It’s not often the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 proves superior to the English equivalent but the unexpected presence of Newmarket absentee Too Darn Hot in today’s line-up has elevated today’s Curragh feature to cracker status.
Even before it was confirmed last season’s leading juvenile would take his chance — just nine days after surrendering his unbeaten record on his seasonal reappearance at York — this already looked an above-average Irish 2,000 Guineas with the Newmarket first and third, Magna Grecia and Skardu, squaring up again and Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes runner-up Phoenix Of Spain making his return to action.
But the unexpected bonus of Too Darn Hot doesn’t half add to the intrigue.
John Gosden’s charge looked a superstar in the making last season, winning each of his four starts in sizzling style, a flawless record that culminated in victory in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes.
He went into the winter as the hot favourite for the English 2,000 Guineas but after injury ruled him out of his prep race, Gosden ran out of time to get his charge ready for Newmarket.
Having missed that engagement, connections now faced a dilemma. Would a horse who looked all speed as a two-year-old have the stamina to stay the Derby trip?
His pedigree suggested a mile and a half would be his optimum distance but the evidence of the eyes suggested otherwise.
York’s Dante Stakes over an extended 10 furlongs would provide the answer and after Too Darn Hot was outstayed by Telecaster in the final furlong, Epsom plans were quickly shelved. The Dubawi colt would be kept to a mile for the foreseeable future.
That he returns so quickly is a surprise but he thrived on his racing last season, his four runs coming in a two-month spell.
What is slightly more concerning is his reported lack of physical development from two to three but even in defeat at York, there was still evidence of his star-quality in the effortless way in which he chased down the front pair before his stamina ebbed away in the closing stages.
Today’s drop in trip should be far more to his liking and the expectation is the class he oozed as two-year-old will again come to the surface.
On home soil, Aidan O’Brien’s Magna Grecia promises to be a tough nut to crack but he may find Too Darn Hot’s finishing kick too much to cope with.
With Frankie Dettori on duty on Too Darn Hot at the Curragh, Rob Havlin comes in for the plum Calyx ride in the Armstrong Aggregates Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock and it’ll rank as massive disappointment if the Kingman colt fails to round off his Commonwealth Cup preparations by stretching his unbeaten record to four.
The Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes, the other Group 2 on the Haydock card, revolves around Battaash.
At his brilliant best, the Charlie Hills-trained gelding is close to unbeatable over five furlongs but he let down favourite-backers in three of his five runs last season and, consequentially, now looks hard to trust at a short price.
That being the case, preference is for Mabs Cross.
Agonisingly touched off in the Nunthorpe Stakes last August, the Michael Dods-trained filly ended last season in style by deservedly winning the Prix de l’Abbaye.
She made a winning return to action earlier this month, showing a good attitude to win a Newmarket Group 3.
A Group 1 penalty for her French success makes today’s task stiffer but she still looks a safer betting proposition than Battaash.
Elsewhere at Haydock, Eden Rose looks the most likely winner of the Amix Ready Mixed Concrete Handicap while Oasis Prince can complete a four-timer by winning the Amix Silver Bowl Handicap.
York’s feature is the Group 3 William Hill Bronte Cup Fillies’ Stakes where Roger Varian’s Pilaster can foil Enbihaar. Copper Knight gets the vote in the William Hill Leading On Course Bookmaker Sprint Handicap.
The ITV4 cameras are also at Goodwood where Willie John looks sure to go well in the Betfair Best Odds On ITV Races Festival Stakes while Dubai Legacy boasts leading claims in the Betfair Each Way Edge Handicap.