The issue with Too Darn Hot is not that he’s yet to hit form, but that he’s running to last year’s form while others, notably the Irish 2000 Guineas winner, have bridged the gap and are going forward, while he is standing still.
14:30 – Queen Anne Stakes
The market is beginning to sort itself out for this race, having had Brivido in far too short, for far too long. The O’Brien horse is a bad bet but is getting too big to be a lay in the win market, and the worry with him is that he will never figure with a chance but run on late in the day to grab a place. I thought Mustashry might be an overlay, but the punters are beginning to have more faith in the Lockinge result than they seemed to at the time.
That leaves a place lay of Barney Roy as the one angle which hasn’t dried up. Rating a horse on his form prior to a failed spell at stud is dangerous, and while most ex-stallions manage to be competitive, very few manage to reach the heights they did before sowing their wild oats.
I’m a father of two, and my record at any number of sports has gone to pot, so I can feel their pain.
Barney Roy won a Listed race at Longchamp last time having been beaten at the same level at Ascot by Zaaki. That has convinced a lot of people that he’s as good as ever, but I would contend that beating glorified 6-y-o handicapper Bayoun (who?) does not compare in any way favourably with winning the St James’s Palace Stakes here two years ago.
He was a smashing colt in his prime, but he’s not there now, and he will do well to be placed.
15:40 – King’s Stand Stakes
The obvious play here is to take on Battaash, but as I said in conversation with Tom Stanley on our preview podcast, the value in doing so depends on the price, and far too many wise guys want to take the favourite on given what happened last year.
I admit that getting drawn on the wing is a bit of a kick in the teeth for Charlie Hills and Jim Crowley as the favourite could do with getting cover for the first furlong or two.
That is not going to happen unless Crowley engineers it now, and even then it will mean hoping Soldiers Call blasts away hard enough to allow him to tuck in behind, and I’d not back Archie Watson’s horse to be faster in the first 100 yards ad odds on.
Still, Battaash is so much better than most of the field that he can do things wrong and still win, and I’d need 2.6 at the very least before I’d be tempted to take him on.
There is an easier play here, in my opinion.
Sergei Prokofiev is simply not a top-class sprinter, and he’s the same price to be placed as the favourite is to win. There are only a couple of horses who can beat Battaash on his B-game (there are none who can beat him when he brings his A-game, it goes without saying), but literally, any of these could beat Sergei Prokofiev unless he finds a jetpack from somewhere.
There is a chance that he will run into the money if the field goes too hard, but it’s not a strong one, and he looks terrible value at 3.25 or shorter in the place market.
16:20 – St James’s Palace Stakes
I love to take the same angle in this race most years, assuming a field of fairly uniform ability, and that is to oppose vulnerable runners from low stalls.
Last year was a rare blip for the system with a massive ‘dodgepot’ somehow managing to justify favouritism from stall 2 (he’s never even been placed since, ironically), but I’d still expect anything which races behind the pace and on the fence to be at a big disadvantage, and that is the pattern in races run on Ascot’s round course, the adage that “class will out” tending to land on stony ground here if things don’t fall favourably.
That means that Too Darn Hot gets the poison chalice this year, his reputation rather than his 2019 form seeing him as short as 3.4, and I just cannot see him reversing Curragh form with Phoenix of Spain, who beat him hands down. It’s true that the Gosden yoke beat Phoenix of Spain at Doncaster last year, but to put more trust in juvenile form that Classic form is folly indeed, and even if the poster boy of 2018 can escape from his difficult draw, he will need the better-drawn favourite to fluff his lines if he’s to get back to winning ways.
The idea that Too Darn Hot has yet to find last year’s form and that he will in time is just not true.
The issue with him is that he’s running to last year’s form while others, notably the Irish 2000 Guineas winner, have bridged the gap and are going forward, while he is standing still. Standing still at a pretty exalted level, I’ll warrant, but standing still all the same.
- 14:30 – Place lay Barney Roy @ 2.75 or shorter to win 12pts [max liability 21pts]
- 15:40 – Place lay Sergei Prokofiev @ 3.25 or shorter to win 12pts [max liability 27pts]
- 16:20 – Lay Too Darn Hot @ 3.5 or shorter to win 10pts [max liability 25pts]