Thursday 16 May 2019

Will Too Darn Hot Make Epsom Statement?

Magna Grecia made a statement in the first major flat race of the campaign, claiming a victory at the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket for Aidan O’Brien. 

The Irish-bred horse was one of the leading contenders for the crown along with his stable-mate Ten Sovereigns. However, Donnacha O’Brien in the saddle guided his charge over the line ahead of the rest of the field, claiming the race for his father Aidan for the 10th time in his career. 

All eyes will now turn to the next major outing – The Derby at Epsom Downs in June. The field will be joined by other talented horses due to the slight increase in distance. Magna Grecia will remain one of the favourites in the betting odds among the leading bookies to take the race, although there are other talented competitors waiting to pounce.

Too Darn Hot was the horse that drew the attention of pundits before the start of the season and he will be one to watch when the action commences after missing the Guineas due to injury. We’ll now break down the leading competitors for the crown. 

Magna Grecia

In the absence of Too Darn Hot, the field opened up allowing Magna Grecia to take the crown in the 2,000 Guineas. He was considered one of the leading runners for the event, although not quite of the calibre of Ten Sovereigns. Magna Grecia did have success as a two-year-old, winning his Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden in Naas over seven furlongs. Persian King defeated him by a neck at the Masar Godolphin Autumn Stakes in Newmarket last October, although he managed to bounce back with a fine outing in the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes to end last season. After six months off the track, he returned to action for the Guineas at a starting price of 11/2. 

Ten Sovereigns drew the attention, but when it came down to the pace on the track, it was all Magna Grecia. Donnacha O’Brien was impressive at the reins, urging his charge down the straight to close out the win by two-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of King Of Change. Aidan O’Brien has suggested that he might not run the Irish-bred horse in the event given the way that last season’s 2,000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior underwhelmed at the Epsom Downs. However, he could be swayed by Magna Grecia’s form at the Irish Guineas in the near future. 

Too Darn Hot

John Gosden has been cautious with his next great charge, holding him out of action due to an injury concern. Gosden made the decision weeks before the contest and it looks to have been a wise choice given that the horse is making his way back to fitness for The Derby. Too Darn Hot was the class of the two-year-old field last season. He made his bow in the EBF Maiden Stakes at Sandown Park, finishing seven lengths ahead of his nearest rival. The bay colt was just as dominant in his next outing at the Solario Stakes. Frankie Dettori at the reins ensured that his charge was in rhythm, finishing four lengths ahead of the field to claim the victory. 

Phoenix of Spain provided his first real challenge down the stretch at the Champagne Stakes. However, Too Darn Hot was able to see off the threat to win with relative ease, cantering over the line. Gosden’s charge made his mark at the Dewhurst Stakes to end the 2018 campaign. He was the odds-on favourite and delivered an outstanding performance, taking charge of the race in the final furlong to finish two-and-three-quarter lengths ahead of Advertise. It has been a while since he has been in action and his injury could be a factor, but talent wise there does not appear to be a better competitor on the track. Gosden has not won The Derby since 1997 with Benny the Dip, but Too Darn Hot has the credentials to end his drought. 

Sir Dragonet

O’Brien could have unearthed another gem out of nowhere in time for The Derby. Sir Dragonet did not compete as a two-year-old as the trainer built up his charge in his yard. However, he does have the pedigree of a champion – being the son of the 2012 Derby winner Camelot. The Irish-bred horse arrived at Tipperary for his maiden race as an outsider for the event at 14/1. His stable-mate King Pellinor was the favourite, but he and the rest of the field were blown away by the performance of Sir Dragonet. Seamie Heffernan in the saddle drove his charge into contention and the horse responded with a surge down the stretch to close out the win by three lengths. 

Despite the impressive nature of his display at Tipperary, Sir Dragnonet was still not considered one of the leading contenders for the Chester Vase Stakes. Opinions would soon change as Donnacha O’Brien guided the three-year-old to a dominant performance at Chester. He kept pace with the leaders for the majority of the contest before he made his move to pull away. The rest of the field failed to match his pace, easing to the victory by eight lengths. Sir Dragonet could be yet another imperious horse to emerge from Aidan O’Brien’s yard. The Irishman is in pursuit of Lester Piggott's record of nine Derby winners. O’Brien has six at the moment, but between Sir Dragonet and Magna Grecia – it could be seven. Too Darn Hot and Gosden stand in his way.