If the definition of a star two-year-old not training on is to place in the Irish Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes, then the bar has indeed been set too high.
Such was the expectation surrounding Too Darn Hot at the start of this season, that the emotion among his entourage in the aftermath of a dominant success in the Prix Jean Prat was one of sheer relief.
Not that John Gosden and Lady Lloyd-Webber will have suffered too much anxiety during the time it took Frankie Dettori to guide Too Darn Hot from his unhelpful draw out on the wing to a three-length defeat of Space Blues.
After an unbeaten juvenile campaign which culminated in a win in the Dewhurst judged equal to that of Frankel, this year’s zig-zag course between setbacks, changed trips and objectives had left plenty of questions for both horse and trainer to answer.
But the good news is that having achieved that vital Group 1 at three, both Gosden and Lloyd-Webber are now dreaming big for the rest of the season rather than considering it a case of job done.
“We saw the real Too Darn Hot today,” said Lloyd-Webber. ”This is where we are starting our season, we’ve got a long year ahead.”
Gosden put flesh on that sentiment in asserting that the son of Dubawi won’t be taking it easy waiting for the Prix de la Foret in October, which is the next opportunity for Group 1 success over seven furlongs.
“It’ll be the Jacques Le Marois or the Sussex Stakes, one or the other,” said Gosden, before echoing the thoughts of many when asking the assembled press: “Will you ask the European Pattern Committee why the Jacques Le Marois and the Sussex Stakes, two great, wonderful mile races, are only 11 days apart. It’s madness.”
Asked if he considered this success a relief more than anything else, Gosden added: “Well it is, because he was a champion two-year-old, but a champion two-year-old running over seven. His maiden was over a mile but they trotted for four and had a little run up the hill at Sandown.
“His proper distance is 1,400 [metres] up to an easy mile and we’ll play to his strengths rather than stupidly playing to his weaknesses. He’s not a stamina horse, he’s built like a sprinter. I probably should have been running him in the July Cup next week, I’ve probably got it wrong again.”
In part to protect the reputation of the horse, Gosden has publicly assumed more than his share of the blame for faulty race planning in the wake of the setback which ruled him out of the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.
But Dettori has never lost faith in Too Darn Hot and was keen to point out that this was a proper Group 1 performance.
“He’s back to his old self and it’s nice to see, I’m pleased for the horse,” said Dettori, who was celebrating a seventh top-level success in the space of just 38 days, stretching back to Anapurna’s victory in the Oaks. “I rode him work and I said to John he’s blessed with so much speed. We tried to stretch him and every time he ran, he didn’t finish his races off.
“Ireland was too soon, then Ascot is a really stiff mile, so today, he put everything to bed and he showed his old turn of foot.”
In behind Too Darn Hot were two more British-trained horses, with Space Blues leading home Fox Champion.
James Doyle was thrilled with Space Blues, who was last seen filling the same spot in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Ascot.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Doyle. ”We got in a nice slipstream behind Too Darn Hot and then tried to pick him up late on but he just quickened away from us. He kept galloping and I’m really chuffed with him.
“He could even come back a furlong because he does travel very well. He is always the last to come off the bridle but he gets the seven very well and a race like the Foret would be perfect for him.”
Far Above holds on to land Prix Kistena for Tate
Far Above and PJ McDonald built on a comfortable novice success at Windsor last month to win the Listed Prix Kistena as the pair held off the late challenge of favourite Duhail.
That made it three wins from four starts for the son of Farhh, who has speed to burn in the eyes of trainer James Tate.
“He’s a horse that has always shown a lot of talent at home but is still slightly babyish,” said Tate. ”I think he is on the way to becoming a very good sprinter, whether that be later this year or next year.
“He is getting faster and faster and I think we’ll definitely look for a Group race back at five furlongs for him next.”
With the exception of one Group 3 at Longchamp in September, the Prix Petit Couvert, that will oblige Tate to aim high with the three-year-old.
He added: “There are not many to choose from so it will either be the King George at Goodwood, the Nunthorpe, the Flying Five at the Curragh or else the Prix du Petit Couvert, which is a trial for the Abbaye.”