John Gosden feels Too Darn Hot may finally reproduce his exceptional juvenile form in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
The Dubawi colt carried all before him last year, signing off in style by winning the Dewhurst with Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck trailing in his wake.
A setback early in the spring ruled him out of the Guineas, though, and he faced a race against time to get to the Dante, in which he was second, and filled the same spot nine days later in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
“Too Darn Hot has probably been the worst managed horse this year, by me and the manager,” confessed Gosden.
“He missed the Guineas, which was tragedy because that would have been a perfect race. He then had to walk for two weeks before going for the Dante, when he was quite frankly about 80 per cent fit.
“Then, as we seemed to be missing the Classics, we went over to Ireland nine days later. Due to the rules, he had to have a flu vaccination – he was perfectly eligible to race in the UK but not in Ireland as they changed the rules so had to have a flu vaccination on the Saturday after the Dante before the Irish 2,000 Guineas the following Saturday.
“He ran really well in Ireland and finished second, but we all ask horses to do impossible things and I think it would have been much better if we had targeted the Irish Guineas from the outset. From the horse’s point of view, that has not been very clever.
“Having said that, Too Darn Hot is coming into the St James’s Palace Stakes in good form and I hope that he can put in a quality performance as he certainly has not had the opportunity to do that so far this season with his more than interrupted preparation through the spring.
“I think I am the happiest I have been with him so far this season. Last year went so smoothly it was almost ridiculous, a maiden followed by a Group Three, a Group Two and a Group One. This year has been quite the opposite.
“The good news is that we are only halfway through the season, so there is still a lot to look forward to.”
Frankie Dettori is hopeful he can return to winning ways, too.
“Hopefully Ascot on Tuesday we will see the old Too Darn Hot and I feel he still has got more to give and we have not seen the real him yet. He looks well and he came out of the Irish race really well,” said the Italian.
Gosden also runs the highly regarded King Of Comedy.
Charlie Hills’ Phoenix Of Spain had the beating of Too Darn Hot in Ireland having proved no match for him in the Champagne Stakes last season.
He made all under Jamie Spencer and is favourite to back that up.
Hills said: “We’ve been pretty pleased with him since Ireland. We haven’t done a lot with him, in truth, but he seems well in himself and is eating well and we’ve had no problems, so we’ll see what he can do.
“I think he’s well enough drawn in stall seven and I don’t think the ground should be a problem.
“He seems fresh and he deserves to be there.”
William Haggas’ Skardu won the Craven and went on to be third in the English Guineas and fourth in Ireland, which slightly disappointed his trainer.
“Skardu is very well. He ran well at Newmarket, but not so well in Ireland,” said Haggas.
“I think that was a messy race, certainly the first two furlongs. I think a round track will suit him.
“I don’t think the English or Irish Guineas form is magnificent stuff. It is worth a shot and anything could happen. If they go a decent gallop, he could go well.”
Aidan O’Brien supplemented Circus Maximus after he finished sixth in the Derby, as well as The Irish Rover and Van Beethoven.
Richard Hannon runs Fox Champion, winner of his last four, and told Unibet: “Every single run he has got significantly better and his last win was the German Guineas. He made all the running, stuck his head out and was very tough.
“He has got it all to do in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but it wouldn’t surprise me. He is very tough, he is improving and he is a very good horse.”