sport news 'Why wouldn't we bring the King to California!': Trainer Roger Varian reveals ... trends now
The easy thing, Roger Varian pointed out, would have been to stay at home. How could Ascot and the fairytale that still leaves him shaking his head 11 days later be topped?
It was a question Varian carefully considered, as he stood outside the quarantine barn in Santa Anita.
He hadn’t anticipated being here two weeks ago, standing in the Californian sunshine, and had been trying to find a reason why he and King Of Steel should stay in Newmarket.
Why go to the Breeders’ Cup when the domestic season had finished in such a blaze of glory? Frankie Dettori conjured a scarcely believable triumph in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, lifting King Of Steel over the line in the nick of time. Surely that effort, on that rain-sodden terrain, had taken a toll?
Varian smiled as he weighed it all up — and there was a reason for that smile. Moments before we spoke, King Of Steel had cruised around the course on which he will contest Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, skipping off the surface like a stone skimming across a lake.
King of Steel will lock horns again with Auguste Rodin and Mostahdaf on Saturday
King Of Steel would be the heavyweight boxer floating around in a pair of ballet shoes. He’s 570kg with a knockout punch but dainty on his feet and — crucially — he is thriving, showing the same enthusiasm for this assignment as his owner Kia Joorabchian.
It is why taking things easy was not an option for Varian.
‘Kia wants to be here, yes,’ said Varian. ‘There is no hiding that fact. But, equally, he was saying that unless I was 100 per cent happy with the horse, then we shouldn’t come. In a conservative way, I suppose I was looking for a reason not to come. Was he flat? Was there any reason? We could have finished on a high, waited for next year.
‘But the horse has ticked every box since Ascot. He never left an oat after that race, he hasn’t left an oat since he’s been out here. Kia said to me, “If he is giving you all the signs that he has come out of the race well, let’s do it”.
‘We could have waited for next year but this is horseracing — next year doesn’t always come. They can stand on a stone, they can get hurt in their stable, they