Where to go with Too Darn Hot?
After the news broke a fortnight ago that TOO DARN HOT was to miss the Greenham after developing heat in a splint bone, the fears that had haunted his 2000 Guineas supporters throughout the winter started to become reality. They were realised on Saturday with his trainer John Gosden reporting that the issue had held him up too much and that he would miss the 2000 Guineas.
This continued what must be one of the most unfortunate “family traits” in recent racing memory, as Too Darn Hot now joins his full-sisters So Mi Dar and Lah Ti Dar as well his mother Dar Re Mi in having missed a British Classic through a setback when amongst the leading fancies.
While it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that vulnerability to physical setbacks can be a family trait, there isn’t much common ground amongst the specific circumstances that led to those absences. With So Mi Dar, she picked up a minor injury in a hind leg, most likely when winning the Musidora Stakes at York three weeks before the Oaks. In Lah Ti Dar’s case, she was ruled out after a blood test produced unsatisfactory results just a week before the Oaks. Dar Re Mi was a quite bizarre case, with a lawn mower being fired up on the other side of a wall she was being ridden alongside causing her to spook, fall over and get up lame, which led to her missing the Oaks.
Mercifully, Too Darn Hot’s setback was a minor one and Gosden reports that it won’t hold him up for long. This raises the next question of where he should make his return, with the two races his connections have mentioned as possible targets being the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh and the Dante at York.
Race replay: Too Darn Hot wins the Champagne Stakes.
Given that he has now missed both the Greenham and the 2000 Guineas, he will be playing catch-up with his peers that have had smoother passages so far this season. Interestingly, prior to his setback Gosden had described him in these terms: “He is a bundle of energy. He really enjoys his exercise and is very playful. He is like a very hyperactive, ‘I want to get on with it’ kid. He is a guy with a lot of energy and I don’t want him to go and have to do a racecourse gallop, he would be much happier going down to Newbury, running over seven and just getting the cobwebs out the way.” After what has transpired since then, it seems a racecourse gallop prior to his comeback is going to have to suffice.
The main question mark that would be attached to Too Darn Hot’s prospects in the Dante would be the suitability of 10-and-a-quarter furlongs at this stage of his career. While his pedigree quite clearly indicates that he should stay at least a mile-and-a-quarter and probably a mile-and-a-half, increasing quantities of racecourse evidence should always trump pedigree.
As Too Darn Hot gained experience with each start last season, his sharpness increased with each start too. It is worth watching the early stages of the Dewhurst again and noting just how hard he pulled in the early stages despite ample cover and pace in front of him. There will of course always be scope for any three-year-old to have matured and settled over the winter months, but the last time we saw him on a racecourse, Too Darn Hot shaped like a pure miler in the making to this pair of eyes.
With that in mind, it would seem that running him in the Dante on his seasonal reappearance would be a very risky thing to do. The danger of him racing far too freely over such a trip would be there anyway, but that risk is raised by the fact that it would be his seasonal reappearance and he would be going into the race fresher than he would with a run under his belt.
Time may well reveal that he does prove fully effective over a mile-and-a-quarter or even further, but given his reputed character at home and how he has shaped in his races thus far, a similar approach to how Sir Henry Cecil managed Frankel may be prudent. Frankel was bred to stay middle-distances, but his racing character and free-going tendencies discouraged Cecil from rushing him up in trip to contest the Derby after he won the 2000 Guineas. He kept him at a mile until he matured and became more relaxed, then and only then did he ask him to tackle longer trips. Had he asked him to run in the Derby, the Frankel story might well have turned out very differently and not in a good way.
Considering all of this, the Irish 2,000 Guineas appeals as being a far more attractive target than the Dante. It may not be ideal to travel him for the first time for his seasonal reappearance, but it appeals as being a far more suitable race in course-and-distance terms than the Dante. There is also no comparison in terms of prestige, with one being a Classic and the other being a Derby trial. It is also well-placed in the calendar with a view to the logical next step after that, being three-and-a-half weeks before the St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
With a view to the bigger picture, the presence of Too Darn Hot would be considered a dream result for the Curragh authorities as they launch their new facilities and one can be sure they will be doing everything they can to persuade his connections to point him in their direction. Whichever way they decide to go, it will be fascinating to see which way Too Darn Hot’s connections point him.