Too Darn Hot is favourite once again in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, despite coming off worse against Circus Maximus when they last met at Ascot.
Last year’s champion juvenile has not enjoyed the same success this term – but he finally returned to winning ways in France last time out when dropped to seven furlongs.
Prior to that, he was a length behind Aidan O’Brien’s Circus Maximus in the St James’s Palace Stakes after defeats at York over 10 furlongs and in the Irish Guineas.
But those defeats followed a setback in the spring, and John Gosden is much happier with him now.
“The horse’s enthusiasm was there, but he lost a lot of time,” said Gosden.
“He was only walking for three weeks, and we went erroneously to the Dante. He was never going to stay that trip.
“He is a very quick horse, and Frankie (Dettori) was trying to settle him. He got to the other horse, but he spent so long settling him the other one (Telecaster) got to our pacemaker – and the whole thing was a bit of mess-up.
“The slightly panicky rush to Ireland was not wise. Finally we are letting the horse do what he wants to do – run and show his speed and class.
“He is an extremely fast horse with bundles of natural speed, and we were stupidly trying to take that away from him.
“When you have got that speed it is a bit stupid fighting what a horse is. When you watch him, he is powerful, and Frankie said that his stride pattern is so quick.
“We went to France with a lot of confidence, because his work was brilliant going in. He just showed he had come back to himself, because he went through a hellish spring.
“He handles any ground.”
Circus Maximus had to be supplemented again – just as he was for Royal Ascot – having previously been seen as more of a stayer, including when sixth in the Derby.
“He saw the mile out well at Ascot, and we were delighted that he won,” said O’Brien.
“He gets that mile well. He won at Chester on his first start – then he ran well in the Derby, and last time was his first run at a mile this season. He was left in the Guineas up to a late enough stage.
“We always thought he was a very nice horse last year.”
O’Brien also runs the four-year-old filly I Can Fly.
Charlie Hills is hoping better ground suits Phoenix Of Spain, after he failed to follow up his Irish Guineas win over Too Darn Hot at Ascot.
“Coming into the final two furlongs, Phoenix Of Spain was travelling really well -and I thought he was going to just pick up and go away – but I think he probably floundered a little on that ground,” Hills said of his colt’s Ascot run.
“It was horrible conditions for that race, and it was getting quite loose on top. I felt he didn’t handle that surface too well. All his best performances have been on fast ground – I think that is really what he needs.”
He also feels that the race possibly came a bit soon after Phoenix Of Spain’s imperious Classic success in Ireland
Hills added: “He ran a huge race in Ireland after a long lay-off, so there was always a chance of a bounce.
“He was quite stiff after Ascot and not quite 100 per cent sound, but he came good after three or four days.
“I am really pleased with the way he is moving now, and I think he must have just tweaked a muscle at Ascot.
“We’ve had a good chance to freshen him up. He had a good two weeks going quietly. He seems in a much better place, and I am really happy with him.”
David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters finally landed the big pot he had so often threatened in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, and is looking to go two better than when third to Lightning Spear here last year.
“It was fantastic to see him win the Queen Anne, and he came out of the race very well,” said O’Meara.
“We have been happy with him since the Queen Anne.
“He finished third in this race last year – and while he is taking on some smart three-year-olds this year, hopefully he goes there with a good chance.”
Roger Varian’s Zabeel Prince needs to bounce back from two below-par runs, after breaking his Group One duck in the Prix d’Ispahan.
He drops back down to a mile after defeats in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Eclipse, both part of the Qipco Champions Series.
“I don’t think it’s gone his way over 10 furlongs,” said Varian.
“Unfortunately I’ve run over that trip at two of the stiffest tracks in the country, in Ascot and Sandown. I still feel he might get an easy 10, but we are bringing him back for the time being.
“He has to put two poor results behind him – but for me, there were reasons for those defeats.
“At Ascot the ground was bottomless, and in the Eclipse nothing was going better two out – but he got stopped in his run, so Andrea (Atzeni) had to check him, which lost him his momentum. When he needed room he just didn’t get it – and then, partly because of that, he didn’t get home.
“You don’t find easy Group Ones, and the Sussex is certainly no exception, but I think he’s still in great form. His Earl Of Sefton form reads very well, as well as his Prix d’Ispahan, and he beat them well that day. He deserves his chance, and I think he’s capable of running a big race.”