POTENTIAL STARS EMERGE FROM INFORMATIVE WEEKEND
With the Flat season thus far having been a bit slow to produce new performers of real superstar quality, it was great to see two such performers emerge within 15 minutes of each other on either side of the Irish Sea on Saturday.
The first to strike was the Aidan O’Brien-trained Ten Sovereigns in the Group 3 Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh. The son of the leading first-season sire No Nay Never cost 200,000gns as a yearling and had reportedly been showing up very well in the spring prior to meeting with a slight setback.
Having recovered from that, he made his debut last month and quickly made himself look very well bought by absolutely bolting up by seven lengths in a six-furlong maiden at the Curragh. It was a performance that ticked every box and Simon Rowlands’s in-depth analysis of it on these pages made for particularly strong reading.
While the immediate post-race chat focused on the Middle Park Stakes, it came as a surprise to many that Ten Sovereigns was turned out again just a week later to contest the Round Tower back at the Curragh. The thought was to get more experience into him prior to stepping him up to the highest level and while his winning performance may not have had quite the same “wow factor” as his debut, it certainly represented a step in the right direction. As had been the case on his debut, he jumped sharply, took an enthusiastic hold towards the front rank without cover and just surged onwards inside the final furlong.
It was another performance that stamped him as being a prospect of the very highest class, though if one wanted to be picky with a view to his imminent elevation to Group 1 company, one would have liked to have seen him travel in amongst horses and encounter some hustle and bustle with a view to his education.
In the Middle Park, he is likely to meet much more hardened and experienced two-year-olds and if the going gets tough, his comparative lack of competitive experience may stand against him. That said, I suspect most observers would rather have his talent in their corner rather than all the experience in the world. He is a very exciting prospect.
A little over 10 minutes later it was the turn of the John Gosden-trained Too Darn Hot to try and confirm the promise of a wide-margin win on debut. Sent off the even-money favourite for the Solario Stakes despite facing the Chesham Stakes winner Arthur Kitt, as well as other rivals with Listed/Group form in the book, he didn’t disappoint.
As had been the case on debut Too Darn Hot gave the impression of being a work in progress, particularly when showing greenness when pressure was applied to him. That said, the rapid rate of his progression was clear given how he coped with this much deeper company over a furlong shorter than he had made his winning debut over.
He was very strong in the final furlong, very much suggesting that a return to a mile and an inevitable step up to longer trips in due course will very much suit. With that in mind, his beautiful pedigree (by Dubawi out of the three-time Group 1 winner Dar Re Mi) very much suggests that a mile-and-a-half will be within the range of his stamina, raising hopes that he could well be a Derby horse.
Though, Too Darn Hot connections are unlikely to be thinking anything like that far ahead, as experience with this family will have taught them the folly of doing so given that his dam, as well as his full-sisters Lah Ti Dar and So Mi Dar, all missed the Oaks due to late setbacks when well fancied.
While there were a number of other promising performances on Saturday’s card at the Curragh, one that it could well pay to take particular note of was that of Urban Beat in the concluding six-furlong handicap. The Johnny Murtagh-trained three-year-old clearly hasn’t been the easiest to train with this having been just his fourth career start, but he reportedly showed plenty of early promise last year.
The story goes that last spring Gordon Elliott rang Murtagh and asked would it suit Johnny if they worked a few of their unraced two-year-olds together. In that work, one trained by each man pulled right away from the rest and the two stand-out workers both made their debuts soon after in a six-furlong auction maiden at the Curragh.
As it transpired, the one of Elliott’s was Beckford who went on to make a winning debut in that maiden before being Group 1-placed later in the season, whereas Urban Beat finished down the field and Murtagh was left scratching his head.
Murtagh had to be patient to try again with him, as Urban Beat didn’t run again for almost a year, but he wasn’t long in showing that first run to be all wrong. He won a five-furlong maiden at Navan and followed up a month later in a six-furlong handicap at the Curragh, both on heavy ground. Offered at the London Sale leading up to Royal Ascot, he failed to sell for £230,000 and returned to Murtagh.
Now officially rated 97, Murtagh waited with him during the worst of the summer drought and didn’t send him back into battle until he contested that six-furlong handicap at the Curragh last weekend. There was an awful lot to like about the way he moved into the race and as had been the case in his previous two wins, he was at his strongest in the closing stages. Shane Foley used no more than his hands and heels to encourage his mount and he won with plenty more to spare than the half-length winning margin suggests.
Urban Beat has been raised 7lb to 104 and one suspects he can win a big handicap off that before progressing into stakes company. He is entered in both the Ayr Gold Cup and the Bold Lad Premier Handicap on Irish Champions Weekend and while both of those races are fiercely competitive, Urban Beat would be best kept onside in whichever one he contests.