John O’Shea has celebrated his first elite level victory since departing Godolphin in 2017 courtesy of Lion’s Roar (NZ) (Contributer) in the Gr.1 Randwick Guineas (1600m), who defeated fellow Kiwi bred Mo’unga (NZ) (Savabeel).
The victory provided emerging Mapperley Stud stallion Contributer, whose eldest are just three, with his first Group One winner just days after Llanacord became her sire’s first Group winner taking out the Gr.2 Little Avondale Stud Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings on Wednesday.
Randwick-based O’Shea is no stranger to success at the highest level with 28 Group One victories to his name prior to Saturday’s Randwick Guineas triumph.
Group One success number 29 is a particularly memorable for O’Shea however, his first since the 2017 Doncaster Mile (It’s Somewhat), departing as Godolphin Head Trainer in mid 2017 and rebuilding his stable from scratch.
“I better not explain the way I feel,” O’Shea said.
“It’s fantastic. Just an unbelievable effort.
“I’ve got my mum and dad in him (Lion’s Roar). I couldn’t sell a share in him. I told them ‘this horse has been going well as a 2yo. Take a small share.”
Lion’s Roar entered the Randwick Guineas off a closing effort in the Gr.2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) behind Randwick Guineas favourite Aegon (NZ) (Sacred Falls).
A runner up in the Gr. 1 Spring Champion (2000m) last October, his ultimate goal this campaign is the Gr.1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on March 20.
Over the mile, the son of Contributer settled last however relished a genuine early tempo set by Marsannay and Peltzer to close strongly late and draw clear for a 1.3 length victory in the process, setting a new race record for the Randwick Guineas (1:33.39).
The winning decision to ride Lion’s Roar cold in the Randwick Guineas at one stage appeared set to be overlooked.
“Last night John (O’Shea) called me and our plan was maybe to roll forward a bit and put him into the race because we thought that might be the play,” winning rider Brenton Avdulla said.
“When I saw the races being on speed I thought we might go forward and bust ourselves.
“Our ultimate plan was the Rosehill Guineas because he was so good in the Spring Champion so I said I was going to ride him quiet and John just left it to me. That’s why he’s great to ride for.
“When I was able to find Hughie’s back (on Aegon) a long way out I thought ‘Hughie will do everything for me’. He was shutting gates for me and halfway up the straight I thought if he’s ready he’ll get the job done and he sprinted like a good horse.”
O’Shea, in conjunction with good friend Jason Abrahams of Champion Thoroughbreds, purchased the handsome three-year-old from the Book 2 draft of Bill Gleeson’s Wellfield Lodge for $65,000 at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling sale.
O’Shea knew a thing or two about Contributer, having trained the son of High Chaparral to Group One victories in the Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) and Ranvet Stakes (2000m), and described Lion’s Roar as very much in the mould of his father.
Lion’s Roar is out of the four-time winning Black Minnaloushe mare, Minnaleo, a half-sister to Group One performer Vaquera (NZ) (High Chaparral), with both out of the Group One winner The Mighty Lions (NZ) (Grsovenor).
Both Lion’s Roar and Mo’unga are set to clash again in the Gr.1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) in a fortnight.
Favourite for the race Aegon (NZ) (Sacred Falls) finished sixth, with jockey Hugh Bowman commenting: “We expected more from him. Stating the obvious but he didn’t seem as happy today throughout the race.”