The news of Too Darn Hot’s withdrawal has inevitably taken much of the gloss off Saturday’s Greenham Stakes at Newbury, Britain’s premier 2000 Guineas trial and a contest for which he had been trading as short as 3/1-on. Timeform’s champion two-year-old colt in 2018, he is now set to go straight to Newmarket and – all being well – there remains no likelier winner of the season’s opening classic, with his rating already in advance of the standard required to win a typical renewal.
Back to Saturday, though, and Too Darn Hot’s absence leaves us with a rather atypical renewal of the Greenham, in that it is unlikely to be of much significance as a classic trial – the form of the principals is only smart at best, and, for context, Too Darn Hot would have been 14 lb clear on weight-adjusted ratings if taking his place in the line-up. It would take a huge leap of faith, or a much-improved display at the weekend, to suggest that any of them can play more than a minor role at Newmarket.
And yet, there is much about this year’s Greenham that seems familiar, not least the name of the man who trains the market leader. The moniker Richard Hannon – be that Sr. until 2013 or Jr. thereafter – has been represented by 21 runners in the last 18 renewals of the race, an outlay that has yielded six wins, three seconds and seven thirds (see the table below). Perhaps the two most high-profile horses to have represented the yard at Newbury were both beaten; a multiple Group 1 winner subsequently, Canford Cliffs found stablemate Dick Turpin too strong in 2010, while Night of Thunder was comfortably held by Kingman in 2014, before causing a 40/1-upset when turning the tables on that rival at Newmarket three weeks later.
40/1 is also the best price currently available on Boitron for the 2000 Guineas, which rather bears out the comments previously made about the quality of Saturday’s Greenham. A narrow leader on weight-adjusted ratings, he was unbeaten in his first three starts as a two-year-old, including a listed race over C&D, and fared respectably when stepped up in trip/grade for his final start in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp, keeping on well to be beaten only two and three quarter lengths. He was arguably better than the bare result on that occasion, too, beaten only by three who raced much closer to the pace, and it would be no surprise if he had more to offer at three, having had a breathing operation during the winter (has previously worn a tongue tie).
The Richard Hannon trained Boitron maintains his unbeaten record with an impressive success in the Listed Denford Stakes @NewburyRacing. Champion Jockey @SilvDSousa riding for owners @MprUpdates.— Racing TV (@RacingTV) August 18, 2018
Results 👉 https://t.co/7iJOPsdIyZ
Racecards 👉 https://t.co/BO9hXivjYS pic.twitter.com/y8okfXtMnd
Hannon is also responsible for He’zanarab and Urban Icon, with the latter appealing as an interesting outsider. Unbeaten in his two starts to date, he hasn’t been seen since readily winning a minor event at Salisbury at June, when he gave weight and a beating to the now useful Even Keel (Timeform-rated 97) under a hands-and-heels ride. Admittedly, the fact he has been off the track since is a slight concern, but he is clearly open to more improvement if none the worse, and it will be interesting to see if the market speaks in his favour on the day.
This race has also been good to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum over the years, including in 2015, when Muhaarar led home Estidhkaar in a one-two for the owner, before going on to prove himself a top-class sprinter later that season. The famous blue and white silks are set to be carried in this year’s renewal by Mohaather, and he certainly appeals as one of the chief dangers to Boitron. Indeed, he improved in leaps and bounds in three starts last season, signing off with a comfortable success in the Horris Hill Stakes over C&D (by a length and a half from Azano, with Almufti five lengths back in third), and Marcus Tregoning’s charge looks the type to go on progressing for a while yet.
James Doyle and Richard Hannon teamed up to win this race with Barney Roy in 2017, but the two are set to be in opposition this time round, with Doyle taking the ride on the Kevin Ryan-trained Hello Youmzain. He is another who ended last season with a first pattern-race success, when winning the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte (by two and a half lengths from Queen of Bermuda) in October, hitting the front two furlongs out and ultimately well on top at the finish. He should be suited by the step up to seven furlongs here and looks sure to go on to better things, with his only defeat to date having come when narrowly failing to concede weight to San Donato – a member of Timeform’s Horses To Follow for 2019 – at Haydock last September.
Great Scot is another with leading form claims, a three-time winner last season who produced an even better effort in defeat when fifth on his final start in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. He raced more keenly than ideal in the early stages and clearly possesses a big engine to finish as close as he did under the circumstances (beaten just a length), but a bigger concern is the trip. Indeed, this is likely to prove a bare minimum for him this season (should stay a mile and a quarter), and the suspicion is that he will prove vulnerable to a speedier rival.
Others to note include No Nonsense and Magic J, both of whom come in here with unexposed profiles. The former improved again to take his record to two wins from three starts at Kempton in January, while Magic J was an expensive purchase (cost $950,000 as a yearling) and made a most promising start to his career when readily winning a minor event on his debut at Yarmouth in September, knuckling down to get the better of a pair with experience on their side. Both possess the scope for plenty of improvement and should not be underestimated in an open heat. The field is completed by Taylormade, but he looks out of his depth on the evidence of his three starts at two.
Richard Hannon followed in his father’s illustrious footsteps when winning this race for the first time with Barney Roy two years ago, and, in the shape of Boitron, he is set to saddle a leading contender once again. However, the one who makes most appeal at the prices is Hello Youmzain. A Group 2 winner on his final 2018 start in France, that form leaves him only 1 lb behind the favourite on weight-adjusted ratings, and the ‘p’ attached to his rating denotes that he remains with potential, which could just give him the edge in what looks a sub-standard renewal.
Back Hello Youmzain to win Saturday's Greenham Stakes at Newbury at 9/2