Too Darn Hot’s too hot leg means he goes straight to the Guineas and makes for a very different Newmarket narrative than we’d have otherwise had, the landscape slightly less of a brightly-lit runway, though the two-year-old Too Darn Hot looked an aeroplane.
He has his tribulations while others have their trials, as that’s what the Flat is all about for now, looking further and wider than the 2000 Guineas alone.
Here, then, are the five key trials taking place this weekend, in ascending order, five to one, according to their significance.
There’s a big, Too Darn Hot-shaped hole in the Greenham, and, to be blunt, none of these will be worrying him come the Guineas. Boitron is the standard-setter, his only defeat as a juvenile coming in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (fourth), a race that has already been well advertised this year by Broome and Shaman, and Boitron had a wind op over the winter.
Great Scot also ended up in a Group 1 last autumn, in the Futurity at Doncaster, where finishing fifth – beaten just over a length – was some achievement considering he didn’t race that efficiently, a theme with him as a juvenile, despite three wins, and he may be too fresh and fizzy first time out. Those two, along with Hello Youmzain and Mohaather, already pattern winners, make the Greenham a worthy Group 3, but it doesn’t feel like fulfilling its primary brief of a 2000 Guineas trial.
It’s not all about the 2000 Guineas, and it’s not even all about the three-year-olds, as the older horses need pseudo-trials themselves to see where they’re going this season, a mild starting point that becomes a wild meeting point when there’s a cast assembled like in the Alleged Stakes.
There are not one, not two but three Group 1 winners in opposition here, all powered by O’Brien, with Joseph’s Irish Derby hero Latrobe taking on Aidan’s pair of Magical and Flag Of Honour. The ten-furlong trip is on the sharp side for all three, whereas it’s probably just the ticket for Dermot Weld’s Hazapour, who traded at 2/1 in-running in the Derby before the petrol ran out. Weld has made his trademark fast start to the campaign, and this may be more of a Cup Final for Hazapour than the rest.
The preceding Gladness Stakes, incidentally, is potentially a big trial for Le Brivido, because Le Brivido is still potentially a Group 1 horse, starting out now for Aidan O’Brien after transfer from Andre Fabre. Various issues have meant Le Brivido has run only once since doing very well to win the Jersey at Royal Ascot in 2017, and his entries – including the Lockinge – suggests he’s still got it.
Unlike the 2000, the 1000 Guineas has no flag planted in it whatsoever, hence it’s 10/1 the field, meaning any trial winner will make a splash and maybe a shockwave. The Dubai Duty Free, formerly the Fred Darling, therefore has a pivotal part to play, more so if a once-raced filly like Dancing Vega turns it on.
Her debut, at Doncaster last September, was about as impressive as it gets, tanking through the race before going through the gears on request, winning by four lengths, and the style is supported by the substance, as the runner-up that day, Blue Gardenia, subsequently landed a listed race at Newmarket. If Dancing Vega is as good as she looks, it will be direct to Newmarket after Newbury for her. She’s 14/1 for the Guineas.
Epic Hero and Persian King. The dark horse who has burst onto the scene this year, and a premier league two-year-old from 2018. Both are trained by Andre Fabre, and both are now owned by Godolphin, after they privately bought Persian King over the winter. It’s probably a bigger day for Epic Hero, as he’s the open book, whereas several classy chapters have already been penned by Persian King, who beat the Futurity winner, Magna Grecia, when he came over for the Autumn Stakes, a test run on the Guineas track.
It’s still up in the air as to the main destination of one or both, but, as far as trials go, the Fontainebleau is the biggest and best in Europe this weekend, because the primary pair could easily be heavy-hitters through the season, so make sure you tune into Sky Sports Racing on Sunday.
1. ARKANSAS DERBY, OAKLAWN
The trials for the Kentucky Derby come thick and fast, but nothing has really put its hand up so far to say they’re the one to beat at Churchill. The Arkansas Derby is just about the last chance for some star quality, and there’s the potential for exactly that, especially in the shape of Improbable.
Improbable needs to finish first or second to book his ticket for the Kentucky Derby, but that’s probable by Improbable, whose narrow defeat last time was the first of his career. He has stall 1 at Oaklawn, and blinkers are called for to put an extra edge on him. It’s a big deal, because he’s a big horse in prospect, and, in America, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Kentucky Derby.