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Chris Kiely savouring the moment with July Cup hope Rohaan

From thinking he had made a massive mistake, Chris Kiely now has arguably the hottest property in sprinting on his hands in Rohaan.

The three-year-old, trained by David Evans, will be supplemented for the Darley July Cup on Monday following an excellent performance in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot.

However, taking on older and seasoned performers in one of the hottest six-furlong handicaps in the calendar had not been the plan.

When the racehorse owner and professional gambler bought the horse, bringing in his friend, Crystal Palace defender James Tomkins, the intention was to go for the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting, only to be told he was ineligible as he was a gelding.

“We bought the horse to go for the Commonwealth. After he won the Pavilion Stakes I said to James he’ll go straight for the Ascot Group One.

Crystal Palace’s James Tomkins, co-owner of Rohaan with Chris Kiely
Crystal Palace’s James Tomkins, co-owner of Rohaan with Chris Kiely (Facundo Arrizabalaga/PA)

“About six weeks after we bought him, the Sunday night before the first stage for the Wokingham and the deadline for the Sandy Lane, a friend of mine told me the horse could not run in the Commonwealth.

“I didn’t believe him, but we checked up and realised. Then I’m flapping around. What have I done?

“For the first time in my life I was panicking for a couple of hours – I’ve made a mistake, spending all this money and there’s nowhere to run him. At the time we didn’t want to run him against older horses. The July Cup wasn’t even on our radar.

“If we hadn’t have found out we’d be sitting here with no wins under our belt.”

Rohaan won the Sandy Lane at Haydock, beating Dragon Symbol, who ironically was first past the post, demoted to second, in the Commonwealth.

After that race, Kiely knew Rohaan had to have a big chance in the Wokingham.

“The only time I got confident all week was when Dragon Symbol went past the post in the Commonwealth and I started to get a bit excited. It made me realise we’ve got a serious horse and we might have a chance in the big handicap.

“Then the draw bias and the rain came in our favour.”

Rohaan came from last to first under a brilliant ride from Shane Kelly to take the Wokingham honours and give Kiely a day he will never forget.

“Just to be part of it was surreal and Dave (Evans) said to me ‘savour the moment’,” said Kiely.

“To have a winner there I can honestly say it will be a day I shall never forget. I have probably watched the replay 300 times. The memento you get given I can pass down to future generations. It was an incredible experience.

“Once it sunk in the idea now is to go and try to do it again.”

After that superb performance, the July Cup, which is part of this year’s Qipco British Champions Series, was the inevitable next port of call.

“We didn’t expect him to perform as he has in his last two runs and we didn’t want to take on the older horses, but now with the figures he produced at Ascot, we haven’t a choice now. We have to go and take them on,” said Kiely.

“We’re looking like we might get the ground we need. We probably wouldn’t run him if there was firm in the ground description.

“The horse is in the form of his life, he takes his racing incredibly well. It’s a race we’ll never get another stab at and it’s the chance of a Group One.

“The horse is on an upward curve and I think we go there with an incredible chance and if there was rain to come we’d go and be almost favourite. It’s an incredibly hot race and it’s nice to be part of it.

“If all goes well in the July Cup, we might go for the Maurice de Gheest four weeks later. He takes his races so well. While the iron is hot you have to strike, so we’re going to supplement him and pray for rain.”

Kiely recalled the good fortune in how he came to buy Rohaan after the horse had won the Pavilion Stakes at Ascot in April.

“Dave had the horse for an owner based in Ireland. The horse won the Pavilion, but the owner just couldn’t get over to England. He was basically stuck in Ireland due to Covid,” he explained.

“Because he couldn’t get over, there was an offer on the table from Hong Kong. Once I found out he was being sold, Dave told me the money involved. I’d bought 15-20 horses in the last couple of years that haven’t really worked out, so why not spend a bit more money and try to get a nice one and one that could stay in Dave’s yard.

“I bought him with my friend James for a significant amount of money, but it’s worked out well. He’s had two runs and two wins.

“It’s an unbelievable story and I’m just pleased to be a part of it.”