The connections of expat New Zealand gelding Regal Lion have circled the spring of 2023 as the time to target some of Australia’s staying showpieces, but a powerful performance at Sandown on Sunday has given them something to think about in 2022.
Making his second start for new trainer Annabel Neasham, the four-year-old son of Jakkalberry landed a $31 upset in the A$150,000 Tobin Brothers Celebrating Lives Handicap (1700m).
Ridden by Blaike McDougall, Regal Lion launched a withering run from last, bounding past fellow Kiwi-bred Bermadez and scoring by three-quarters of a length with his ears pricked.
“My only thought going through my head in the run was not getting there too soon, because he travelled so well in the run,” McDougall said.
“He quickened really nicely. He’s still a bit raw and wanted to get his head up and have a bit of a look around, but he was dominant late.”
Racing in the colours of prominent Australian syndicators OTI Racing, Regal Lion has now won twice in a 14-start career and has earned over A$233,000 in stakes. He shapes as an ideal type for a tilt at some of the lucrative second-tier staying events such as the A$500,000 Gr.3 Geelong Cup (2400m).
Originally trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman for owner-breeders Barbara and Carl McComb, Regal Lion was a maiden winner at Rotorua in November of last year.
Subsequently partially sold to OTI Racing, he stepped up to the big time with a gallant third behind Asterix and La Crique in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie in March.
That performance earned him a shot in Sydney, where he was an eye-catching second in the Gr.2 Tulloch Stakes (1850m) before failing in heavy ground in the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m).
Transferred into Neasham’s Warwick Farm stable during the off-season, Regal Lion was also tripped up by a wet track when he resumed at Randwick on September 3 and beat only one horse home over 1600m.
“He’s a very exciting horse, this fellow,” OTI Racing’s Terry Henderson said after Sunday’s superb win.
“The track conditions were very much against him in Sydney first-up. We decided to run him because we needed to get him going, and by golly, we got him going.
“We still think he’s relatively unfurnished. He’s got a lot of natural ability, but we’ve really got next year in mind for the Cups for him. That could be revisited – he’s still in the noms this year. But we think he’s still not quite there. He’s not quite furnished yet, and as we know, we’ve seen too many horses try and get there too quickly and not fulfil their promise.”
One of 57 winners from 120 runners by ill-fated former Novara Park stallion Jakkalberry, Regal Lion is the first foal out of the Congrats mare Red Delight.
Unplaced on the track, Red Delight is a granddaughter of Group One winner Danglissa and closely related to big-race performers Unite And Conquer, Profiteer and Sweet Redemption.
Red Delight was a $45,000 purchase from Westbury Stud’s draft as a yearling at Karaka in 2014. She has been to Shocking every season since Regal Lion was born in 2018, producing a colt and two fillies. The colt, a three-year-old named Liquid Fire, is trained by Forsman and has trialled twice.