Champion two-year-old Too Darn Hot headlines 14 entries for Watership Down Stud Greenham Stakes

Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber with jockey Frankie Dettori (centre)

Too Darn Hot, the best two-year-old in Europe in 2018, is ready to begin his campaign for Classic honours when he reappears in the Group 3 Watership Down Stud Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Saturday 13 April 2019.

The colt, who was rated the equal of the great Frankel as a juvenile in the European Free Handicap, will bid to justify the high ranking in the same Group 3 race Frankel captured on the way to claiming the Qipco 2,000 Guineas in 2011. The Watership Down Greenham Stakes is the feature race of Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials Weekend at Newbury and is one of two Classic trials on the Saturday card which also stages the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Stakes, a recognised warm-up for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas.

Frankel, winner of the 2011 Greenham Stakes

Too Darn Hot, owned by Lord Lloyd Webber and trained by John Gosden, is one of 14 entries for the £70,000 race which is sponsored for the first time by Lloyd Webber’s Watership Down Stud. He won all four starts last year in a spectacular campaign in which he won the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown, Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster and Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.

“I am happy with the horse,” said Gosden, “He is in good order. He is coming up to the race nicely, but quite frankly I wouldn’t like to see a whole bundle of more rain. This is a horse with an electric turn of foot. You don’t necessarily want to go running in very testing ground first time out of the year.”

“Obviously I like Newbury as a track, as well as Newmarket, but I wanted to run over seven furlongs first rather than go straight to a mile and this has been the plan since the Dewhurst.”

Gosden said the 126 rating awarded to Too Darn Hot by handicappers in January, which triggered comparisons with Frankel, was “all a matter of opinion.”

“We are delighted with the rating of course,” he said. “I’ve always had one great rule. The horses do the talking. To start banging drums and puffing things up before makes little sense. He had a flawless display last year as a two-year-old. He’s a lovely colt. He’s wintered well and we’ve been happy with him. It’s not my style to bang on about anything beyond that.”

The Watership Down Greenham Stakes has become a consistent producer of future stars. Frankel was the last winner of the Greenham Stakes to capture the 2,000 Guineas but in 2014 Night Of Thunder reversed placings with Kingman in the Newmarket Classic after finishing second in the Greenham.

Kingman went on to become champion miler, 2015 winner Muhaarar, champion sprinter, and last year’s Greenham Stakes runner-up Expert Eye ended 2018 by winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Another hoping to join them will be Mohaather, who won over course and distance when landing the Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes in October.

His trainer Marcus Tregoning said: “We’ve had a really good run and he’s been working well. We think he is a nice horse and we intend to find out how good he is.

“I see the Greenham as a trial. He will go there well prepared and in very good form. If he wins the Greenham well and Too Darn Hot is not so darn hot, it will be Sheikh Hamdan’s decision [to go for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas].”

The 21 entries for the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Stakes, registered as the Fred Darling Stakes, include once-raced Ralph Beckett-trained Dancing Vega, a 14-1 chance for the fillies’ Classic, and Dandhu, trained by David Elsworth, who was second to 1,000 Guineas favourite Just Wonderful in the Rockfel Stakes.

John Gosden has entered Muchly, who won a 1m novice race at Newbury in October last year.

“There is an absolute dearth of races for fillies in April,” he said. “I was keen for her to come back to Newbury. I am perfectly aware it is back a furlong in trip but having said that the conditions could become quite testing.”

Defoe, winner of the race in 2018, and Young Rascal, who made a winning return to action at the corresponding meeting last year and later captured the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup at Newbury, head the entries for the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes, registered as the John Porter Stakes.

The going at Newbury is soft, good to soft in places. A prolonged spell of showers are forecast into Tuesday before clearing to leave mainly dry weather for the rest of the week.