Many of the current top trainers have served an apprenticeship under former training powerhouses.
For Roger Varian that exceptional mentor was Michael Jarvis, and the period of 10 years served, before taking over Kremlin House Stables in February 2011, proved the ideal grounding for his now flourishing career.
He became a fan of racing at a young age, and started riding out point-to-pointers for Alan and Lawney Hill at the age of 13. He worked for Ian and Tocky McKie before heading to Josh Gifford’s yard where he rode as conditional jockey.
An opportunity to ride in America for Maryland-based jumps trainer Jack Fisher proved too tempting to pass up, but six weeks into his stay a serious fall resulting in a smashed wrist, put paid to his ambitions as a jockey. As one door slammed shut, so another opened and his spell as assistant to Michael Jarvis began.
Since taking on the leading role in 2011, one of the career highlights thus far has to be the victory for Kingston Hill in the St Leger of 2014. A powerful stayer, he had already run a cracker to finish runner up in the Epsom Derby, and followed his win at Doncaster with a stunning fourth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe behind the wonderful mare Treve.
Nahrain had already put Varian on the map with a pair of Group1s, including the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp. He soon had another classy filly in the yard when Ambivalent captured the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.
In 2014 Varian struck at the highest level with three outstanding juveniles. Cursory Glance took the Moyglare Stud Stakes, Vert De Grece won the Criterium International in France and Belardo became the season’s top juvenile thanks to his success in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes.
Belardo now looks to be one of the stable stars after his impressive win in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. However, Varian has another potential star of the 2016 campaign, in the Dubai Sheema Classic victor Postponed.
Formerly with Luca Cumani, he was transferred to Kremlin House at the end of last season by owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum. He’d already proven himself to be a high-class colt by winning the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. He’s currently being prepared for a return in the Investec Coronation Cup, before a possible tilt at the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal Meeting. He looks exceptional on a quick surface.
In Belardo and Postponed, Roger Varian has a duo capable of feasting at the top table, but he has plenty more in the yard with the potential of making this a season to remember.
On Friday at York another in the Obaid Al Maktoum silks won impressively. Barsanti is an imposing son of Champs Elysees, out of a Zafonic mare. He loved the fast surface and ran out a comfortable winner of the Class 2 Betway Jorvik Stakes. The four-year-old looks patent class and is likely to head to Royal Ascot next month. He’s already touted as a potential Melbourne Cup contender.
Another who impressed a couple of weeks back was the three-year-old colt Morando. Though the form of his maiden win at Windsor probably amounts to very little, the style of victory was eye-catching, as he romped to a five length success. Varian suggested the colt is likely to need a little juice in the ground to be seen at his best, and though still babyish, he looks a horse with a bright future.
Varian has also spoke in glowing terms of his four-year-old colt Intilaaq. He was fancied to run well in last year’s 2000 Guineas, but failed to land a blow. He was then stepped up in trip and won both a listed and a Group 3 event. He had a spin at Meydan in the Dubai Turf, and though failing to spark, Varian remains certain that he’ll make an impact this summer.
He said: “He is going to be a stellar horse and I think we will be rewarded for looking after him last year. He only ran four times and didn't run in the autumn. He was a bit babyish on the night in Dubai and he showed his immaturity before the race. The big stage might have just caught him out and having been initially disappointed I don't think he ran too badly. He ran like a rabbit caught in the headlights.”
Varian went on: “He looks a stronger horse this year and is a horse to campaign around the big mile-and-a-quarter races; the Prince of Wales's, the Eclipse and the Juddmonte International. He is a beautiful horse that has physically done well through the winter. His pedigree and physique tell you he could be better at four than he was at three, which makes him jolly exciting.”
He has an entry in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, and it will be interesting to see if his trainer’s confidence is confirmed on the track.
Finally, don’t be surprised if Sharja Queen bounces back to form next time, having been somewhat outclassed in the 1000 Guineas. She’s by Pivotal out of a Kingmambo mare, and ought to get further, but is also likely to need cut in the ground to run at her best.
Roger Varian must be full of hope for an exciting and successful summer. He has a number of outstanding horses at his disposal, and in Andrea Atzeni, a jockey riding at the peak of his powers.