Kevin Blake

Leading racing writer Kevin Blake reflects on last weekend's Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes which went the way of John Gosden's impressive juvenile colt Too Darn Hot.

  • Monday 15 October
  • Blog
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As it should, the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday brought together many of the very best two-year-old prospects in Europe. In such situations, the hopes from many neutral observers will always be that a proper star emerges from a field of potential stars and those hopes were realised with Too Darn Hot producing one of the best Dewhurst performances of the last decade.

Trained by John Gosden, the son of Dubawi had looked a top-class prospect in the making in all three of his previous starts, albeit shaping like a work in progress. While he ultimately ran out an easy 2¾ lengths victor on Saturday, what made the performance so impressive was that he still didn’t look the finished article.

Following the mental and physical progress of Too Darn Hot through his four races has been fascinating. In his first two starts, he looked raw and in need of education, with Frankie Dettori nursing and nudging him into the bridle and trying to get him in amongst horses to teach him about the game. He showed the benefit of those experiences in the Champagne Stakes, with him travelling more fluently through the race.

However, the Dewhurst was by far the strongest race he has contested as well as being on the trickiest track and the firmest ground he had encountered, so that some of his rawness came back to the surface was understandable.

Having jumped from the gates faster than Frankie Dettori would likely have ideally wanted, Too Darn Hot was restrained back into cover and initially took a strong hold. This keenness was perhaps just a reaction to the restraint that Frankie had to exert on him to take him back, but what was the firmest ground he has ever encountered could also have been a contributory factor to this. Horses experiencing a firm surface for the first time can sometimes get fired up by the unfamiliar jarring feel of it.

Either way, while much was made of his early keenness in the post-race analysis, closer inspection suggests that Frankie did a very good job in settling him after two furlongs.

From there, the remnants of Too Darn Hot’s greenness were in evidence, with him hitting a brief flat spot after being switched into the clear just over two furlongs out and descending into the dip. However, having been reorganised, receiving a couple of backhanders from Frankie and hitting the rising ground, Too Darn Hot powered away in the final furlong to prevail with great authority and style.

It was a performance and a race that is very difficult to pick holes in and he has deservedly been shortened to a short-priced favourite for the 2000 Guineas back at Newmarket next spring.

Too Darn Hot wins the Dewhurst
Too Darn Hot (left) is far too good for Advertise (centre) and Anthony Van Dyck

Too Darn Hot’s performance in the Dewhurst also represented the crowning achievement of what has been an incredible year for his sire Dubawi, with him now being responsible for the two highest-rated two-year-olds in Europe in Too Darn Hot and the Charlie Appleby-trained Quorto. What is particularly remarkable about that fact is just how much it contrasts with what we have come to expect from Dubawi as a sire.

Dubawi has been established for a number of years now as one of the very best sires in the world with 38 individual Group 1 winners to his name, but that reputation has been forged by the exploits of his progeny at the age of three or older. Indeed, it will perhaps come as a surprise to some that prior to Quorto and Too Darn Hot, Dubawi had not sired a single Group 1-winning two-year-old colt in the Northern Hemisphere in his stallion career.

His only previous Group 1-winning two-year-old colt was trained in South Africa and he has only had two fillies that won Group 1s as two-year-olds, namely Wild Illusion and Wuheida.

Prior to this year, Wild Illusion had achieved the highest two-year-old rating of any son or daughter of Dubawi with a mark of 114, but that will be blown out of the water by both Quorto and Too Darn Hot, with Quorto already rated 123 and Too Darn Hot all but certain to be rated higher than that.

The natural follow-on from those facts is to speculate how the pair will fare as three-year-olds given that they have already far outrun any limitations imposed on them by the record of their sire’s progeny as juveniles. While neither of them are blessed with an abundance of physical scope, Dubawi himself was just a close-coupled 15-3hh at full maturity, yet that didn’t hold him back from advancing his Group 1-winning two-year-old form to another level as a three-year-old.

In terms of their pedigrees, both Dubawi’s record as a sire and the dam side of both their pedigrees very much suggest that they should be at their best as three-year-olds or older over distances of at least a mile-and-a-quarter. However, racecourse evidence trumps everything else and both of them appeal as being more so in the mould of Dubawi himself, a strong traveller with a turn of foot that proved best at a mile as a three-year-old. At this stage, talks of Derby bids for either of them seem ill-advised.

One can only hope that both of them make it through the winter in top physical and mental shape, as a clash between the two as well as the likes of Calyx and Persian King in the 2000 Guineas is a prospect that would keep any Flat racing enthusiast warm through the winter months.

Kevin Blake
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