Declan Rix

After a week of high-class racing from York's Dante Festival and Newbury's two-day Lockinge meeting, among others, Declan Rix analyses the Dante Stakes in which Too Darn Hot was beaten by Telecaster.

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Last week’s racing was one of the most enjoyable spells of Flat action I can remember in a little while. York’s Dante Festival made for fascinating viewing with many top-class animals flexing their muscles while Newbury’s two-day Lockinge fixture on Friday and Saturday helped keep the momentum going.

There were plenty taking performances, talking points and below are what stood out for me.

BRAVE MURPHY RIDE GETS TELECASTER HOME IN UNSATISFACTORY DANTE

Oisin Murphy’s fine ride aboard Telecaster in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York on Thursday was possibly the difference in getting Hughie Morrison’s rapidly progressive son of New Approach home, a length ahead of race-favourite and last season’s star juvenile, Too Darn Hot.

Murphy trusted his own clock as he followed Too Darn Hot’s stablemate and pace-maker Turgenev, who did an excellent job under Kieran O'Neill. While the rest of the field were restrained by their riders, Turgenev and Telecaster skipped clear, building up a significant early advantage, while not burning too much petrol.

The initial skirmishes of the Dante was where the race was won by Murphy and Telecaster, and for this the rider deserves great credit. It would’ve been entirely natural for him to let the leader bound clear and simply take his place in the chasing pack, but a combination of trusting his own pace judgement and knowing a staying type of contest would suit his horse much more than the favourite, I suspect, played in his decision making.

In terms of rating the race, it’s not easy given the unsatisfactory nature, although it is a positive that the time was marginally quicker than the Middleton Stakes won by Too Darn Hot’s older sister Lah Ti Dar over the same course and distance, for all that filly is certainly not at her best over 10f on quick ground.

I think you have to downgrade the winner in comparison to the runner-up – the early headstart Murphy got over Too Darn Hot looked key. With that said however, Telecaster has now more than earned his right at a shot in an open-looking Derby, although, connections need to supplement their colt at a cost of £85,000. At the time of writing, no decision has been made, and rightly so, as there is still just under two weeks to the race.  

Telecaster wins the Dante at York
Telecaster (left) won under an inspired ride from Oisin Murphy

Should he go, Telecaster will bid to go one place better in an Epsom Classic than his dam Shirocco Star, who finished runner-up in the 2012 Oaks behind Was, when beaten a neck for the Hughie Morrison team.

In terms of ability, Telecaster looks to be right up there with the other market leaders Sir Dragonet (11/4), Broome (5/1) and Anthony Van Dyck (13/2), who has been supported in the Derby market on Sunday, May 19th.

The only potential worry I would have about the son of New Approach is the occasion slightly geeing him up as he tends to travel strongly in his races. The combination of doing too much too soon going up in trip on a stiffer track than York could all add up late in the race, but essentially, he should now run on the first Saturday in June.

Backers can take plenty encouragement in the trip being no problem on pedigree (and how he strides) at least, given his dam was second in an Oaks over the trip and his sire won the Derby, as well as siring last year’s winner, Masar, but visually, he does travel like a quicker performer.

With regards Too Darn Hot’s seasonal debut, although John Gosden’s horse was beaten, he ran an incredibly good race under the circumstances, of which there were many negative. In trying to close down a horse as good as Telecaster having conceded significant ground to him in the early stages showed a few new sides to the diminutive son of Dubawi.

In his faultless-in-four juvenile career, sheer ability never saw him challenged mentally and physically like the Dante did, such was his authority, but at York a totally new test greeted him and while he lost the race we learned plenty.

Firstly, it was encouraging to see him settle over the extended 10f trip having looked a pure miler as a juvenile. This in no doubt helped him see out the trip, and you’d be hard pushed to say he didn’t stay, for all 10f may not be his optimum. Along with a more relaxed nature and showing a fair ability to stay 10f, Too Darn Hot displayed bravery in trying to chase down the winner on his own, before a lack of a recent run and maybe running inefficiently compared to the winner caught up with him.

In the end, it was in vain, but giving the negative “vibes” about him pre-race, the unsatisfactory nature of the race from Frankie Dettori’s point of view, not being fully fit and possibly not racing over his optimum, it was a fine return.

The St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot is said to be next, back over a mile, but connections should keep the 10f door ajar for the remainder of the season. Hopefully at Ascot we will see him return to his juvenile level, or even better, surpass it, but it must be said, he was below what we saw in 2018 here, for all there are plenty of excuses, and that is a small concern, but for now he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

EXCITING TRIO TO NOTE

On Wednesday, Kevin Ryan unleashed a potentially high-class juvenile in REPARTEE at York over 6f. Sent off at 9/2 having attracted quiet support, the free-flowing son of Invincible Spirit went on to win by a cool five lengths. Jumping well in a big white nose-band, the 2yo was soon travelling comfortably in the hands of Andrea Atzeni before putting the race to bed readily. 

The ease at which he went through the race was eyecatching, and while needing to find his balance once asked to come off the bit, once he did, the response was impressive. With his second dam being a half-sister to the high-class racehorse and now exciting young sire Kingman, we could be looking at a smart performer going forward.

At Newbury on Friday, Sir Michael Stoute’s 3yo filly JUBILOSO couldn’t have been much more impressive when running out a seven-length winner of a 7f Novice Stakes. A small fly-leap leaving the gates didn’t stop her from getting into stride quickly and the way she travelled just oozed class.

Once given the office to go about her business, she did so in scintillating style. By Shamardal and out of Joyeuse, a half-sister to Frankel, the Juddmonte Farms conveyor belt of talent looks to have unleashed another potential star.

Royal Ascot will surely be next and while the strapping filly has an entry in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes, the Group 3 Jersey Stakes and Sandringham Stakes (Handicap) are other possible engagements. For all she has the potential to be a Group 1 horse, I’d favour the straight-track Jersey Stakes option over the seven furlongs she just impressed.

Pitching her into the deep-end over a trip she hasn’t performed over may be too much too soon, but wherever she goes, I look forward to seeing her again.

In general, over the course of a Flat season, Aidan O’Brien doesn’t have too many first-time out juvenile winners, so for his ETOILE to go and win a Group 3 on debut is a hugely exciting occurrence. The daughter of War Front overcame her track inexperience and greenness to beat the Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Fillies' Sprint Stakes field at Naas on Sunday and with her sure to improve mentally and physically for the outing, we are looking at a high-class 2yo filly.

We may have another Clemmie on our hands. 

Declan Rix
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