Charlie Hills believes Phoenix Of Spain can get the better of his old rival Too Darn Hot for a second time this season when the pair clash in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
Having floored Too Darn Hot when landing the Irish 2,000 Guineas on his seasonal return, Phoenix Of Spain finished behind the dual Group One winner in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last time out.
Although John Gosden’s colt is priced up to again finish ahead of Phoenix Of Spain in next week’s Group One prize over a mile, Hills is optimistic he has his Classic winner back in top form.
Asked if he can beat Too Darn Hot this time, Hills said: “I can’t see a reason why not.
“I was impressed by Too Darn Hot (last time in France). He is a horse with a lot of speed. I think we will see on the day which tactics to use. We wouldn’t want a slow pace.
“We’ve had a good chance to freshen him up – he has had two weeks going quiet, and his weight is very good.
“He did a nice piece of work at the weekend,and we managed to get him on the grass – which was important. I think Goodwood could be a good place for him.”
Looking back on Phoenix Of Spain’s defeat at the Royal meeting, Hills believes soft ground was a big factor behind the reversal.
Hills said: “Coming into the two, he was travelling well, and I thought he was going to pick up and go away.
“He probably just floundered in that ground. It was horrible conditions for that race – it was loose on top, and he didn’t handle that surface too well.
“All his best performances have been on fast ground, and I think that is what he needs.”
Hills has also a cited a disruption to Phoenix Of Spain’s usual routine as another potential reason why he under-performed on his most recent start.
He added: “It was also quite busy in between with lots of media attention and vets poking around for insurance purpose.
“He likes to have a sleep at 11am in the morning – it might sound silly, but horses like routines.
“He loves going out at 7am, having his breakfast, then lying down and looking out the window in the afternoon – and he wasn’t able to do that.”
Stepping up in trip could be on the agenda later in the year for Phoenix Of Spain, who holds mile-and-a-quarter entries in both the Juddmonte International at York and Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
Hills said: “I’d like to think we would go 10 furlongs later in the year – but at this stage I would like to win a couple more mile races.
“If we could win a couple more Group Ones he could hopefully be a champion.”