Mike Cattermole reflects on Too Darn Hot's Dante defeat and his future plans while trying to get to grips with the news Gigginstown are fading out their operation.
Hot missing Derby the only decision
So, Too Darn Hot has lost his unbeaten record – through no fault of his own.
He came to York for the Dante after a training setback ruled out the 2,000 Guineas and seeing him in the paddock on Thursday, it was clear that he was carrying a bit of condition and would come on for the run.
John Gosden had been at pains to point out that he would have wanted another week before reintroducing him and a race-fit and a stronger staying type in Telecaster was just too much for him.
Too Darn Hot was a little keen in the early part of the race but showed his class by coming through and getting to within half a length of Telecaster. But lack of condition and/or lack of stamina saw him held near the finish.
With the Derby just 16 days away, time was not on Too Darn Hot’s side as far as that race was concerned. And, if watching the Dante “cold”, i.e. without seeing how he looked, you would have him down as being outstayed by Telecaster.
With the St James’s Palace Stakes on June 18, 17 days after the Derby, it makes so much sense to aim him for that and make plans from there.
Meanwhile, Telecaster enhanced his own Derby claims and owners Castle Down Racing will be under pressure to both supplement him and, indeed, hang onto him!
Make no mistake, the phone would have been red hot with the mega-wealthy bidding for this beautifully bred colt by Derby winner New Approach and whose dam, Shirocco Star, was second in both the English and Irish Oaks of 2012. He failed to sell as a yearling but I hope the owners hold their nerve and keep him.
Hughie Morrison’s colt is surely at the top of the British pecking order for Epsom now (with Bangkok, who beat him at Doncaster, just below him) as they try and fend off the likes of Broome and Anthony Van Dyck, who look the most likely of the Ballydoyle battalion.
Gigginstown decision is seismic
Everybody was caught out by the announcement that Gigginstown House Stud is to wind down its racing operation over the next four or five years. Just a few weeks after winning the Grand National for the second year running with Tiger Roll, too.
This is why it seems such curious timing. You would have thought that the satisfaction from that most famous win would have been sustained for months, indeed for years, and whetted the appetite even further for more glorious success.
But perhaps it has had the opposite effect. Maybe Michael and Eddie O’Leary realised that they didn’t get as much out of that day as they or we might have imagined. When Michael had his first winners at the Cheltenham Festival, he was memorably overcome with emotion.
It does seem to be a curious thing to blame the recreational habits of growing children on the winding up of such a big organisation. I am not saying I don’t believe this but there must be other factors at stake, surely, perhaps personal and/or business oriented. We don’t need to know.
Their departure from the scene is going to have a massive knock-on effect as the brothers have invested millions into the industry and what a success story it has been. Obviously, the team of trainers will be affected – the likes of Henry De Bromhead and, especially, Gordon Elliott most of all. Can they all find owners to replace the stock?
Then there are the sales companies – Goffs UK, Goffs Ireland, Tattersalls etc etc and the consignors and pin-hookers who will notice a huge difference. Perhaps these crazy days, when hundreds of thousands of pounds are handed over for a horse winning a small point-to-point, are numbered.
On the track, we have got very used to seeing those maroon and white colours dominating the scene. The Gigginstown juggernaut knocked most out of its way with mainly only JP McManus and Rich Ricci able to take them on competitively.
Some, and I don’t just mean the race callers, didn’t like the fact that they were regularly mob-handed in high profile races. Indeed, last month’s Irish National had 30 runners, with 12 of them for Gigginstown. Those of a jealous disposition would have been quietly contented that the best placing from the “dirty dozen” was a mere sixth.
But that is missing the point. This has been a massively successful operation, one which sent out just under 1,000 runners in last year’s Irish NH season.
Extraordinarily, it really hasn’t taken much time to get to this.
That is a mark of the team that the O’Leary’s have built around them and many of them will surely be snapped up by other ambitious parties, some of who may even be new to the sport.
There is no doubt that the departure of Gigginstown will leave a huge vacuum in jump racing – especially in Ireland, but also over here - but there will be more space now and more opportunities for others to come along and have a go. And, if there is to be an upside to this, that can only be a good thing.
In the shorter term, though, the reverberations will be felt by many.
The month of comebacks
As I settled quietly at The Ainstey pub in the northern part of York to watch Derby County try and overturn a 1-0 deficit with Leeds in the second leg of the semi-final play-offs on Wednesday evening, I was nothing more than hopeful.
The Rams started brightly, no doubt spurred on by a team talk from Frank Lampard when I reckon he might have mentioned the word “spygate”.
When Derby had played Leeds in the league this season, they were simply outplayed by a better team, one that had looked sharper, quicker and hungrier.
But this time they matched them under the floodlights at Elland Road, even after going 1-0 down (2-0 aggregate). I could only think then of Liverpool and Spurs and when the second half started with two goals in a minute, I was struggling to hide my emotions. Put it this way, I was the only bloke in there trying very hard to suppress a smile.
After that, what a game - such a rollercoaster as the tie swung one way and the other.
But in the end, sorry Leeds, but I honestly think we deserved to go through. There were some heroic performances out there and what a fine way to have the last say against Marcelo Bielsa and his side after all that had happened before.
But the job is not done. Now we have to play another team who has also hammered us twice this season.
Derby Day is not June 1 at Epsom but five days earlier on May 27 at Wembley Stadium.
Aston Villa, we’re coming for you!