Too hot to handle? Gosden's unbeaten ace out to burn off rivals in Champagne
Howcroft Industrial Supplies Champagne Stakes | G2 | 7f | ITV1/ATR
Just 35 minutes before Lah Ti Dar takes centre stage in the St Leger, her little brother Too Darn Hot bids for the first leg of a remarkable family double in the juvenile prelude to the Classic.
The John Gosden-trained colt has proved a star performer himself in his two starts at Sandown, most recently thrashing Royal Ascot winner Arthur Kitt by four lengths in the Group 3 Solario Stakes.
Just as impressive when winning his maiden there over a mile last month, the son of Dubawi handled a drop to today's trip of seven furlongs last time and is using this as a stepping stone to the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket next month.
A generally 6-1 favourite for both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby, Too Darn Hot came through his latest exercise under Frankie Dettori on the Limekilns on Tuesday morning, going clear of a decent lead horse despite a fierce headwind.
Simon Marsh, racing manager to owner Andrew Lloyd Webber, said: "Frankie and John have been very keen to teach Too Darn Hot as much as possible. John had always wanted to run him in the Champagne if he came out of the Solario well – which it seems he has – so we're all very excited to see how he runs. We'll see what happens at Doncaster and then work out what we do for the rest of the year."
Vision has penalty to overcome
Dark Vision will carry his new colours of Godolphin blue for the first time after Sheikh Mohammed's organisation snapped up the son of Dream Ahead after his impressive win in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in July.
Although he has a 3lb penalty to shoulder for that success, the extra burden can be overcome as Estidhkaar proved four years ago.
Dark Vision showed a smart gear change to cut down Dunkerron at Goodwood with the reopposing Van Beethoven back in fifth, although the runner-up has since been trounced by Too Darn Hot.
Johnston said: "This is as tough as any juvenile Group 1 but worth a fraction of the value. We're up against two of the highest-rated two-year-olds in the country and trying to give them 3lb.
He added: "He's very laid-back, even in his races, but he was a bit too relaxed at Goodwood. Some people have questioned the form of that race, on the basis John Gosden's horse beat Confiding and Dunkerron further than we did, but I would argue he didn't necessarily do it more impressively.
"I'm pleased Silvestre [de Sousa] is on him again. I hope the horse won't be giving away so much ground at the start this time but I think it's important to have somebody on his back who has been in that position before and won't be fazed or panic."
Spain to reign?
Charlie Hills's father Barry landed the prize five times and his Auction House in 1998 was the last winner of York's Group 3 Acomb Stakes at York to follow up in this race.
Treading the same path for Hills jnr is Phoenix Of Spain, who was making it two wins from three starts when beating Watan on the Knavesmire, although the runner-up was another in the wake of Too Darn Hot in the Solario.
Hills said: "Phoenix Of Spain has been in great form since that victory and has done two really nice pieces of work. At first it looked like he was going to be more of a three-year-old but he’s very strong now and improving race by race."
What the others say
Andrew Balding, trainer of Bye Bye Hong Kong
He's been impressive at home and I thought he was pretty impressive when winning in a good time at Windsor as well. Dropping back to six furlongs wasn't ideal that day, so returning to seven is in his favour. This looks to be the strongest two-year-old race of the season so far, so he'll need to be at his best and then some, but we should learn something."
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Van Beethoven and Cardini
We've been happy with Van Beethoven since his first run over seven furlongs at Goodwood. He's in good form. Cardini has always worked better than he races but he came good in a nursery at the Curragh last time and has been pleasing us since.
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