John O’Shea has celebrated his first top level victory since departing Godolphin in 2017 courtesy of Lion’s Roar in the Group 1 Randwick Guineas.
The Randwick-based trainer is no stranger to success at the highest level with 28 Group 1 victories to his name prior to Saturday’s Randwick Guineas.
Group 1 success number 29 is a particularly memorable one 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 it (Lion’s Roar). I couldn’t sell a share in it. (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 Hobartville Stakes behind Randwick Guineas favourite Aegon.
A runner up in the Group 1 Spring Champion last October, his ultimate goal this campaign is the 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 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.”
The victory was also an emotional one for jockey Brenton Avdulla, enjoying his first Group 1 since Come Play With Me won the 2019 Metropolitan (2400m).
“Words can’t explain it,” Avdulla said.
“I’ve been here nearly 10 times now at Group 1 status but this one means one of the most.
“I can tell you it means a lot because I’ve been working my butt off and struggling to get opportunities, it’s nice to get the job done.
“It’s been tough, Sydney (racing) is very difficult, especially when you don’t have the backing of a stable.
“When you’re turning up to the races on horses you don’t think can win, average sort of horses, it gets pretty flattening and you get pretty disheartened, especially when you’ve been to the pinnacle.
“I’ve been struggling the last month trying to get rides but John (O’Shea) has kept supporting me. John is probably one of the reasons I went to that next level in Sydney. I remember him when he was in control of Godolphin, he got me there.
“Next thing I won a premiership and my riding got better. Now that he is on his own he always said he would back me. It’s pretty special to ride a Group 1 winner for him.”