Too Darn Hot scoops top award

EPSOM Derby ante-post favourite Too Darn Hot has been crowned the leading juvenile of 2018 following the publication of the European Two-Year-Old Classifications.

Too Darn Hot and Frankie Dettori, pictured winning Doncaster's Champagne Stakes.
Too Darn Hot and Frankie Dettori, pictured winning Doncaster's Champagne Stakes.

John Gosden’s charge has been given a rating of 126, ranking him as the best two-year-old in Europe since Frankel shared top honours with Dream Ahead on the same mark in 2010.

Too Darn Hot finished the campaign unbeaten in four starts – a sublime victory in Doncaster’s Champagne Stakes on St Leger day under Frankie Dettori culminated with Group One honours in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last October.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Owned and bred by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and is wife Madeleine, Too Darn Hot is Flat racing’s most exciting prospect for 2019. The British Horseracing Authority’s lead two-year-old handicapper Graeme Smith said: “Too Darn Hot confirmed himself an outstanding juvenile in the Dewhurst, where he put some strong form lines firmly in the shade.

Too Darn Hot with owner Andrew Lloyd Webber after the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.

“The last three two-year-olds rated at his level went on to win 15 Group Ones between them – and in what promises to be an above-average Classic crop, he already sets a lofty standard with the potential of better still.”

Smith added: “Too Darn Hot is a fascinating horse to watch. No two-year-old has been rated 126 since Frankel and Dream Ahead shared top honours in 2010. We are talking about a special juvenile here.

“I would like to point out, as the inevitable Frankel comparisons come, that Frankel did improve another stone as three-year and four-year-old. He is not at Frankel superstar levels yet, but he is very good.”

Smith believes Too Darn Hot has every chance of winning this year’s 2000 Guineas, but is less enthusiastic about his Derby claims over a mile and a half.

He added: “He sets a good standard for the Guineas – 126 would win most Guineas.

“He is not for me for the Derby. He is an exuberant sort and he doesn’t settle 100 per cent – and if he is going to get beyond a mile, he will have to learn to settle.”

Meanwhile, Gosden’s now retired Cracksman – and prolific Australian mare Winx – have been jointly named as the 2018 Longines World’s Best Racehorses.

The pair had equal ratings of 130, with Cracksman soaring back up the charts with his second successive runaway triumph in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October.

Fourth on world ratings was Gosden’s Roaring Lion who won York’s Dante Strakes and Juddmonte International under Oisin Murphy.

Nicky Henderson is considering sending Champ for Saturday’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

JP McManus named the seven-year-old after former champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy in the hope he could live up to the name.

So far the omens are good, with Champ registering a Grade One victory last time out in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury. “He did a piece of work last week and we were very happy with him,” said Henderson.

Meanwhile, the McManus-owned Minella Rocco is set to make his long-awaited return to action in the Cotswold Chase on the same card.

Runner-up to Sizing John in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained nine-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since suffering a final-fence fall in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last February.

All eyes will be on Presenting Percy at Gowran Park today as the ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup makes his seasonal reappearance in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle.

Despite having been off the track since securing his second Cheltenham Festival success in the RSA Chase last March, Pat Kelly’s stable star is the market leader for jump racing’s blue riband contest.

His return to action has been delayed by the unseasonably dry winter in Ireland, with Presenting Percy missing several engagements. However, with the ground on the easy side at Gowran, he has been given the green light to make his belated comeback.

“I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t sat on him recently, but I’m sure Pat (Kelly) has him in good form,” said jockey Davy Russell. “It’s a very competitive race, in fairness. We’ll see how we go.”

Today’s National Hunt meetings at Wetherby and Fakenham must pass early morning inspections because of forecast frost.

However, officials at Doncaster anticipate no problems ahead of the two-day Sky Bet Chase meeting that begins tomorrow.