by Patrick Prendergast for Anthony Rogers and his mother, Sonia, the daughter of Scat Daddy improved throughout the season and was rewarded with three group stakes successes, culminating with a gutsy two-length victory in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in September. Skitter Scatter was bred by Three Chimneys Farm and Airlie Stud. The division’s other nominees were Pretty Pollyanna, Fairyland, and Hermosa.
The Cartier/The Daily Telegraph Award of Merit goes to David Oldrey, who worked with The Jockey Club and the British Horseracing Board as well as numerous other bodies in the racing industry. He’s also a successful owner-breeder and a racing historian.
“What another outstanding year it has been for European horseracing,” Cartier Racing consultant Harry Herbert said in a release. “Congratulations to John Gosden and his team for securing a joint-record five equine Cartier Racing Awards at the 28th annual Cartier Racing Awards. Roaring Lion truly lived up to his name, with four courageous Group 1 successes over the course of the season.
“Enable more than made up for missing the summer with her second Arc success followed by the Breeders’ Cup Turf. What an outstanding filly she is. There was nothing to touch Stradivarius in the stayers’ division, while Too Darn Hot looks hugely exciting for the 2019 campaign.
“Alpha Centauri towered over her rivals with several scintillating displays and congratulations to her owner-breeder the Niarchos Family and trainer Jessica Harrington, who has proved herself to be the outstanding dual purpose handler of our age.
“Mabs Cross was superbly campaigned and earned her just reward at Longchamp, while Anthony and Sonia Rogers, such tremendous owner-breeders, have an outstanding filly in Skitter Scatter.
“Of course, horse racing does not function without great people behind the scenes. David Oldrey, who has dedicated himself to the administration of our great sport, is one such person. He is the deserved winner of the Cartier/The Daily Telegraph Award of Merit.
“Congratulations to all our winners this year and thanks go to Cartier UK, headed by Laurent Feniou, for supporting the Cartier Racing Awards for the 28th consecutive year.”