Amid the jubilation on a day when two of the best and most popular horses in training scored impressively at York, came news of the deaths of two top-class performers that had lit up the racecourse in the previous 12 months.
Roaring Lion was only four and enjoying his first season at stud, while five-year-old Espoir D’Allen, the reigning Champion Hurdle hero, was building up towards the start of the winter jumps season.
The best horse to race for Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani’s Qatar Racing, Roaring Lion, a son of leading US turf sire Kitten’s Joy, was purchased by David Redvers for $160,000 at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale in 2016.
An outstanding performer at two, Roaring Lion won his first three races, including the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes, before being touched off by Saxon Warrior in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy.
Following defeats in the Craven Stakes and 2,000 Guineas, Roaring Lion’s three-year-old season burst into life in the Dante Stakes, winning impressively from Mildenberger, before he found the mile and a half Derby distance too taxing.
Returned to ten furlongs, Roaring Lion showed his true talent, racking up Group 1 wins in the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International and Irish Champion Stakes. Those wins came on fast ground and the gallant grey showed his versatility by taking the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile on soft ground. He was voted Cartier Horse of the Year after his phenomenal season.
Kicking off his stallion career this year at Tweenhills Farm at a fee of £40,000, Roaring Lion had shuttled to Cambridge Stud in New Zealand for the southern hemisphere breeding season. He fought a brave battle against colic but ultimately the decision was made to put him to sleep.
On a terribly sad day for the Qatar Racing Team, one of their newest recruits, Mohican Heights, a £520,000 purchase at the Goffs London Sale in June, scored an impressive success in the Listed Stonehenge Stakes for two-year-olds at Salisbury to remain unbeaten.
Espoir D’Allen became the widest-margin winner of the Champion Hurdle in its illustrious history when he romped to a 15-length success in March under Mark Walsh.
Successful on his only start in France in a bumper, Espoir D’Allen was bought by JP McManus and sent into training with Gavin Cromwell. Four easy hurdle wins followed before the Voix Du Nord gelding suffered his first and only defeat in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in February 2018.
Espoir D’Allen went through the 2018-19 season unbeaten, landing three Grade 3 hurdles in Ireland prior to his sensational triumph in the Champion Hurdle against a field that included top mares Apple’s Jade and Laurina and dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air, who fell at the third flight.