David Evans’ Rohaan saved himself from retirement with a second successive Royal Ascot victory.
Winless since the 2021 Royal meeting, Rohaan had plied his trade in England, Ireland, France and Saudi Arabia and had been tried over trips ranging from five to seven furlongs all without success.
The deterioration of his was form so marked and enduring that his connections were poised to call it a day altogether, with co-owner Chris Kiely’s wife even beginning to seek out a suitable home for him in his retirement.
They were understandably stunned, therefore, when he challenged late under Ryan Moore and picked through the field of 25 rivals to repeat last year’s victory in the Wokingham and become the first dual winner of the race since Selhurstpark Flyer in 1997 and 1998.
“I think it was probably the best training performance I’ve ever seen because I genuinely was planning his retirement, he’d regressed and had a few issues and I wasn’t sure he was going to recover,” Kiely said.
“Dave had been telling me for the last few weeks that he was better than ever and he was, he basically won on the bridle.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better training performance, his form had completely dropped off a cliff. My wife was planning his retirement and had found a few places nearby to keep him, Ascot felt like a bit of a farewell. A bit of a sign off and a thank you, we were going to make sure he had a good, happy home.
“Dave was always confident but I wasn’t, I was pretty cynical about his chances. For him to go and do what he’s done is just amazing, I’m over the moon with him.”
Kiely owns the horse jointly with James Tomkins, a professional footballer who plays for Crystal Palace, the same club Kiely’s father Dean works for as a goalkeeping coach and who, incidentally, play at Selhurst Park – the inspiration behind the name Selhurstpark Flyer.
“We got in touch through our passion for racing, he had bought a few horses in the past and hadn’t had much success and said to me on the off chance one day that if anything good pops up, let him know,” Kiely said of his connection to Tomkins.
“The opportunity to buy this fella came round and he took a leg in him. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, he’s really passionate about racing and as much as I was delighted for myself and my family, I was delighted for him because he’s gone through a difficult season.”
After last season’s Ascot success Kiely and Tomkins were made several appealing offers for the horse, but the partnership were united in their desire to keep him and he remained with Evans rather than journeying overseas.
Kiely said: “We turned down some offers last season for significant amounts of money, there was an offer after Ascot last year to go to Australia and it was in the millions and we turned it down – he (Tomkins) stuck by me and he allows me to do as I see fit with where we run and when we run.”
Retirement plans have now been shelved and the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury will be Rohaan’s next port of call, after which a return to Group One level is planned further down the line.
“We’re planning to go to the Hackwood Stakes in Newbury in three weeks for the Group Three, then I think the plan is to start rocking and rolling in the Group Ones,” said Kiely.
“I think we’d like to keep him on flat tracks, we’ll probably go for the Prix Maurice de Gheest, the Haydock Sprint Cup and then the Champions Day Sprint is where we’d be working back from.
“You’d have to work back from Ascot as that’s where he’s had most of his success, but he won a Group Two at Haydock last season too. The Maurice de Gheest I think would suit as he’d need a run or two before then, Dave likes the idea of running him in a Group Three with a penalty just to see where he’s at and keep him ticking over.”
A return to Royal Ascot remains high on the agenda for next season and beyond, with the meeting a particular goal for Kiely when he became involved in the sport.
“Next year, hopefully, we will be challenging again in one of the Group races, maybe the Platinum Jubilee,” he said.
“Hopefully he can go on a bit of a journey now and be one of the top sprinters around for the next couple of years, his form fell off a cliff but we’re having a second bite of the bullet and I hope we can be one of the dominant sprinters for the next two or three years.
“I’ve had a couple of targets in racing that I really wanted to achieve and having a Royal Ascot winner was definitely at the top of that list and I never really thought I’d get anywhere near it.
“Every time I have bought a horse we have always been working towards Ascot so to have a winner last year was amazing, and to do it again this year was unbelievable. I can’t put it into words, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it was one of the best moments of my life.”