Telecaster throws down Epsom gauntlet
A colt bred and trained in England finally stepped up to the plate to challenge the Aidan O'Brien bluebloods in this year's Epsom Derby trials when Telecaster inflicted a first defeat on last year's champion two-year-old, Too Darn Hot, in the Dante Stakes at York.
The son of New Approach, unraced at two and trained by Hughie Morrison, is 5/1 second favourite for Epsom behind Aidan O'Brien's runaway Chester winner Sir Dragonet. Ironically, both need supplementing (at £85,000) having once been entered but then taken out of the race. Morrison and owner Mark Weinfeld have until Monday week to decide whether to go for the big prize - aware that many a good three-year-old has been sacrificed on the altar of the Derby - or wait an extra eight days for the French equivalent.
Either way, Morrison's charge earns extra credit for winning despite looking to compromise his chances by hanging on to the shirttails of Turgenev, which set a very strong gallop. At one point, they had the field strung out 15 lengths behind and it looked like Telecaster had done his best work at the wrong end of the race.
But he stayed on strongly up the straight under Oisín Murphy and, when Too Darn Hot got to him at the furlong pole, he stayed on the better to prevail by a length. The pair pulled four lengths clear of Surfman in third with O'Brien's Japan keeping on well late to take fourth.
"He did it the hard way," said Morrison. "He's a pretty special horse. He's quite keen and on his toes, but that's what makes him so good. After two furlongs, I put my glasses down, I thought he'd gone too quick. Three out, I thought he'd crumple. I've had nothing like him before. It [the Derby] is 16 days away and he's had a bit more than a racecourse gallop there. One's immediate instinct is to go for the Derby but it is fast ground out there and that takes a toll, too.
"In March, he hadn't had a run, so we took him out of the race and who would have dreamt we'd be here today? There are worse mistakes to make."
Too Darn Hot will now head to Ascot for the St James's Palace Stakes. He ran a bit fresh and needed the race, but Frankie Dettori felt his stamina began to peter out inside the final furlong. (© Daily Telegraph, London)