Tuesday 27 October 2020

Roger Varian: From strength to strength

Formerly a moderately successful conditional jockey for Josh Gifford, Roger Varian became assistant trainer to Michael Jarvis at Kremlin House Stables, on Fordham Road, Newmarket, after a shattered wrist, sustained in a fall during secondment to Jack Fisher in Maryland, USA, brought his riding career in horse racing to an end. Ten years later, in February, 2011, Jarvis – who had had a heart valve replaced and was suffering from prostate cancer – retired due to ill health and handed the yard over to Varian.

Jarvis was, undoubtedly, a hard act to follow, but Varian made a fine start to his career, remarkably saddling 16 winners from his first 64 runners, at a strike rate of 25%. Varian remained at Kremlin House for the first six years of his training career, notably saddling Kingston Hill to win his first domestic Group One race, the Racing Post Trophy – now the Vertem Futurity Trophy – in 2013 and his first Classic, the St. Leger Stakes, in 2014.

By that stage, though, Varian had made his mark internationally; he had already won the Group One Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp in 2011 and Grade One Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park in 2012 with Nahrain and the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in 2012. His success at the highest level continued, with victories for Belardo in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in 2014 and Lockinge Stakes in 2016 and a memorable hat-trick for Postponed in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup at Epsom and the International Stakes at York in 2016.

In 2017, moved to Carlburg Stables, formerly occupied by Clive Brittain, on the nearby Bury Road and enjoyed his most successful season ever, numerically, with 109 winners. In recent seasons, Defoe, owned Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum – who transferred his string to Varian from the now-retired Luca Cumani in 2015 – has been the flag-bearer for the yard. The Dalakhani gelding has won nine of his 19 races including, in 2019, the Group One Coronation Cup at Epsom, and £739,613 in win and place prize money.

All told, Varian has saddled over 800 winners, including 17 at Group One or Grade One level. Still only 40, with the backing of powerful owners, also including Hamdan Al Maktoum and Cheveley Park Stud, and with hundreds of horses in training, his continued success seems assured.