TDN Horses of the Year: Rogue Lightning

Continuing the profiles of the favourite horses of TDN Europe’s editorial team in 2023, Sean Cronin selects an unheralded sprinter who could hit the big time next year.

Royal Ascot’s 2023 edition produced its plethora of lip-quivering moments and there was scarcely a dry eye in this quarter when Rogue Millennium (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) halted a seven-race losing streak by annexing the G2 Duke Of Cambridge S. for Tom Clover’s Fordham Road yard. Purchased for 35,000gns as an unraced two-year-old out of the Shadwell draft at Tattersalls’ 2021 December Sale, she became the Kremlin House incumbent’s first Royal scorer and instigated joyous scenes among the multitude of Rogues Gallery syndicate members assembled in the hallowed winner’s enclosure.

Her best effort, in four subsequent outings, following that career high was a runner-up finish in Leopardstown’s G1 Matron S. on Irish Champions weekend, but she made little impression and was not unduly punished when finishing last of 11 in ParisLongchamp’s G1 Prix de l’Opera on Arc day. Earlier on the card, Ace Impact (Ire) (Cracksman {GB}) had wowed the Bois de Boulogne throng with an Arc performance for the ages, but it was a notable performance in the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye, one race and 35 minutes after the Opera, which piqued this correspondent’s interest.

Rogue Lightning (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), another well-bought Rogues Gallery representative, had backed up a brace of five-furlong handicap triumphs with a black-type breakthrough in September’s Listed Scarborough S. at Doncaster. An 80,000gns October Book 2 yearling-turned-42,000gns Craven Breezer, his next assignment was the final stakes race of the Arc weekend extravaganza, but Rogue Lightning was allotted a nightmare draw in the car park, stall 18 in a field of 18, for the five-furlong dash. The die had been cast and all hope was lost, or so it seemed.

The gelded three-year-old broke alertly and, with little fuss from Robert Havlin in the plate, was soon among the pack racing towards the stands’ side rail. Rogue Lightning was a hostage to fortune throughout, but picked off rivals from halfway and somehow weaved a charmed passage into contention. He closed relentlessly inside the final furlong only to run out of real estate, finishing fifth in a four-way photograph for second place, just one length and a flurry of pixels adrift of Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) at the line. The vastly underrated Havlin had earned every cent of his riding fee in getting his mount so close.

Rogue Lightning had one further assignment to fulfil and accompanied stablemate Rogue Millennium on the journey to Ascot for the British Champions meet, where the latter was no match for the supreme performance of Big Rock (Fr) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}) in the G1 Queen Elizabeth S., running a never-nearer fifth in the one-mile procession. Rogue Lightning was not in Berkshire to race, but to compete for bids as one of five lots catalogued for the boutique Goffs QIPCO Ascot Champions Day Sale. Another performance of note transpired as Richard Brown of Blandford Bloodstock signed the £1-million docket on behalf of Wathnan Racing’s burgeoning operation. Much to the relief of Clover, Rogue Lightning will remain at Kremlin House and is set to target the majority of Europe’s top sprints in 2024.

“He’s been a great horse for the Rogues and for us, as an ambitious yard, to keep him for some fantastic new owners in the yard is very exciting,” the trainer reflected. “We’ll have to speak to Richard Brown, but the plan for now is that we’ll bring him back fresh in the spring. He’s the type of horse where you’d hope that the programme would work itself out and he should shape into a top-class sprinter.”

Royal Ascot’s G1 King’s Stand, York’s G1 Nunthorpe and another crack at the Abbaye are on the agenda and maybe, just maybe, Clover will be savouring his maiden Group 1 success in 2024.