A race that in the not too distant past has produced 2000 Guineas and Derby winners as well as high-class milers and other middle-distance performers, the Group 2 Champagne Stakes could do with a really good horse emerging from this year’s renewal to restore the reputation of this quality seven furlong contest for two year old colts and geldings.
The winner’s roster for the Champagne Stakes includes legendary performers from the 1970’s such as Grundy and Wollow, while Don’t Forget Me, Lear Fan and Warning scored during the following decade. In the 1990’s Rodrigo de Triano, Alhaarth, and Distant Music landed the spoils, while since the turn of the century Lucky Story, Poet’s Voice and Toronado have won the Champagne Stakes before going on to fine careers at three years old and beyond.
Sizzling Hot To Face The Music
Too Darn Hot (8/13 with Betfair), named after the famous song from the blockbuster 1948 Hollywood musical Kiss Me Kate, is a top-priced 13/2 ante-post favourite with Betfair for next year’s 2000 Guineas, and is a clear 6/1 favourite with Bet365 for the Derby, so there is a huge amount on the line for this impeccably bred son of Dubawi, trained by the all-conquering John Gosden.
Owned and bred by Lady and Lord Lloyd Webber (pictured top), this juvenile has a lot to live up to being a son of the tremendous racemare Dah Re Mi, and a full brother to both So Mi Dar (a Group 2 winner), and Lah Ti Dar, the unbeaten three-year-old filly who romped to a wide margin success at York in the Galtres Stakes last month and is currently joint second-favourite for the St Leger that takes place just over half an hour after the Champagne Stakes itself.
After earning rave reviews for his seven length win on debut at Sandown over a mile last month, Too Darn Hot was stepped up in class at the same track three weeks later and duly romped away with the Group 3 Solario Stakes over a furlong less, running on very powerfully to beat the classy Arthur Kitt (winner of the listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot), by an easy four lengths, with Victory Command well beaten back in fourth. That was a performance that really set tongues wagging, and it is interesting that Gosden looks set to let his exciting prospect run again after just a two-week break. He clearly feels the youngster took little out of himself in maintaining his unbeaten record.
Too Darn Hot truly is too darn good as Frankie Dettori leads him to victory in the Group 3 188Bet Solario Stakes.
How impressive was that? 🔥👑 pic.twitter.com/HG1n2u4zDs
— Sandown Park (@Sandownpark) September 1, 2018
If he runs, then the Lloyd Webber’s colt will be a hot favourite and may well cement his Classic claims, but he rates lttle value at current odds and the best play from a punting point of view may be to find something to take him on with at an each-way price.
Godolphin Have Two Exciting Options
If the other leading juveniles entered at the five-day stage – Dark Vision, Quorto, and Phoenix Of Spain – stand their ground, then we are in for a real humdinger of a race.
Dark Vision (8/1 with Paddy Power) is unbeaten in three racecourse appearances, scoring on debut at Yarmouth, following up in style in a York novice stakes, then earning deserved rave reviews for his last to first display in the Group 2 Qatar Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last month where he showed a tremendous turn of foot for such a big horse, sweeping by good opposition to beat Dunkerron by nearly two lengths.
The National Stakes is on the agenda for Dark Vision – watch what James Willoughby and Angus McNae made of his win in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. https://t.co/Z8fStgjv09 pic.twitter.com/evJOYiY4Rh
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) August 30, 2018
Mark Johnston’s Dream Ahead colt was subsequently purchased privately by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and is already being talked of as a genuine 2000 Guineas contender. He should be better suited by the galloping Doncaster track than the undulations and turns at Goodwood, and there is every chance that Dark Vision could provide a very stern test for Too Darn Hot.
Quorto (6/1 with 888sport) is another unbeaten youngster having delivered in both starts so far. Trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin, this imposing son of Dubawi won at Newmarket on his racecourse debut in June, then successfully stepped up markedly in class when beating Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Of Good Hope (who could re-oppose here) in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes over seven furlongs back at Newmarket three weeks later, powering away inside the distance to score by nearly four lengths.
Quorto is held in high regard by Appleby and his team and holds an entry in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at HQ next month. However, like Dark Vision, he also holds an entry for the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh on September 16, and it seems highly unlikely that Godolphin would run their two best juvenile colts against each other at Doncaster. Surely one will go to Ireland – and the word is that it is Quorto who is set to cross the Irish Sea unless plans suddenly change.
The Potential Ballydoyle Challengers
Cape Of Good Hope (20/1 with Boylesports), a full brother to the high-class pair Idaho and Highland Reel, is a decent youngster who seems likely to improve with age if the exploits of his siblings are anything to go by. He could find this company tough if asked to tackle this race, and is but one of six Ballydoyle entries who stood their ground at Monday’s penultimate declaration stage. Of the others – Cardini, Broome, Mohawk, The Irish Rover and Van Beethoven – The Irish Rover (25/1 with Coral), was beaten just a length by Advertise in the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last month, but ran no more than a fair race when just fourth to Emaraaty Ana in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York a few weeks later. It would be a surprise if he’s good enough.
Cork maiden winner Mohawk (20/1 with Sky Bet) went on to run a decent third behind his highly regarded stable companion, and leading ante-post Derby candidate Anthony Van Dyck in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh and seems to be going the right way. He’s a decent prospect, and it will be interesting to see how he goes if given his chance to compete.
Hat-trick landed for next year's Derby favourite – Anthony Van Dyck gets up in the Group 2 Galileo
IrishEBF Futurity Stakes for Ryan Moore at curragh race 1-2-3 for Ballydoyle.@aobrienfansite @RyanMooreFans pic.twitter.com/u8aCvGhL1y
— RADAWI (@radawi95) August 27, 2018
Van Beethoven (25/1 with bet365) landed his second win of the term when beating the useful Marie’s Diamond (25/1 with Totesport) in the Group 2 Railway Stakes at the Curragh on Irish Derby day, but he was comfortably outpointed when only fifth behind Dark Vision at Goodwood last time and on that effort appears to have plenty to find.
Phoenix Can Rise To The Occasion
Charles Hills looks to have a good prospect on his hands in the shape of the Group 3 Acomb Stakes winner PHOENIX OF SPAIN (9/1 with Ladbrokes). A grey colt by French 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Lope De Vega, he showed promise when staying on nicely into fourth on debut at Sandown in July then comfortably justified favouritism at Wolverhampton three weeks later.
Phoenix Of Spain wins the Acomb Stakes to continue Jamie Spencer’s rich vein of form
Anyone back it?
— ODDSbible Racing (@ODDSbibleRacing) August 22, 2018
Stepped up to pattern company at York last time out, Jamie Spencer switched his mount off at the rear of the field before producing Phoenix Of Spain with a beautifully timed run, taking it up well inside the final furlong as he went on to be the useful Watan by a length-and-a-half. The runner-up did the form no favours when beaten 15 lengths into fifth by Too Darn Hot at Sandown, but surely ran way below his best that day, and Hills’ colt seems to be improving at a rate of knots. He should give a really good account of himself and appears to be the best each-way value alternative to John Gosden’s star in what could be a strongly race that would suit his ‘hold up’ style perfectly.
Andrew Balding’s unexposed Bye Bye Hong Kong, Joseph O’Brien’s No Needs Never, and Richard Spencer’s Louis Treize are other interesting potential runners in what should prove a highly informative race with regard to the remaining top two-year-old events this term, and for next year’s 2000 Guineas and other top mile events.
ADVICE: PHOENIX OF SPAIN (9/1 each-way with Ladbrokes)
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.