Maurice de Gheest bid an option for Rohaan

Rohaan could head for the Prix Maurice de Gheest in search of Group One glory after having no luck in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday.

The three-year-old gelding is already a winner at Group Two and Group Three level and won the Wokingham Handicap under a welter burden, but his first attempt at the top level did not quite work out.

Rohaan finished 10th of 19 at Headquarters, four and three-quarter lengths behind Starman – but trainer David Evans felt nothing went his horse’s way and he has pencilled in the six-and-a-half-furlong showpiece at Deauville on August 8 next.

“I was a bit disappointed on the day, but I watched it when I got back and there’s nothing to be disappointed about,” said Evans.

“There were three different groups. He came across, he went back and had a lot of daylight two out. It just wasn’t his race.

“He could go for the Maurice de Gheest. There might not be so many runners and not as good a field as in the July Cup. That was probably the best sprint race of the season.”

Evans enjoyed a successful raid across the Channel On Sunday when Choux, owned, like Rohaan, by Chris Kiely Racing, took the Listed Prix Yacowlef at Deauville.

“That’s all she needed really, to win a Listed race. The owner wants to breed from her. A bit of black type will be ideal,” said the Abergavenny trainer.

“Rapido Transport have done a fantastic job. It’s not easy taking horses over to France these days. We dropped her off with them, they took over her over and have done everything.”

Choux has been highly-tried since she landed a gamble on her debut at Thirsk in May and a return to France could be on the cards.

“She won first time, then she was over-faced in the Queen Mary, then at Newmarket the ground was too quick and she didn’t like the track. It was a lot weaker race yesterday,” Evans added.

“We’ll have to have a look and see what there is. She could go back over there.”

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.”

Rohaan rockets to Wokingham glory

Rohaan’s dream season continued apace when he flew home to claim the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot.

David Evans has worked wonders with the three-year-old, who can surely now lay claim to being one of the best sprinters in training.

Dropped out in last by Shane Kelly, he weaved his way through before quickening impressively to beat Fresh by a neck, with the Queen’s King’s Lynn a fine third given he ran in the King’s Stand on Tuesday.

Rohaan (8-1) would have been running in the Commonwealth Cup, Friday’s Group One for three-year-olds, but for the fact he is a gelding.

Having beaten Dragon Symbol at Haydock last time out, who was subsequently first past the post in the Commonwealth Cup, the form now looks red-hot.

He started his progression winning on the all-weather at Newcastle off a handicap mark of 55 and defied a rating of 112 on this occasion.

Rohaan was providing both Evans and Kelly with their first Royal Ascot winner.

Evans said: “I was stood in the stands watching on the big screen and it felt good when I saw his white face coming there.

“I was confident, but you never know what the draw’s going to do and this is Royal Ascot.

“He’s just improved himself physically and takes his work well in the morning. I’ve only known the owner a few months, and if he hadn’t sent him to me he would now be with someone else.

“In truth today wasn’t the ideal race and we were in two minds whether to run. But now I’m glad we did. It really hasn’t sunk in, but I think all being well he will be supplemented into the July Cup.”

He added: “I think the rule to bar geldings from the Commonwealth Cup is stupid, whoever made it up. The form was there for all to see too, we beat Dragon Symbol.”

Rohaan powers home in the Wokingham
Rohaan powers home in the Wokingham (David Davies/PA)

Kelly said: “I’m delighted for his new owner and for David Evans.

“I was worried how far detached I was after 50 yards, but that’s his style, he’s just lazy early.

“After a furlong and a half he’d come back on the bridle. He’s a horse that comes alive when you need him and he did that today.”

Of landing his first winner at the showpiece fixture, he added: “I’m overdue, I probably should have one before now, but that is history.

“It goes without saying, but Dave is brilliant. I got lucky with David, had a few winners and the rest is history.”

Rohaan surges late for Pavilion victory

Rohaan sprouted wings under Ryan Moore to win the Qipco British Champions Series Pavilion Stakes – in which the odds-on favourite Supremacy finished last.

Outpaced at halfway, Rohaan picked his way through the field and showed he is far from an all-weather specialist following his fruitful winter.

For Clive Cox and Supremacy, though, it is back to the drawing board.

Last season’s Middle Park winner was strongly fancied to put himself among the favourites for the Commonwealth Cup – for which this race is a designated trial – but giving away a 4lb penalty, Supremacy looked beaten soon after halfway as Adam Kirby never looked happy.

Saint Lawrence was up there forcing the pace throughout and was still travelling well entering the final furlong.

He had all the rest under pressure. But David Evans’ Rohaan, sent off at 22-1, came with a withering run to win going away by a length and a quarter. Spycatcher was back in third.

Moore said: “Rohaan has a lovely turn of foot. Dave (Evans) has done some great work with him.

“I think a level track helps him, and he’s been in great form all year and he has a super attitude. The race fell right for him, and I think he will get seven furlongs.

“That was the third time I have ridden him, and he is a very honest horse who has a good turn of foot. The strongly-run race suited him, and he gets this six furlongs well.

“I didn’t think we’d beat an in-form Supremacy. I think he is a good horse – but for whatever reason, he wasn’t running his race at halfway.

“My horse was in good shape, and fair play to Dave and the owners for putting him in here – he got his just rewards.

“Rohaan in the Commonwealth Cup would not be crazy on today’s performance. But the rain just helped on the good ground. It helped take the sting out of the ground.”

Trainer Cox could offer no excuses for the favourite’s run, and said: “I’m going to check on Supremacy. Nothing is obvious at all.

“This is easier ground than we have run on before with this rain, but I’m searching for excuses myself.

“I’m just a bit surprised, because he was first beat. I’ll be disappointed if something doesn’t show, but I’m not aware of it right now.”